Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

An Amazon Ring camera is pictured at Amazon headquarters on September 20, 2018 in Seattle.

An Amazon Ring camera is pictured at Amazon headquarters on September 20, 2018 in Seattle. (Photo: Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

New Campaign Demands Congress Probe the 'Ever-Expanding Surveillance Empire' of Amazon

Over a dozen groups call for a full congressional investigation in the online giant citing threats to privacy, security, and civil liberties posed by Alexa, Ring, and Rekognition.

Andrea Germanos

Amazon must face a full congressional investigation to answer questions about threats posed by the company's "ever-expanding surveillance empire."

That's the demand from over a dozen groups who on Monday kicked off a campaign urging lawmakers to probe the digital giant's products including Alexa, Rekognition, and Ring over privacy, security, and civil liberties concerns.

"During this holiday season, people are going to buy Amazon's product unaware of the surveillance features and the threats they pose to their personal data and civil liberties," said Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future. "Meanwhile, Amazon gains access to video footage and sensitive audio recordings from millions more Americans and their families."

"Amazon's surveillance empire," she added, "is spreading at an alarming rate."

Fight for the Future joins other groups including Color of Change, Council on American-Islamic Relations-SFBA, and CREDO Action in the Investigate Amazon campaign, which accuses the company of having a business model "all about using monopolistic practices to sweep up and exploit data from our private and public lives."

The groups say problems include the fact that Amazon's Alexa records surrounding conversations and its Rekognition technology allows law enforcement to tracks anyone's movement in public spaces.

Of particular concern are partnerships between Amazon and local police departments in which the tech company provides warrantless access to law enforcement from Ring doorbell cameras. That data can then be shared with agencies including ICE or used to target protesters. Such partnerships are of heightened concern for risk for black, brown, and low-income communities, which are already subjected to unjust policing practices.

Ring also threatens people's privacy, as bystanders who've given no consent have personal data recorded, and there are more general security concerns because Ring cameras don't use what is known as end-to-end encryption.

Jelani Drew, campaigner manager at CREDO Action, called Ring "a perfect yet horrifying example of how Amazon, in partnership with law enforcement, is effectively making each and every one of our homes an extension of the police."

In light of such threats, the campaign is urging people to tell their lawmakers, "Amazon needs to be held accountable. I'm calling on you to investigate Amazon."

The campaign began days after Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) released "chilling" findings from his investigation into Ring. The senator said in a statement that "Ring's policies are an open door for privacy and civil liberty violations."

Fight for the Future's Greer pointed to that investigation in her statement Monday, saying it "confirms that Amazon has zero protections in place to protect our security and civil liberties."

"At this point," she said, "lawmakers need to escalate the investigation and hold hearings demanding answers and accountability from Amazon when it comes to their surveillance empire and monopolistic business practices."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Lee, Pocan File Amendment to Slash $100 Billion From US Military Budget

"For far too long, this country has put profits ahead of its people," said Rep. Barbara Lee. "Nowhere is that more apparent than in our Pentagon topline budget."

Jake Johnson ·

UK Tory Prime Minster Boris Johnson Resigns Amid Relentless Scandal

"Real change can only come when the Tories are swept away and replaced with a people's government to redistribute wealth and power," said former Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Jake Johnson ·

Fulton County Subpoenas of Trump Allies Offer Hope 'That Justice Will Ultimately Be Served'

"The coordinated attempts by former President Donald Trump and his associates to discount and ignore the will of Georgian voters during the 2020 election cannot be swept under the rug," said one activist.

Jessica Corbett ·

Russian Official Makes Nuclear Threat Over US Support for Ukraine War Crimes Probe

Another official responded to Western sanctions by suggesting that Russia could reclaim Alaska.

Brett Wilkins ·

Biden Denounced for Imposing New Sanctions as Iran Nuclear Talks Falter

One Middle East expert accused the U.S. administration of "continuing and embracing Trump's max pressure policy, while expecting a different result."

Brett Wilkins ·

Common Dreams Logo