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.

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.

News Outlets, Press Freedom Groups to DOJ: Don't Let GOP States 'Criminalize' Abortion Coverage

"We ask that you publicly reiterate the press freedoms granted under the First Amendment, and remind states that they cannot infringe on those rights when news outlets write about abortion."

Kenny Stancil ·


'Terrific Win for Consumers': Biden FDA Clears Way for Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids

"This is such an important move that will change lives," said the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Jake Johnson ·


'Hell State America': Florida Appeals Court Won't Let Parentless 16-Year-Old Get an Abortion

"The status of minors in a post-Roe America: Not mature enough to make decisions over your own body, but mature enough to be forced to continue with a pregnancy."

Jessica Corbett ·


Amazon Employees Hold First-Ever Work Stoppage in Air Freight Division

"If Amazon can afford to pay its CEO $214 million last year it can afford to give their workers a $5-an-hour raise and a safe workplace," said Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Julia Conley ·


Lula Holds 12-Point Lead Over Bolsonaro as Brazil's Presidential Race Heats Up

The leftist champion's double-digit lead in the polls comes amid fears that the far-right incumbent's baseless accusations of fraud and threats to stay in office no matter the outcome could lead to violence.

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo