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Outrage after Amazon drivers told to give 'biometric consent' or lose jobs

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 24/03/2021 James Cook
a truck is parked on the side of a road: Amazon delivery vans - Bloomberg © Bloomberg Amazon delivery vans - Bloomberg

Amazon is facing widespread criticism after it began requiring its 75,000 drivers in the US to agree to being monitored by cameras in their vans to track their movements.

The e-commerce business sent its US delivery drivers a “biometric consent” form this month, requiring them to agree to the monitoring cameras in order to keep their jobs, according to a report by Motherboard.

The cameras are designed to monitor the safety of drivers, with the artificial intelligence-powered devices able to detect if a driver yawns and becomes visibly drowsy while on their shift.

However, forcing delivery drivers to agree to be constantly filmed has alarmed privacy campaigners who have questioned the effectiveness of the system.

“Surveillance is a key feature of the gig economy,” said Eva Blum-Dumontet, a senior researcher at Privacy International.


Video: Amazon Delivery Drivers Must Sign ‘Biometric Consent’ Forms or Risk Losing Job (Cover Video)

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“It is disingenuous of Amazon to claim they are worried about road safety, the only thing they are concerned about here is their reputation and ensuring they can draw maximum profit from their drivers,” she continued. 

“If they were truly concerned about road safety, the solution would be actually hiring employees and offering them enough protection so that they are not enticed to complete more tasks than it is safe to do so.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation also criticised the consent forms sent to drivers. “Amazon drivers should not be forced to submit to biometric surveillance as a condition of keeping their jobs,” the organisation said, “this is not consent.”

The system, made by US business Netradyne, uses four high-definition cameras, including one inside the van’s cab, that monitor the vehicle as it drives.

In an instructional video about the biometric monitoring, Amazon said the cameras would be able to tell if a driver used their smartphone and could send a warning about distractions while on the road.

It’s not clear if the cameras will be fitted to Amazon delivery vans in the UK.

An Amazon spokesman said: "We piloted the technology from April to October 2020 on over 2m miles of delivery routes and the results produced remarkable driver and community safety improvements—accidents decreased 48pc, stop sign violations decreased 20pc, driving without a seatbelt decreased 60pc, and distracted driving decreased 45pc. Don’t believe the self-interested critics who claim these cameras are intended for anything other than safety."

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