Amazon

Amazon

Amazon Teams Up With Law Enforcement to Deploy Face Recognition Technology

ACLU:

Marketing materials and documents obtained by ACLU affiliates in three states reveal a product that can be readily used to violate civil liberties and civil rights. Powered by artificial intelligence, Rekognition can identify, track, and analyze people in real time and recognize up to 100 people in a single image. It can quickly scan information it collects against databases featuring tens of millions of faces, according to Amazon.

Amazon is marketing Rekognition for government surveillance. According to its marketing materials, it views deployment by law enforcement agencies as a “common use case” for this technology. Among other features, the company’s materials describe “person tracking” as an “easy and accurate” way to investigate and monitor people. Amazon says Rekognition can be used to identify “people of interest” raising the possibility that those labeled suspicious by governments — such as undocumented immigrants or Black activists — will be seen as fair game for Rekognition surveillance. It also says Rekognition can monitor “all faces in group photos, crowded events, and public places such as airports” — at a time when Americans are joining public protests at unprecedented levels.

Inside Amazon’s Fake Review Economy

Nicole Nguyen, writing at BuzzFeed:

The systems that create fraudulent reviews are a complicated web of subreddits, invite-only Slack channels, private Discord servers, and closed Facebook groups, but the incentives are simple: Being a five-star product is crucial to selling inventory at scale in Amazon’s intensely competitive marketplace — so crucial that merchants are willing to pay thousands of people to review their products positively.

Amazon’s Music Storage Shutting Down in April

Nick Statt, writing at The Verge:

We’ve known since last year that Amazon Music was planning to shut down its dedicated cloud music locker. Now, we have a date for when that process will begin. In an email to Amazon Music users, the company says uploaded songs will be removed from a user’s library on April 30th, 2018. You can however keep any music in the cloud by proactively going to your Music Settings and clicking the “Keep my songs” button.

Amazon Echo Is Randomly Laughing at People

Shannon Liao, writing at The Verge:

Over the past few days, users with Alexa-enabled devices have reported hearing strange, unprompted laughter. Amazon responded to the creepiness in a statement to The Verge, saying, “We’re aware of this and working to fix it.”

As noted in media reports and a trending Twitter moment, Alexa laughs without being prompted to wake. People on Twitter and Reddit reported that they thought it was an actual person laughing near them, which can be scary when you’re home alone. Many responded to the cackling sounds by unplugging their Alexa-enabled devices.

Cool. Cool. Not creepy at all.

Amazon Is Complicit With Counterfeiting

Casey Hopkins, from Elevation Lab (makers of quite a few products I really like), has posted a blog about how Amazon is complicit in helping promote counterfeiters:

When someone goes to the lengths of making counterfeits of your products, it’s at least a sign you’re doing something right. And it deserves a minute of flattery.

But when Chinese counterfeiters tool up and make copies of your product, send that inventory to Amazon, then overtake the real product’s buy box by auto-lowering the price – it’s a real problem. Customers are unknowingly buying crap versions of the product, while both Amazon and the scammers are profiting, and the reputation you’ve built goes down the toilet.

I have their headphone anchor under my desk and it’s fantastic.

Former Tooth and Nail A&R Releases Christian Living Novel

Chad Johnson, former Tooth and Nail A&R who helped discover Underoath, mewithoutYou, As Cities Burn, and many more, released his new book today. It’s titled One Thousand Risks and can be purchased on Amazon. The description reads:

One Thousand Risks is proof that Jesus can set you up to discover adventure in abundance. With an all-out-fight against comfort, fear, and living half-heartedly present, One Thousand Risks will help you know how to experience a super-powered life of spiritual significance. Your problem is fear–mostly the fear of man, fear of failure, and fear of rejection. In response to a dare, I began deliberately and consistently fighting fear–one tiny risk at a time, right where I was–which translated into this awkward, awesome life with Jesus.

Amazon Prime Video Comes to Apple TV

Amazon Prime Video is now available on the Apple TV. MacStories writes:

The timing of Prime Video’s release coincides with Apple’s release of tvOS 11.2 earlier this week, which adds a new Sports tab to the TV app. This enables tracking and watching games from various sports, and is a perfect complement to Prime Video’s release due to Amazon being the rights holder for Thursday Night Football games. Starting tomorrow night, users will be able to watch NFL games using the TV app and Prime Video.

I’ll take this moment to plug The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, which is fantastic.

Amazon Announces ‘Lord of the Rings’ TV Series

Amazon has announced they’ll be producing a new Lord of the Rings TV series. The Hollywood Reporter has more:

The retail giant and streaming outlet announced Monday that it has acquired global television rights to the Lord of the Rings franchise, based on the best-selling novels by J.R.R. Tolkien. Amazon has handed out a multiple-season commitment. The Amazon LOTR series will be produced in-house at Amazon Studios alongside the Tolkien Estate and Trust, publisher HarperCollins and Warner Bros. Entertainment’s New Line Cinema.

Sponsor

Amazon Announces “Amazon Key”

Amazon has announced “Amazon Key,” a new service that lets you get packages delivered inside your home. From the press release:

This state-of-the-art technology doesn’t simply replace a key with a digital passcode. Each time a delivery driver requests access to a customer’s home, Amazon verifies that the correct driver is at the right address, at the intended time, through an encrypted authentication process. Once this process is successfully completed, Amazon Cloud Cam starts recording and the door is then unlocked. No access codes or keys are ever provided to delivery drivers. And, for added peace of mind, in-home delivery is backed by Amazon’s Happiness Guarantee.

Uh, fuck no.

Apple, Amazon Join Race for James Bond Film Rights

The Hollywood Reporter:

The James Bond sweepstakes has taken an unexpected turn. While Warner Bros. remains in the lead to land film distribution rights to the megafranchise — whose deal with Sony expired after 2015’s Spectre — a couple of unlikely suitors have emerged that also are in hot pursuit: Apple and Amazon.

The tech giants are willing to spend in the same ballpark as Warners, if not much more, for the rights, sources tell The Hollywood Reporter. MGM has been looking for a deal for more than two years, and Sony, Universal and Fox also had been pursuing the property, with Warners and Sony the most aggressive.

Jeff Bezos Becomes World’s Richest Person

The New York Times:

A 1 percent pop in the shares of Amazon.com — the internet company Mr. Bezos founded, which accounts for the vast majority of his wealth — was enough to bump him over the wealth of Mr. Gates, the philanthropist and Microsoft co-founder, according to a real-time list of billionaires by Forbes.com, which has tallied the fortunes of the uber-rich for decades.

Forbes now estimates the wealth of Mr. Bezos, currently Amazon’s chief executive, at about $90.6 billion, compared with $90 billion for Mr. Gates.

The Backstory of Amazon Buying Whole Foods

Texas Monthly:

As he stepped off the American Airlines flight at JFK (Whole Foods doesn’t own a jet, and Mackey flies coach), his phone lit up with urgent text messages and voice mails. A hedge fund in New York called Jana Partners had snatched up almost 9 percent of Whole Foods’ stock and announced that it would pressure the company to either overhaul its business or sell itself—perhaps to another grocery giant, such as Kroger, or to a less traditional player, such as Amazon. Mackey and other leaders might have to be replaced. A media frenzy ensued, and the PR team who had carefully staged what should have been a traveling celebration of their boss as a thought leader shifted into immediate crisis mode.

“From that moment on, I was drowning in it,” Mackey says.

This whole story reads like an episode of Billions. Fascinating stuff.

Amazon Buys Whole Foods

Amazon is buying Whole Foods Market for $13.7 billion:

“Millions of people love Whole Foods Market because they offer the best natural and organic foods, and they make it fun to eat healthy,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO. “Whole Foods Market has been satisfying, delighting and nourishing customers for nearly four decades – they’re doing an amazing job and we want that to continue.”

“This partnership presents an opportunity to maximize value for Whole Foods Market’s shareholders, while at the same time extending our mission and bringing the highest quality, experience, convenience and innovation to our customers,” said John Mackey, Whole Foods Market co-founder and CEO.

I see that not even Jeff Bezos can get out of Whole Foods without overspending.

Amazon Introduces New Bestseller List

Ingrid Lunden, writing for TechCrunch:

Today, Amazon announced Amazon Charts, a new kind of bestseller list that will give users, for the first time ever, a top 20 list of ‘most read’ books on Amazon — a new metric that combines how much books are read on Kindle and listened to via Audible.

Amazon Unveils the “Echo Show”

Ingrid Lunden, writing for TechCrunch:

Today Amazon unveiled the Echo Show, a WiFi-enabled home device with a seven-inch screen that is the newest addition to its Alexa-powered Echo range of home hubs that plays media and responds to voice commands. […] The device, which comes in black and white versions, will cost $229.99 and will be shipped from June 28, with preorders available now. It appears that it will be available first in the U.S. only.

I use my Echo for controlling the lights, playing the daily Jeopardy game, setting cooking timers, re-ordering common items, and playing a “favorites playlist” when I don’t have my phone near. Pretty much in that order. It’s a nice device, I’m glad we have it, but I wouldn’t call it anywhere near essential yet. As they get more powerful and more capable of understanding queries and context, I think this will be an interesting space to watch. This device, however, looks like a bad piece of corporate tech from the ’90s. It’s hideous.

Amazon’s New Echo Look Has a Built-In Camera for Style Selfies

Brian Heater, writing for TechCrunch:

With the addition of a camera, Amazon’s new Echo Look device can now see and hear all. The device is a sort of standalone selfie machine so users can take full-length photos and videos of themselves specifically for the sake of checking their fashion choices in the morning.

I’m always worried that as I get older my inner-curmudgeon will lead to me not getting technology in the same way I did when I was younger. This device sounds a little like something from a dystopian novel, right? A device that can take photos, videos, and listen at all times … that they recommend you put in your bedroom?

Barry Jenkins to Adapt ‘The Underground Railroad’ for Amazon Series

The director of the fantastic Moonlight, Barry Jenkins, will next adapt Colson Whitehead’s novel, The Underground Railroad, as an Amazon series.

“Preserving the sweep and grandeur of a story like this requires bold, innovative thinking,” Mr. Jenkins said in a statement. “In Amazon we’ve found a partner whose reverence for storytelling and freeness of form is wholly in line with our vision.”

Amazon Refusing to Hand Over Data on Whether Alexa Overheard a Murder

Ars Technica:

Amazon is balking at a search warrant seeking cloud-stored data from its Alexa Voice Service. Arkansas authorities want to examine the recorded voice and transcription data as part of a murder investigation. Among other things, the Seattle company claims that the recorded data from an Amazon Echo near a murder scene is protected by the First Amendment, as are the responses from the voice assistant itself.