Amazon delivery drivers across the US will be forced to consent to AI-powered cameras in their delivery vehicles or face losing their jobs.
According to Vice, the e-commerce giant is requiring all its drivers to sign a biometric consent form, which provides Amazon with information about their location and movement, as well as collecting biometric data like facial recognition.
The form says: “Amazon may… use certain Technology that processes Biometric Information, including on-board safety camera technology which collects your photograph for the purposes of confirming your identity and connecting you to your driver account.”
It continues to explain that the cameras “track vehicle location and movement, including miles driven, speed, acceleration, braking, turns, and following distance … as a condition of delivery packages for Amazon, you consent to the use of Technology.”
This new initiative builds on existing monitoring tech used by Amazon to monitor its delivery drivers. The tech behemoth uses the Mentor smartphone app to monitor their driving behavior while on shift.
Amazon first announced its plan to install AI-powered four lens cameras developed by Netradyne in its branded delivery vans in February, as reported by The Information.
These cameras record the vehicles constantly and upload the footage for review if any of the 16 designated signals are triggered by the actions of the driver.
Examples of infringes that would require review are failure to stop at a stop sign, speeding, distracted driving, according to CNBC.
While Amazon claims the aim of the videos is to “set up drivers for success” and keep them safe while driving, some delivery drivers see this instead as invasive surveillance that burdens them further while doing their jobs.
As a result, some Amazon’s drivers have decided to quit their jobs; it seems like Amazon’s move to use AI cameras to surveil their drivers may be eroding trust.
Amazon’s move has also received scrutiny from US legislators. For instance, in early March, five US senators – Ed Markey, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Cory Brooker, and Richard Blumenthal – called on Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to provide more details about the deployment of cameras in their delivery vans.
The senators wrote in a letter to Bezos that they “are concerned that adding further surveillance tools and monitoring could increase dangers on America’s roads, place unsafe pressure on drivers, and infringe on individuals’ privacy rights.”
“We need a better understanding of how your company will protect against potential new safety hazards stemming from increased worker surveillance,” the letter continued.
In a statement, Amazon spokesperson Deborah Bass said: “Netradyne cameras are used to help keep drivers and the communities where we deliver safe. We piloted the technology from April to October 2020 on over two million miles of delivery routes and the results produced remarkable driver and community safety improvements—accidents decreased 48%, stop sign violations decreased 20%, driving without a seatbelt decreased 60%, and distracted driving decreased 45%.
“Don’t believe the self-interested critics who claim these cameras are intended for anything other than safety.”
Amazon also shared some feedback from its drivers; Nick said: “As a driver, I feel better protected and safer with Netradyne in the cab with me. My human nature is to go fast, but the Netradyne alerts make me consciously think about ways to not do that.” Nick also noted that it gives drivers extra security if they are ever involved in an accident in the van.
Amazon also faces unionization in the US
Dealing with scrutiny over increased monitoring is not Amazon’s only employee-related concern. The giant is also dealing with unionization efforts in Alabama.
Workers first began pushing for unionization at a 6,000 employee-strong Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama in the summer of=f 2020 — but now now they are voting by mail on whether they want to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.
If the majority of workers vote in favor, this decision will be recognized by the US Labor Relations board.
Amazon has claimed the unionization process does not represent the majority of its workers. It also emphasized that its workers are paid almost double Alabama’s minimum wage of $7.25. In addition, the company has initiated a marketing campaign stating that union dues would leave Amazon workers with less money overall.
In a statement to the New York Times, Amazon spokesperson Heather Knox said: “It’s important that employees understand the facts of joining a union.
“If the union vote passes, it will impact everyone at the site and it’s important associates understand what that means for them and their day-to-day life working at Amazon.”
The unionization attempt has garnered national attention across the US. The New York Times reported that celebrities, including NFL player and actor Danny Glover, weighed in and voiced their support for unionizing.
US President Joe Biden has also declared solidarity with the workers voting on the union, although he does not mention Amazon by name.
He tweeted a video declaring his support for the rights to unionization in Alabama and across the US.