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Senators question Bezos, Amazon about cameras placed in delivery vans

Senators question Bezos, Amazon about cameras placed in delivery vans
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A group of five senators on Wednesday called on tech giant Amazon and its CEO Jeff BezosJeffrey (Jeff) Preston BezosNASA picks Elon Musk's SpaceX to build spacecraft for manned moon missions Harvard Business community backs alumna's discrimination lawsuit against Amazon Union leader: 'Amazon left no stone unturned' in unionization fight MORE to provide additional information on the company’s recently installed artificial intelligence-equipped cameras in its delivery vans. 

Sens. Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - All US adults can get vaccine; decision Friday on J&J vax Democratic Rep. Mondaire Jones calls on Breyer to retire Democratic senators call on Biden to support waiving vaccine patents MORE (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory BookerCory BookerBass 'hopeful' on passing police reform: 'Republicans that I am working with are operating in good faith' Progressive lawmakers press DHS chief on immigration detention Democrats battle over best path for Puerto Rico MORE (D-N.J.), Bernie SandersBernie SandersOvernight Energy: Treasury creates hub to fight climate change through finance | Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez introduce 'Green New Deal for Public Housing' | Don't attack Zoom for its Bernie Sanders federal tax bill Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez introduce 'Green New Deal for Public Housing' MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWorld passes 3 million coronavirus deaths Poll: 56 percent say wealth tax is part of solution to inequality Democratic senators call on Biden to support waiving vaccine patents MORE (D-Mass.), all signed onto a letter asking Bezos to provide additional information on the cameras and how the footage will be used by the company. 

Deborah Bass, an Amazon spokesperson, confirmed to CNBC last month that it recently began testing AI-equipped cameras in vehicles to monitor drivers and ensure they are maintaining safe practices while making deliveries. 

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However, the senators wrote 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.”

The lawmakers explain that the cameras being used, called “Driveri,” have four lenses “that simultaneously record the vehicle’s interior, the road ahead of it, and a view from both sides of it.” 

“As drivers and people go about their daily lives, these cameras will likely capture an enormous amount of video footage without their knowledge or permission,” the senators wrote. “Turning Amazon’s increasingly prevalent delivery vehicles into roaming video recording devices could dramatically decrease Americans’ ability to work, move, and assemble in public without being surveilled.”

The lawmakers added that the cameras, whose software reportedly sends footage to a portal if AI detects that a driver is not acting safely, could inadvertently “create significant pressure on drivers to speed up on their routes, which can lead to driver fatigue and decreased safety.” 

The senators in the letter also argued that Amazon “appears to be implementing a worker surveillance infrastructure that infringes on your workers.” 

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The lawmakers cite evidence suggesting that AI systems “designed to analyze faces may be plagued with systematic inaccuracy issues that place disproportionate burdens on women and individuals of color.” 

The senators conclude with a series of questions for Bezos to answer by March 24, including how many delivery vehicles currently have the cameras, how Amazon plans to use the recordings and if Amazon has any security protocol in place to protect the Driveri camera footage. 

The Hill has reached out to Amazon for comment. 

Amazon in a privacy policy released last month related to the cameras said the footage collected could be used for employment decisions. Drivers told CNBC at the time that drivers can be subject to disciplinary actions based on infractions caught on the cameras.