In 2021, Amazon started installing artificial intelligence cameras to monitor its delivery drivers while they work.
The e-commerce giant claimed that the technology was meant to prevent accidents.
The cameras record “100% of the time,” Amazon told CNBC, with four lenses capturing the road, driver, and sides of the vehicle to flag 16 different safety violations including speeding, failing to stop at a stop sign, hard-breaking, or distracted driving.
But according to one Amazon worker, the A.I. system can be used to “ding” drivers over numerous violations.
“If I want a sip of my coffee I have to pull over”
The driver, with the username @ambergirts, took to TikTok to show off the tracking system in her company vehicle.
“That little guy is how we are tracked,” Amber Girts said while zooming her camera in on a rectangular contraption attached to her rearview mirror. “It’s probably recording me recording it, but it can’t hear me so that’s nice.”
She then continued to break down the safety violations the device flags to her employer, such as if drivers go more than six miles over the speed limit.
And while many of the features are understandable, she complains about the lack of freedom drivers have because of the constant surveillance.
For example, Girts claims that the number of times she buckles and unbuckles her seatbelt is tracked, and if she doesn’t buckle up enough then that’s a “seatbelt violation.”
Want to connect your phone to Bluetooth? No can do, because touching the van’s central console is a “driver distracted violation,” according to Girts.
Even drinking while driving, which is not illegal, is flagged by Amazon.
“If I want a sip of my coffee, I have to pull over so that I can grab it and drink it. Because if I do it while I’m driving then that’s a ‘driver distracted,’ which is also a violation,” she added.
Girts says the cameras can sometimes mistake human behaviors like scratching as dangerous.
She claimed that “one guy was itching his beard, one time, and the camera picked it up that he was on the phone and so he got a driver distracted violation for itching his face—but they disputed it.”
“Everyone who works for Amazon pretty much hates those little things but we have to remember it’s just for safety,” she concluded.
An Amazon spokesperson told Fortune: “The safety technology in delivery vans help keep drivers and the communities where we deliver safe, and claims that these cameras are intended for anything else are incorrect.
“Since we started using them, we’ve seen a 35% reduction in collision rate across the network along with a reduction in distracted driving, speeding, tailgating, sign and signal violations, and drivers not wearing their seatbelts.”
Sources within Amazon also claim drivers are encouraged to stay hydrated while they work, and that the cameras can be turned off during breaks to ensure driver privacy.
Monitoring is a micromanaging measure
Amazon workers aren’t the only ones who “hate” the company’s A.I. system.
Around 500,000 people have viewed the TikTok video, and thousands have taken to the comments section to echo their distaste.
Many viewers commented that the practice highlights a lack of trust at the company, with one top comment reading: “That’s way too much micromanagement.”
Another agreed: “Talk about having a boss breathing down your shoulder.”
Other viewers commented that they’d never work for a company that has such measures in place, while some questioned whether there are ulterior motives to the safety measures, like cheaper insurance rates.
Even an Amazon warehouse worker chimed in to say, “I thank my lucky stars every day I don’t drive for them.”
Meanwhile, one user suggested that with the vast scenarios that could result in a violation, they “would straight fail without even knowing what I did wrong,” and Girt responded that “this happens a lot actually.”
According to the Information, too many safety violations could lead to a driver being fired by the company.
It’s not the first time the monitoring measures have been criticized, with privacy activists previously describing it as “creepy,” “intrusive,” and “excessive.”
Big Brother Watch unsuccessfully called for the installations to be put on hold in the U.K. in 2022, a year after it had already been rolled out in the U.S.
“Amazon has a terrible track record of intensely monitoring their lowest wage earners using Orwellian, often highly inaccurate, spying technologies, and then using that data to their disadvantage,” Silkie Carlo, director of the U.K.-based privacy campaign group, told the Telegraph.
“This kind of directed surveillance could actually risk distracting drivers, let alone demoralizing them. It is bad for workers’ rights and awful for privacy.”
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