On the Clock is Motherboard's reporting on the organized labor movement, gig work, automation, and the future of work.
Amazon delivery drivers nationwide have to sign a "biometric consent" form this week that grants the tech behemoth permission to use AI-powered cameras to access drivers' location, movement, and biometric data.
If the company’s delivery drivers, who number around 75,000 in the United States, refuse to sign these forms, they lose their jobs. The form requires drivers to agree to facial recognition and other biometric data collection within the trucks they drive.
"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," the form reads. "Using your photograph, this Technology, may create Biometric Information, and collect, store, and use Biometric Information from such photographs."
It adds that "this Technology tracks 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."
In February, Amazon announced plans to install the AI-powered four-lens cameras, made by the tech company Netradyne, in all of its Amazon-branded delivery vans. The company says cameras are being used to improve "safety" and the "quality of the delivery experience." But as Thomson Reuters reported earlier this month, some drivers are quitting their jobs because of privacy concerns. The Netradyne cameras are able to sense when a driver yawns, appears distracted, or isn't wearing a seatbelt, according to a product description, and monitor drivers' body and facial movements.
“Netradyne cameras are used to help keep drivers and the communities where we deliver safe,” said Deborah Bass, a spokesperson for Amazon. “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 percent, stop sign violations decreased 20 percent, driving without a seatbelt decreased 60 percent, and distracted driving decreased 45 percent. Don’t believe the self-interested critics who claim these cameras are intended for anything other than safety.”
Technically, these drivers aren't even employed by Amazon, but by roughly 800 companies, known as delivery service partners that operate out of Amazon delivery stations. Still, Amazon controls many aspects of its drivers working conditions, from their training to their uniforms to their delivery quotas.
"I had one driver who refused to sign," the owner of an Amazon delivery company in the Pacific Northwest told Motherboard. Motherboard granted the business owner anonymity because they feared retaliation from Amazon. "It's a heart-breaking conversation when someone tells you that you're their favorite person they have ever worked for, but Amazon just micromanages them too much."
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The policy has already received scrutiny from Congress. Last month, five senators raised concerns about drivers privacy in a letter to Amazon.
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