Amazon (company)

Regional News • Europe • European Union
European Union drafts Digital Services Act to regulate large technology companies
European Union drafts Digital Services Act to regulate large technology companies
Credit: Corentin Béchade / Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

The European Commission is working on a new legislative package in order to regulate major online platforms such as Facebook, Amazon, Google, Apple, Microsoft, and others. According to an internal paper, one of the goals is to prevent "unfair practices". One rule could specify that the platforms would "not be allowed to pre-install their own applications exclusively" such as installing mobile apps on smartphones and preventing users to uninstall them.

In addition, there could be new restrictions on the usage of data generated by their services for their own commercial activities. This kind of data could only be used if made "accessible to other commercial users".

Health
~20,000 US Amazon workers have tested positive for Covid-19 since March
Amazon lab clinicians process samples
Amazon lab clinicians process samples Credit: Amazon

Amazon recently revealed that 19,816 of its US Amazon and Whole Foods Market front-line employees have tested positive for Covid-19, equating to 1.44% of the company's 1.37 million workers. The company made a quarterly profit of $5.2 billion, in the three months ending in June.

"We compared COVID-19 case rates to the general population, as reported by Johns Hopkins University for the same period, accounting for geography and the age composition of our employees to make the data as accurate as possible. Based on this analysis, if the rate among Amazon and Whole Foods Market employees were the same as it is for the general population rate, we estimate that we would have seen 33,952 cases among our workforce," the company wrote in a blog post.

Business • Consumer & Service
First Amazon Fresh opens Woodland Hills, in Los Angeles
First Amazon Fresh opens Woodland Hills, in Los Angeles
Credit: Amazon, Screenshot via YouTube

After an invite-only phase, the first Amazon Fresh grocery store has opened its door to the public in Woodland Hills, Los Angeles. Amazon is also introducing Dash Carts, shopping carts featuring a scale and a variety of cameras and sensors to calculate your shopping total. Echo Show stations featuring Alexa will help customers find items and products in the store.

Technology • Internet & Web
Consumer advocacy group accuses Amazon of price gouging during pandemic
Consumer advocacy group accuses Amazon of price gouging during pandemic
Credit: Christoph Scholz

Amazon is being accused of price gouging on essential items during the early days of the pandemic in March, so Washington-based consumer advocacy group Public Citizen.

"Amazon has fundamentally misled the public, law enforcement and policymakers about price increases during the pandemic," so Public Citizen's Alex Harman.

The group found that prices increased for various products, including face masks, antibacterial hand soap, disposable hand gloves and toilet paper. Amazon has refuted those claims, saying there was no place for price gouging on their website and that their systems were "designed to offer customers the best available online price."

Business • Consumer & Service
Protesters set up a guillotine outside Jeff Bezos' mansion and demanded higher wages for Amazon workers
Protesters set up a guillotine outside Jeff Bezos' mansion and demanded higher wages for Amazon workers
Credit: Twitter (Reproduction)

Demonstrators gathered outside Jeff Bezos' mansion Thursday and constructed a guillotine outside his front door to protest Amazon workers' wages. The protest came the day after Bezos became the wealthiest person in history, according to Forbes, with a net worth surpassed $200 billion.

Protesters, led by former warehouse worker and outspoken Amazon critic Christian Smalls, called on the company to raise its minimum wage to $30 per hour.

Business • Economy
Jeff Bezos' net worth surpasses $200b
Jeff Bezos at Amazon Spheres Grand Opening in Seattle, 2018
Jeff Bezos at Amazon Spheres Grand Opening in Seattle, 2018 Credit: Seattle City Council from Seattle / Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' net worth has reached approx. $202 billion, a $87 billion increase since January. Amazon's stock has seen a 25%-rise since June and 86%-rise since the start of the year, boosted mostly by online shopping during the pandemic.

Regional News • Europe • Spain
Barcelona investigates possibility of an 'Amazon tax' for e-commerce giants
Barcelona investigates possibility of an 'Amazon tax' for e-commerce giants
Credit: unsplash.com / Bryan Angelo

After forcing Airbnb to remove advertisements for unlicensed tourist apartments, and trying to regulate the operations of Uber or Cabify, the spotlight is now on the big online retail operators. The City Council is considering the implementation of a tax for large companies like Amazon, which make profits in the city but do not pay taxes like local businesses. Legally it will not be easy, they admit in Ada Colau's government. The idea is to tax the use of public space which is a local competence.

The mayor explains that, from the constitutional point of view, the contribution "would be based on the use of the local public space used by the platforms to obtain an economic benefit".

Technology • Smartphones, Hardware & Gadgets
Amazon Alexa security issue could have allowed access to user data
Amazon Echo Dot
Amazon Echo Dot Credit: Amazon

Researchers from security firm Check Point found vulnerabilities, affecting Amazon Echo, in certain Amazon and Alexa subdomains that could have allowed outsider access to user's voice history, including all voice searches and conversation history.

Alexa users could have been easily tricked into falling for the vulnerability, which reportedly needed a single click on a malicious link crafted and sent by the hacker.

Amazon has already patched the flaw.

Science • Space
Amazon gets approval to launch 3,236 satellites into orbit for internet services
Amazon gets approval to launch 3,236 satellites into orbit for internet services
Credit: unsplash.com / NASA

The United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has approved a request from Amazon to launch 3,236 communication sattelites into low earth orbit.

The company plans to provide a low-latency, high-speed satellite-based internet connections to United States households with it's Project Kuiper. Amazon has announced that it will invest over $10 billtion into the project and will build a supporting infrastructure on the ground in addition to launching the satellites.

With Project Kuiper Amazon goes into direct competition to the Starlink network by SpaceX that aims towards the same goals.

Business • Economy
Big U.S. retailers stopped "hero pay" due to decline in panic buying
A supermarket checker with face mask works behind a plastic shield
A supermarket checker with face mask works behind a plastic shield Credit: Russ Allison Loar / Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

U.S. retailers, including Amazon, Stop & Shop and Kroger, have quietly ended the pandemic-related "hero pay" for its employees. The additional payment was initially meant as a pay raise, implemented as sales surged in March due to panic buying and hoarding.

Employees have voiced criticism as they are still being exposed to the novel Coronavirus on a daily basis. Stop & Shop produce manager Eddie Quezada, who contracted the virus, pointed out that their jobs were still "very risky", adding: "We should get at least something for that."

Technology • Internet & Web
Amazon rolls back ban of TikTok from employee phones
Amazon rolls back ban of TikTok from employee phones
Credit: Kon Karampelas

Five hours after requiring employees to delete TikTok from their mobile devices, Amazon backtracked saying the email to workers had been sent by mistake.

A spokesperson for the company said, "This morning’s email to some of our employees was sent in error, there is no change to our policies right now with regard to TikTok.".

Technology • Internet & Web
Amazon demands employees to remove TikTok from their phones citing security risks
Amazon demands employees to remove TikTok from their phones citing security risks
Credit: Kon Karampelas

The New York Times reports Amazon officials, in a memo, required employees to delete TikTok from any mobile devices that "access Amazon email.". The removal is due to "security risks" posed by the app.

According to the memo, workers are still allowed to user TikTok from their laptop browser.

Technology • Internet & Web
Tech platforms accused of having up to thousands of subcontracts with US law enforcement agencies
Tech platforms accused of having up to thousands of subcontracts with US law enforcement agencies
Credit: unsplash.com / Morning Brew

The non-profit Tech Inquiry has discovered alleged ties between technology companies such as Google, Amazon and Microsoft with the United States law enforcement agencies such as the FBI, Department of Defense, Drug Enforcement Agency, Federal Bureau of Prisons and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Tech inquiry has analyzed over 30 million governmental contracts from the past five years and sub-contracts below them. They discovered that Google and Amazon several hundreds of subcontracts with United States law enforcement agencies while Microsoft several thousand.

Transportation • Cars & Automobiles
Amazon bought Zoox – a self-driving car startup – for $1 billion
Amazon bought Zoox – a self-driving car startup – for $1 billion
Credit: Amazon, Zoox

Amazon is expanding its portfolio yet again. The company acquired Zoox, a self-driving car startup located in California with almost 1,000 employees for a rumoured $1 billion deal. Zoox has been working on developing a self-driving electric car that doesn't have a steering wheel so that it can drive in either direction. Zoox CEO Aicha Evans will continue leading the company and said that "this acquisition solidifies Zoox's impact on the autonomous driving industry."

"Zoox is working to imagine, invent, and design a world-class autonomous ride-hailing experience," said Jeff Wilke, Amazon’s CEO, Worldwide Consumer in a statement on Amazon's blog. "Like Amazon, Zoox is passionate about innovation and about its customers, and we're excited to help the talented Zoox team to bring their vision to reality in the years ahead."

Technology • Internet & Web
Amazon establishes a Counterfeit Crimes unit to fight copied products of brands
Amazon establishes a Counterfeit Crimes unit to fight copied products of brands
Credit: unsplash.com / Bryan Angelo

The new unit at Amazon has the goal of "bringing counterfeiters attempting to list counterfeit products in its store to justice" according to an official blog post from the company as Amazon is struggling to keep up with copied products of various brands. This comes after the Trump administration has placed five international pages from Amazon on the "notorious markets" list. The company says that in 2019 that have invested over $500 million into fighting fraud and abuse with 8,000 involved employees.

Regional News • Americas • United States
Tech Industry condemns Trump's executive order freezing work visas
Tech Industry condemns Trump's executive order freezing work visas
Credit: unsplash.com/Annie Spratt

Many tech companies have spoken out against Trump's executive order signed on Monday, barring foreigners to seek employment in the United States. Amazon and Facebook both have released statements, with Amazon stating that the ban will "preventing high skilled professionals from entering the country and contributing to America's economic recovery puts American's global competitiveness at risk," so an Amazon spokesperson, and adding that the company will continue to "support efforts that will preserve their ability to strengthen our economy."

Microsoft President Brad Smith said that it was not the time to "cut our nation off from the world's talent or create uncertainty and anxiety" as "immigrants are contributing to this country at a time when we need them most."

Elon Musk took to Twitter where he replied to the New York Times, writing: "Very much disagree with this action. In my experience, these skillsets are net job creators. Visa reform makes sense, but this is too broad."

Technology • Internet & Web
Microsoft: No facial recognition software without a legal basis
Brad Smith
Brad Smith Credit: Microsoft (Creative Commons Attribution 3.0)

After IBM and Amazon, Microsoft has now announced that it no longer wants to make facial recognition software available to the US police.

The basis for further cooperation can only be a legal framework based on human rights.

The reason for the temporary interruption of the cooperation is seen in the criticism that was given in the context of the demonstrations surrounding the death of George Floyd.

"We will not sell facial recognition tech to police in the U.S. until there is a national law in place," said Brad Smith, Microsoft's president ,speaking via video conference at a Washington Post event.

Technology • Internet & Web
Amazon puts one year halt on usage of its facial recognition software for police over alleged racial bias
Logo Amazon
Logo Amazon Credit: Amazon

Amazon has announced that it will put a one year halt on the usage of its facial recognition software for the police. The move comes after Amazon's technology had faced criticism because it misidentified people of color and protests against racism have broken out over the country. In its announcement blog Amazon says that other organizations could still use the software "to help rescue human trafficking victims and reunite missing children with their families" and calls for government regulation regarding "the ethical use of facial recognition technology".

Business • Economy
Amazon opens its workers relief fund to outside donations

The e-commerce company implemented a fund to support "employees and partners" and contributed $25 million in funds themselves. In addition to this, the company opened up the fund for outside donations stating "While we aren’t expecting anyone to do so, you can make a voluntary donation to the fund if you desire to do so" on their website.