Before the big Google walkout this week, there was at least one HN discussion about it a few days prior, with some commenters questioning the purpose/courage of a walkout if the employees aren't willing to quit. Well, even if Google employees didn't put money where their mouths were, participating in the walkout at the very least is a public statement. And when 20,000  employees make that statement, there is no debate at all if a reporter describes the Google controversy as one that has sparked significant company-wide strife.
There are plenty of good journalists with high reputation that you can certainly take more than a pinch of salt with.
... is that meant to be a comment in defence of the company?
No one cares about what trends concern any one person.
Translation: "We are making so much money that we have entirely sold our ethics and will continue doing whatever makes us more money."
I really don't know how this response surprised any of their employees (as a previous employee, it certainly does not surprise me). Those who can't abide it oughtn't work there; this isn't something that is going to be changed from the inside.
Back in the day, Amazon was very fond of repeating over and over that customer trust and customer loyalty was the very most important thing. Customers absolutely had to know that if they ordered something on Amazon, the right product would arrive on time. A data leak would be seen as an existential crisis. Shipping the wrong product was a customer service emergency.
Then Amazon found out how much money it could make from being a third party marketplace and mostly just giving up on quality control. Now nobody has nearly the confidence that the thing they're buying is a real thing. Is that USB-C cable gonna work with your phone? Who knows? Amazon doesn't. But they'll be happy to sell it to you.
Turns out that whole "customer first" thing was more of a temporary tactic more than it was any sort of moral grounding. It was a great tactic. It got Amazon to #1 from an era where nobody trusted eCommerce. But they dropped it once they didn't need it.
Remember, Amazon's the place that kicked a political organization off of their cloud with no notice because Senator Lieberman placed a quick phone call to Jeff Bezos and suggested it'd help him win GovCloud if he did.
If language creates this negative reaction, isn't that the opposite of the desired result? Or am I just particularly skeptical?
Any deviations and rumblings from within the hierarchy become very easy to identify if they don't use the same language.
If Amazon really wanted to take a stand on this, they would use their massive size and lobbying power to lobby the government to put in new rules and laws about the use of facial recognition technology.
Not only would that help everyone at once, but it would also protect their profit margins because then every company has to play by the same rules, thus allowing them to justify the expense to their shareholders. It's a win all around.
If you think something is unethical, then facilitating it for a profit is also unethical. If you don't think it's unethical, fine, but you don't get to have it both ways.
No, illegal immigrants voting directly is not what I mean. But their children vote.
Just so happens the fastest demographic growth especially in the lower border states is the same as those which are immigrating illegally. They vote 70% for liberal policies and politicians. Is this fair to American citizens who may ideologically oppose these voters but can't illegally import their own votes to keep pace?
Instead of attacking the constitution I’d suggest critiquing the parties (and their policies) in power.
It's not fair to embrace law breaking when the consequences disenfranchise 1 party, 1 ideology, along w/ the pressure it applies to wages and social services demands.
I'm quite simply stating, it is unfair to turn your back on law breaking that may benefit some people (and of course certainly benefits the immigrant) while harming others, who happen to be citizens the law is designed to protect.
Can you articulate to me why you think we even have a law against illegal immigration, before you dismiss my point of view out of hand?
Who exactly is harmed by someone coming to this country? They don't qualify for any benefits paid for by tax dollars. They do however pay taxes. So in fact they are a net positive to anyone who is already here.
I'm curious how you think they harm a citizen just by being here.
> What about the civil rights of American citizens who don't want their votes and social services diluted by illegal immigrants
This is a misrepresentation of the facts. Yes its true that these children would not have been American if their parents hadn't immigrated to America. However, they _were_ born in America and the immigration status of their parents has no legal baring on their citizenship or right to vote. They have as much of a legal right to vote as any other American.
People and companies have a responsibility to behave ethically, whether the law specifies that or not.
AFAIK Rekognition just takes in a face and spits out an ID that you can use to identify an already known face. This doesn't seem inherently bad to me. Any misuse or profiling in this case is designed, managed, and implemented by law enforcement and the moral responsibility lies with those who create the policy, not a tool that they use to enforce it.
Nor is there anything inherently unethical (read: necessarily harmful) about manufacturing and selling opiates, narcotics, bombs, or guns.
The issue comes down to where along the product lifecycle you decide to end or limit the responsibility for how the product you build and design is used. And the mental calculations you do to weigh the positives/negatives of the technology you create and sell.
Obviously a manufacturer of bombs knows their product is going to be used to kill. If your code of ethics dictates that murder is bad, the calculation becomes - how "involved/complicit" am I in murder if I build the tools to murder, but don't use the tools myself. If we don't kill the bad guys, they might kill us. And hey, everyone in this society that pays taxes to fund these military and defense programs is complicit. I'm just doing what society needs to protect itself.
With facial recognition technology, if your code of ethics dictates that potential invasion of privacy/government tracking is bad, you would do a similar calculation. These people tracked are already in a database of "bad people" (aren't they? am I and my family in a database? do I have anything to hide?) - and society dictates we need this for our own protection, so what's the problem? If I make enough money selling these systems, I can buy my way to privacy, isn't that the way it should be?
Different people will come to different conclusions...there's no cut and dry answer, and infinite justifications for producing and selling any powerful technology/tool.
What is or isn't acceptable use of facial recognition tech is not an easy question to answer; I don't have an answer. Those making and using it have a duty to give it serious thought and adjust their actions accordingly.
Second, they actively market to law enforcement.
Regarding actively marketing to law enforcement, is there any law enforcement use case that is not unethical? For example, if a facial recognition system is set up to only alert on faces that are listed in the Interpol Most Wanted list is that system unethical?
It seems that there's a moral line between identifying faces and profiling/targeting people arbitrarily. It's impossible for Amazon to know how any given customer will use its products before they actually use them so the only reasonable ethical expectation is for Amazon to outline improper uses in its TOS and go from there.
EDIT: What if the above facial recognition system doesn't use automated software but instead relies on humans reviewing video feeds and trying to determine if a face matches one on the list? Does that change anything?
Law enforcement is the tool designed by the society to maintain the law. That inevitably lead to conflict with civil rights and abuse of power. A healthy democracy needs to protect human rights while giving the law enforcement the tools they need to effectively do their job. Constitution, legal framework, and freedom of expression are essential.
Yes. The police state is unethical and doing anything to further it is unethical.
You are paying the salaries of the people you claim are acting unethically. That seems like more direct involvement than what amazon is doing.
Amazon deserves no cover on this: when the buyer uses your products for evil and you know this it is evil to continue to sell them. If they want to stand up at an all hands and make the argument that what ICE is doing isn't evil fine, that's their privilege, but they can't just wave their hands and say its not their problem. And if they did try to make that argument I'll bet a good portion of those 500,000 employees would be disgusted.
...and the employees, and the members of the board, and shareholders.
I'd expect people so fired up about this issue to at least understand the basic facts.
"Rekognition is actively been used to help stop human trafficking, to reunite missing kids with parents for educational applications, for security and multi-factor authentication to prevent theft."
Can it be used for evil? Yes. Should Amazon do its best to prevent it? Sure. But at the end of the day that is the responsibility of the government.
10 minutes later, Josh gets his kerning wrong in PhotoShop, and Re:cognition becomes rekognition.
It's too late to put this technology genie back in the bottle. Legislation would be our only salvation.
The response given by Jassy during the all-hands meeting doesn't really answer the underlying question, which is "how are you going to stop this technology from being abused". It starts off with "oh, but look at all the good it can do; of course we can't just stop" and then just drops the issue and says "the ToS will fix it".
> ... preparing to confront Jeff Bezos
Sounds like that went quite swimmingly.
Wouldn't the answer be to just leave your job? Don't support the company if you don't like what they are doing...
That's true but it doesn't absolve them of responsibility. They are choosing their actions willingly, and with full knowledge of the potential consequences.
This sort of behavior is inexcusable. It's just wrong.
That's OK, just as long as these intersectionalists are the first to go when revenue declines from their extremist philosophy stops supporting Amazon jobs. I think they should take their activism to it's logical conclusion and start cannibalizing both revenues and operations with their manufactured outrage and activism - only then will this reach fever pitch and force management to openly call this group's hypocrisy out.
We really need center of the aisle, common sense to be popular again in this country
Sorry but you don’t speak for regular Amazon employees. You’ve just made that up.
Don't weasel out of supporting it by asking him to prove a negative as a response.
There was a extremely active discussion on an internal mailing list when "the letter" came out that was signed "Amazonians." While there were a small number of very vocal proponents of stopping the sale of the technology, the prevailing opinion was split between indifference and anger by less than 400, mostly young and relatively new Amazon employees, representing themselves as anywhere near a significant portion of "Amazonians" (however much that was intended versus sensationalism, I refuse to speculate).
I think the government having too much power is more of a liability than it is a benefit.
Shouldn’t businesses be free to serve who they want to?
Fascism is about putting profit about people? I thought Fascism was commonly associated with National Socialism which doesn't sound very pro profits.
Law enforcement in the broader sense is a different matter - there’s obviously legitimate use cases. But extreme caution needs to be exercised. Those folks do indeed have a valuable job to do - but within reason and never beyond reproach.
Also I don’t think you know what blackmail is. Now if I had a penny for every conservative boycott of some “liberal” company... I guess those folks are all “extremists”.
And then there's the deathly silence on actual evidence that a majority of Amazonians even want this. Instead, it's very likely the voice of a radical, but vocal minority, quite literally blackmailing the company.
Here's the blackmail clause - "deny ICE rekognition access, or we'll leak confidential company information to BuzzFeed (and the media) and make a hit piece of your policy in an echo chamber that sympathizes with our politics"
I could give a crap about conservatives protesting companies for politician reasons. I don't believe a baker should be able to deny a gay couple a wedding cake, and I certainly don't believe Amazon or valley intersectionaliats should have the power to deny the government of the United States, whose policies have checks and balances in 3 branches of governece, access to tech.
If, on the contrary, you proposed a legal challenge in the courts on constitutional merits, I'd support that. But this power trip of valley intersectionaliats de-platforming everything they disagree with is exhausting, in a free and mature democracy like the US.
Okay, so left of the democrats.
I'd be fine with that.
I don't think you know what intersectionality is.
Not giving law enforcement broad surveillance capabilities hardly seems like a position conservatives would oppose. As usual the ones who yell loudest about tyranny are also the ones who cheerfully fight for it.
This is all about the letf's power tripping political opponents out of a platform. It's a 180 phase shift of a scenario where some employers deny insurance coverage of birth control on religious or moral grounds.
I do not agree with either side on this behavior, and frankly find this a hole in the Constitution where a company can simply deny a legal transaction because they disagree with the recipient of the service