Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Amazon Prime delivery van parked outside apartment building, Forest Hills, Queens, NY. (Photo: Lindsey Nicholson Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

An Amazon Prime delivery van stops at an apartment building in Forest Hills, Queens, New York City. (Photo: Lindsey Nicholson/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Warnings of Growing 'Surveillance Empire' as AI Van Cameras Give Amazon 'Roaming Eyes in Every Neighborhood'

"Amazon will have the perfect panopticon in place to sweep up unprecedented amounts of data en masse," says Fight for the Future.

Brett Wilkins

In what one leading digital rights advocate is calling "the largest expansion of corporate surveillance in human history," Amazon has begun installing artificial intelligence-equipped cameras in some of its partners' delivery vehicles to monitor drivers while they work, a move that is raising broader concerns about privacy and corporate power. 

"Beyond fueling the expansion of the police surveillance state, this means even if you don't use Amazon you're going to be in their system, being monitored, and targeted."
—Fight for the Future

CNBC reported Wednesday that Amazon's AI-powered, four-lens cameras—called Driveri—are being tested in a handful of contracted delivery vehicles. The cameras are manufactured by Netradyne, a San Diego-based startup, and record 100% of the time while vans are operating. They watch and record not only the drivers, but also the road and what's happening around the vehicles.

Driveri cameras feature AI software that detects up to 16 different safety issues, tracking everything from drivers' eye movements to speed and braking. Certain violations will trigger automatic audio alerts. 

"Safety is our top priority at Amazon and it's our hope that this new system will give drivers and DSPs [delivery service partners] peace of mind while out delivering smiles to our customers," Karolina Haraldsdottir, a senior Amazon manager for last-mile safety, says in an instructional video sent to DSPs. 

However, many drivers—who must agree to have the cameras installed—labor unions, and privacy advocates expressed alarm over the intrusive technology.

In an online petition, the digital rights group Fight For the Future warns that "Amazon will have roaming eyes in every neighborhood, shopping center, and intersection in our communities." The petition continues: 

[Amazon] will be watching everyone including your kids. Along with the millions of Ring doorbell cams, floodlight cams, and mailbox cams, Amazon will have the perfect panopticon in place to sweep up unprecedented amounts of data en masse. They already have 2,000+ partnerships with law enforcement and it seems super likely that they'll start sharing footage from their vehicles the same way they share from Ring cameras—giving them access to license plates, biometric data, and enabling them to use facial recognition to track anyone's movements across neighborhoods and cities.

"Beyond fueling the expansion of the police surveillance state, this means even if you don't use Amazon you're going to be in their system, being monitored, and targeted," the petition states. 

In a statement, Fight for the Future deputy director Evan Greer said that "this amounts to the largest expansion of corporate surveillance in human history."

Greer says the Amazon cameras will "violate everyone's basic rights by constantly collecting and analyzing footage of our neighborhoods, our homes, and our children," data she says "can and will" be shared with law enforcement, including U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

"There are essentially no laws in place to limit what commercial purposes Amazon can use this enormous trove of video footage for," said Greer, who added that Fight for the Future is "demanding that Amazon immediately stop the roll out of this unsafe program" and urging Congress "to launch a full investigation into Amazon's surveillance empire." 

That "empire" includes Rekognition, a cloud-based software as a service (SaaS) facial recognition technology sold to police and government agencies including ICE. Last June, Amazon announced a one-year moratorium on police use of Rekognition over concerns about algorithmic bias.

"When you layer a surveillance technology on top of a system that's already discriminatory, it sort of automates, amplifies, exacerbates that discrimination, without rules in place to protect workers."
—Evan Greer,
Fight for the Future

The move came at a time of increased public scrutiny of tech companies' relationships with law enforcement in the wake of police killings of unarmed Black people including George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. 

"When you layer a surveillance technology on top of a system that's already discriminatory, it sort of automates, amplifies, exacerbates that discrimination, without rules in place to protect workers," Greer told CNBC

The Driveri controversy comes the same week that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos—who has become the world's first multicentibillionaire from selling products and services including surveillance technology—announced he is stepping down from the position to serve as executive chairman. His successor, longtime Amazon Web Services chief Andy Jassy, has been a staunch defender of the company's surveillance products.  


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

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Biden-Backed Aukus Deal Could Spell 'Disaster' for Climate Cooperation With China

One U.K. lawmaker said reaching a "positive outcome" at the upcoming talks in Glasgow "just got a whole lot harder."

Jon Queally ·


Exclusive: Jared Kushner's Family Firm Set to Unleash Eviction Wave Amid Pandemic

"Kushner is the poster child for ultra-rich landlords clamoring to boost their bottom line by kicking families to the curb, even if it comes at the expense of public health."

Jake Johnson ·


Patient Group Targets Pair of Democrats for 'Selling Us Out to Drug Companies'

"It makes me so angry that members of Congress are choosing Big Pharma over patients. It's unforgivable."

Jake Johnson ·


Judge Blocks Biden From Continuing 'Inhumane' Trump Policy to Deport Families

"This is not the end of the battle against this practice," said one rights group, "but it is a major step to ensure that the U.S. welcomes these asylum-seeking families—as we should."

Jessica Corbett ·


400+ Economists Press Congress to Permanently Expand Child Tax Credit

Such an expansion would "dramatically reduce childhood poverty in the United States," they said.

Andrea Germanos ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo