Human-centric AI news and analysis

This article was published on March 24, 2021


Amazon is asking drivers to sign a ‘biometric consent’ form — or lose their jobs

Privacy advocates have slammed the move

Amazon is asking drivers to sign a ‘biometric consent’ form — or lose their jobs
Thomas Macaulay
Story by

Thomas Macaulay

Writer at Neural by TNW — Thomas covers AI in all its iterations. Likes Werner Herzog films and Arsenal FC. Writer at Neural by TNW — Thomas covers AI in all its iterations. Likes Werner Herzog films and Arsenal FC.

Amazon is about to take employee monitoring to a whole ‘nother level of dystopian surveillance.

The retail giant will this week ask delivery drivers in the US to sign a “biometric consent” form or lose their jobs, Vice reports.

The form permits the company to use AI-powered cameras in its vans to monitor drivers’ locations, movements, and biometric data.

The firm has already started rolling out the system, made by tech company Netradyne, across its fleet of vehicles. The cameras can monitor a driver’s body movements, infer when they’re distracted, and even spot when they yawn.

[Read: How to use AI to better serve your customers]

Amazon says the system will keep drivers safe on the road, but privacy advocates have called it “the largest expansion of corporate surveillance in human history.” 

The consent form says Amazon may use drivers’ photos to create, store, and use biometric information. It adds that the system “tracks vehicle location and movement… as a condition of delivery packages for Amazon, you consent to the use of technology.”

Vice reports that some drivers are refusing to sign the forms. But Ray Walsh, a digital privacy expert at ProPrivacy, said many of them will have little choice but to accept the terms:

A vast amount of Amazon drivers rely on the wage from their job on a month-to-month basis, and they don’t have the luxury of deciding to quit in order to avoid being tracked with AI by Amazon. As a result, many employees are being compelled into accepting this surveillance against their wishes.

Those that do sign the forms will consent to highly-intrusive surveillance that could affect their behavior while they work.

Walsh added that any mistakes picked up by the system could be used to prosecute drivers:

There is a real danger that Amazon is creating a catch 22 situation in which it demands so much from its drivers to keep their jobs, that they end up breaking rules that ultimately get them in trouble with their employer and the law, and that this is all caught on film for the firm.

Update (11:45AM CET, March 25, 2021): Amazon spokesperson Deborah Bass gave TNW the following statement:

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.

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