Tag Archives: surveillance

‘We Are Fighting Back’: Global Black Friday Strikes and Protests Seek to #MakeAmazonPay

“We are workers and activists divided by geography and our role in the global economy but united in our commitment to Make Amazon Pay fair wages, its taxes, and for its impact on the planet.”

By Kenny Stancil.  Published 11-25-2021 by Common Dreams

Workers at the FRA3 Amazon datacenter in Frankfurt, Germany. Photo: Amazon Workers International/Twitter

On Black Friday, more than 70 labor unions and progressive advocacy groups shut down workplaces and hit the streets in cities around the globe to demand—on Amazon’s most profitable day of the year—that the sprawling tech and logistics corporation pay a living wage to its employees and a fair share of taxes to compensate the societies in which it operates.

“From oil refineries, to factories, to warehouses, to data centers, to corporate offices in countries across the world, workers and activists are rising up in strikes, protests, and actions to Make Amazon Pay,” reads the campaign’s website. While the international coalition held its first Black Friday day of action 12 months ago, opposition to Amazon’s abuses has only grown since then, and work stoppages and rallies targeting the e-commerce giant were expected in at least 20 countries on every inhabited continent this year.

According to the Make Amazon Pay coalition, planned actions include:

  • In Kathmandu, Nepal, organizers from the UNICOME Nepal and UNI Nepal Liaison Council will protest in defense of Amazon suppliers and their rights to decent conditions;
  • In Berlin, Germany, warehouse workers will march on the site of Amazon’s HQ to launch the Amazon Workers Against Surveillance;
  • In Toronto, Canada, postal workers and the Warehouse Worker Resource Center will march on the Brampton Amazon facility to demand better wages;
  • In Buenos Aires, Argentina, activists will take action at the Axion oil refinery against Amazon’s services to fossil fuel corporations like BP; and
  • In Warsaw, Poland, a broad coalition of unions and environmentalists will take to the streets to protest Amazon’s worker repression and arbitrary firings at its warehouses.

Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, said Friday that people worldwide are demonstrating “to end corporate impunity, to end the scandal of [Amazon’s] monopoly power.”

“They pay little or no tax, yet their obscene wealth is actually untrammeled,” Burrow continued. She emphasized the need to “stan[d] with Amazon workers every day” and thanked unions for their solidarity.

Amazon is headquartered in the United States, but its reach is global—with a massive workforce of roughly 1.3 million people, excluding countless others employed by the company’s subcontractors, and a carbon footprint larger than two-thirds of the world’s countries. Resistance to one of the most powerful corporate empires in history—founded by Jeff Bezos, currently the second-richest person on the planet—is also transnational.

“Amazon is everywhere, involved in almost every step of the global economy, but we are too,” explains the coalition, which includes Progressive International, UNI Global Union, Amazon Workers International, and dozens of other trade unions and civil society organizations working to stamp out inequality, tax evasion, and climate injustice.

“At every link in this chain of abuse, we are fighting back,” the coalition says. “We are workers and activists divided by geography and our role in the global economy but united in our commitment to Make Amazon Pay fair wages, its taxes, and for its impact on the planet.”

Campaigners from the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Argentina, Bangladesh, Germany, Cambodia, and Poland described how “Amazon just doesn’t give a shit”—exploiting workers and consumers, despoiling the environment, dodging taxes, and using its ill-gotten gains to wield enormous, anti-democratic influence over lawmakers.

The Covid-19 pandemic, in particular, “has exposed how Amazon places profits ahead of workers, society, and our planet,” the Make Amazon Pay coalition notes on its website.

Last year, for instance, Amazon became a trillion-dollar corporation. According to a video on the coalition’s website, “Amazon’s wealth has increased so much during the pandemic that its owners could pay all 1.3 million of its employees a $690,000 Covid bonus and still be as rich as they were in 2020.”

Bezos—who paid a 1.1% true tax rate between 2006 and 2018, according to a June report from ProPublica—also became the first individual to amass a personal fortune of more than $200 billion. He surpassed that figure in August 2020, just a few months after he eliminated the short-lived hazard pay of Amazon employees, who have continued toiling at great risk to their own health.

In addition, Amazon’s union-busting tactics were on full display earlier this year in Bessemer, Alabama during a drive organized by the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).

Union organizers at the Bessemer warehouse came up short in the April election, but an official at the National Labor Relations Board has recommended invalidating those results and mandating a new vote after RWDSU filed nearly two dozen complaints alleging that Amazon illegally threatened employees with loss of pay and benefits, installed and surveilled an unlawful ballot collection box, and expelled pro-union workers from so-called “captive audience” meetings during which management argued against unionization.

In addition to ruthlessly squashing unionization efforts, Amazon denies governments revenue “through its world-beating efforts at tax dodging,” says the Make Amazon Pay Coalition.

“Like all major corporations, Amazon’s success would be impossible without the public institutions that citizens built together over generations,” the coalition stresses. “But instead of giving back to the societies that helped it grow,” the e-commerce giant “paid just 1.2% tax in the U.S.” in 2019, “up from 0% the two previous years.”

As far as pollution goes, the coalition points out, “Amazon’s growing delivery and cloud computer businesses are accelerating global climate breakdown.”

Bezos, meanwhile, said in July—immediately following his first suborbital flight, which he admitted was paid for by Amazon workers—that he thinks it would be a good idea to relocate industrial production to outer space, threatening, however unrealistically, to push capitalism’s detrimental impacts beyond Earth’s atmosphere.

A study published earlier this month found that “the emissions from a single billionaire spaceflight would exceed the lifetime emissions of someone in the poorest billion people” in the world.

Highlighting Amazon’s environmental destruction here on planet Earth, Extinction Rebellion blocked a total of 15 fulfillment centers throughout Europe on Black Friday, in solidarity with striking workers.

In its list of demands, the Make Amazon Pay coalition says that it is fighting for better pay for Amazon’s workers—”in line with the increasing wealth of the corporation, including hazard pay and premium pay for peak times”—as well as improved working conditions and benefits, such as paid sick leave “so that no worker has to choose between their health or their job.”

The coalition also seeks to protect Amazon workers’ rights to organize as well as unions’ rights to promote the interests of employees—without fear of surveillance and retaliation, throughout the company’s global supply chains.

In addition, the campaign is pushing for Amazon to commit to zero emissions by 2030 and to eliminate “tax abuse through profit shifting, loopholes, and the use of tax havens,” among other demands to safeguard consumers’ data.

“Amazon is not alone in these bad practices,” the coalition acknowledges, “but it sits at the heart of a failed system that drives the inequality, climate breakdown, and democratic decay that scar our age.”

This work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)
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School surveillance of students via laptops may do more harm than good

School laptop surveillance systems monitor students even when they’re not in school.
Jacques Julien/Getty Images

Nir Kshetri, University of North Carolina – Greensboro

Ever since the start of the pandemic, more and more public school students are using laptops, tablets or similar devices issued by their schools.

The percentage of teachers who reported their schools had provided their students with such devices doubled from 43% before the pandemic to 86% during the pandemic, a September 2021 report shows.

In one sense, it might be tempting to celebrate how schools are doing more to keep their students digitally connected during the pandemic. The problem is, schools are not just providing kids with computers to keep up with their schoolwork. Instead – in a trend that could easily be described as Orwellian – the vast majority of schools are also using those devices to keep tabs on what students are doing in their personal lives. Continue reading

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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.

By Brett Wilkins, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 2-4-2021

An Amaazon Prime van making a delivery in Queens. Photo: Tdorante10/CC

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.

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. Continue reading

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What If Jesus Had Been Born in the American Police State?

Today, Jesus’ anti-government views would certainly have resulted in him being labeled a domestic extremist by law enforcement agencies.

By John Whitehead. Published 12-22-2020 by MintPress News

A church is Southern California put up a nativity display that shows Jesus, Mary, and Joseph being detained at the border.

The Christmas story of a baby born in a manger is a familiar one. The Roman Empire, a police state in its own right, had ordered that a census be conducted. Joseph and his pregnant wife Mary traveled to the little town of Bethlehem so that they could be counted. There being no room for the couple at any of the inns, they stayed in a stable (a barn), where Mary gave birth to a baby boy, Jesus. Warned that the government planned to kill the baby, Jesus’ family fled with him to Egypt until it was safe to return to their native land

Yet what if Jesus had been born 2,000 years later? Continue reading

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Director of National Intelligence Admits Government Used Section 215 to Track Browsing History

After initially denying the practice, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe admitted the government engaged in activity “that could be characterized” as tracking website visits.

By Brett Wilkins, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 12-3-2020

Protesters march in a demonstration demanding an end to government mass surveillance in Washington, D.C. on October 26, 2013. (Photo: Susan Melkisethian/flickr/cc)

The Trump administration recently used one of the most controversial surveillance provisions in U.S. history to record an unidentified person or group’s visit to an unspecified website, the New York Times revealed Thursday.

The Times reports Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe wrote to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) on November 6 to inform him that Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act had not been used to collect internet search terms, and that none of the 61 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court orders issued in 2019 involved “web browsing” records. Continue reading

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‘Absolutely Sickening’: US Military Buys Location Data Harvested From Apps, Including One for Muslim Prayers

“The military industrial complex and the surveillance state have always had a cozy relationship with tech. Buying bulk data in order to profile Muslims is par for the course for them,” says Rep. Ilhan Omar.

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 11-16-2020

Reporting by Motherboard on Monday sparked alarm over the U.S. military buying location data harvested from mobile phone applications. Photo: Massive News

“Holy hell… This is absolutely unacceptable.” “Quite wild.” “Grotesque.” “Absolutely sickening.” “This should be illegal.”

Those were just some of the alarmed reactions to reporting by Joseph Cox for Motherboard on Monday that “the U.S. military is buying the granular movement data of people around the world, harvested from innocuous-seeming apps.” Continue reading

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With Nation Focused on Coronavirus, Rights Groups Warn Senate Against Handing Trump ‘Terrifying’ Spy Powers

“It’s unthinkable to extend these spying powers to the same agencies that have so often sidestepped safeguards and ignored Americans’ fundamental privacy rights.”

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 3-16-2020

Protesters carried signs at a march against mass surveillance on Oct. 26, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: EFF/Flickr/cc)

Ahead of a vote that could take place in the Senate as soon as Monday evening, civil liberties groups and federal lawmakers critical of mass surveillance spoke out against House-approved legislation that would reauthorize “abusive” and “dangerous” U.S. government spying powers that expired Sunday.

The Democrat-held House was widely criticized last week for passing the USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act (H.R. 6172), a bipartisan compromise negotiated by leaders in the lower chamber that includes the reauthorization of Section 215 powers that Congress established under the USA PATRIOT Act in 2001, which federal agencies have used to justify the collection of Americans’ phone records. Continue reading

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“People Are Being Hunted Down” – ICE Launches Rights-Busting Onslaught Against Sanctuary Cities

Rights are routinely being violated as hundreds of ICE agents storm New York City and other sanctuary cities in a fresh attempt to round up undocumented immigrants.

By Alan Macleod. Published 3-6-2020 by MintPress News

An armed ICE agent through the peephole of an apartment . Photo: Annie Correal/Twitter

Operation Palladium has begun. Hundreds of agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have entered New York and other sanctuary cities in a fresh attempt to round up undocumented immigrants. The directive, according to officials, is simple: arrest as many undocumented immigrants as possible and “flood the streets” with officers. Beginning a 24/7 surveillance and detention program, ICE leadership has requested over 500 special agents who normally work fighting trafficking and organized crime to bolster the agency’s numbers. This follows an earlier decision to deploy immigration SWAT teams to round up undocumented immigrants in sanctuary cities.

“I have gotten frantic texts from people that they are spotting ICE in their New York City buildings knocking on doors. They are terrified. This is happening TODAY. RIGHT NOW. People [are] being hunted down,” said journalist Maria Hinojosa. Continue reading

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‘Stop This Sale’: 11 NGO Leaders at Davos Warn Against Pending Private Equity Takeover of .Org Domain

“The security of civil society should not be entrusted to private equity.”

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 1-22-2020

Leaders of top NGOs are protesting the pending sale of the registry that operates the .org domain to a private equity firm. (Image: Andrew Stroehlein/Human Rights Watch/Twitter)

The executive directors of 11 major international nongovernmental organizations on Wednesday added their voices to a swelling chorus opposed to the pending sale of the nonprofit registry that operates the .org top-level domain to a recently established private equity firm.

The NGO leaders came together at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland to unveil a letter (pdf) they sent Tuesday to Andrew Sullivan, president and CEO of the Internet Society (ISOC), and Göran Marby, president and CEO of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). Continue reading

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Amazon and Ring Hit With Lawsuit After Camera Hacks Confirm Worst Fears of Privacy Advocates

“These devices are not safe,” said Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future.

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 12-27-2019

Photo: Wikipedia

Home security company Ring and its parent corporation Amazon were hit with a lawsuit in federal court Thursday alleging that their cameras have been hacked on numerous occasions due to inadequate protections, confirming privacy advocates’ fears about the devices.

John Baker Orange of Alabama, the plaintiff in the case, said in the lawsuit (pdf) that his Ring security camera was recently hacked while his children were playing basketball outside of his home. Continue reading

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