Amazon workers in India and Romania review footage captured by Cloud Cam, one of Amazon’s several home safety camera options, according to a Bloomberg report. These videos are then used to train artificial intelligence algorithms to be able to distinguish between real threats and false alarms.
The footage comes from employee testers and Cloud Cam owners who submit clips for troubleshooting purposes, the report said. Typically, 150 videos, about 20-30 seconds long, are annotated each day by Amazon employees, per the report.
How does Cloud Cam work? The device is among a suite of home security products that Amazon sells. It detects an issue such as a crying baby and sends users alerts of the same. Amazon also sells Ring doorbell cameras. It also has integration for Amazon Alexa.
What about consent? Cloud Cam owners are in complete control of their video clips, and no one can view those clips until users submit them for troubleshooting purposes, the report said. However, in Cloud Cam’s terms and conditions page, Amazon doesn’t explicitly mention that users’ video clips might be subject to human intervention. This is a clear case of lack of disclosure to users, and in effect, outside the realm of what users have consented to: this is a violation of users’ privacy.
The report also said that reviewers occasionally come across clips that have people getting intimate with each other. Who in their right mind would submit clips of this nature?
The strengthening of AI argument: Amazon also lets transcribers listen to certain audio clippings collected by Alexa devices. The reason? To make its AI algorithm stronger so that Alexa enabled devices can understand speech variations. Apple and Google have similar programs, for similar reasons.
Don’t forget Amazon Rekognition: According to a report in The Washington Post, Amazon is potentially creating a ‘database of suspicious persons’ using facial recognition technology. Amazon Rekognition, the company’s face identification software, is already being licensed by several law enforcement agencies in the US, according to Cnet.
30+ digital rights organisations have demanded to end partnerships between Ring, Amazon’s camera-enabled doorbell company, and over 400 law enforcement agencies in the US. The organisations said that this partnership poses a serious threat to civil rights and liberties, especially for black and brown communities already targeted and surveilled by law enforcement.