Wij willen met u aan tafel zitten en in een openhartig gesprek uitvinden welke uitdagingen en vragen er bij u spelen om zo, gezamelijk, tot een beste oplossing te komen. Oftewel, hoe kan de techniek u ondersteunen in plaats van dat u de techniek moet ondersteunen.

Apple heeft socialemedia-app Parler uit zijn App Store gehaald, een dag nadat Google hetzelfde had gedaan in zijn Play Store. Volgens Apple heeft het platform niet genoeg gedaan om het verspreiden van berichten die aanzetten tot geweld tegen te gaan.

Eerder gaf het bedrijf Parler 24 uur de tijd om posts en reacties te gaan modereren. Nu dat niet gebeurt, schrijft Apple in een verklaring dat Parler uit de App Store wordt geweerd “totdat ze deze problemen oplossen”.

Ook Amazon komt in actie tegen Parler. Dochterbedrijf Amazon Web Services, dat sites host, zegt dat het de diensten aan het bedrijf komende nacht opschort. Dat gebeurt vanwege het “zeer reële risico voor de openbare veiligheid”, zo staat in een email die persbureau Reuters heeft ingezien. Parler moet dus op zoek naar een nieuwe webhost, anders gaat de site op zwart.

Parler-baas John Matze heeft in een reactie uitgehaald naar de techgiganten. Hij spreekt van een gecoördineerde actie tegen zijn bedrijf “om concurrentie de nek om te draaien”. Volgens Matze is het mogelijk dat Parler meerdere dagen onbereikbaar zal zijn “als we weer vanaf nul gaan opbouwen”.

Trump

Parler is bij aanhangers van Trump populair, omdat gebruikers er alles op mogen zetten, terwijl Twitter en Facebook steeds vaker content weren. Volgens Google is via Parler opgeroepen tot het gebruik van geweld bij de bestorming van het Capitool in Washington.

Het persoonlijk Twitter-account van president Trump werd gisternacht voorgoed opgeschort. Kort daarna had Trump via het officiële presidentsaccount getwitterd dat hij contact heeft met andere platforms en ook overweegt om in de nabije toekomst een eigen platform op te tuigen. Onder anderen Trumps zoon Eric heeft al een account op Parler.

NOS Tech

De Amerikaanse techbedrijven Google en Amazon zijn op de vingers getikt door de Franse privacywaakhond CNIL vanwege het overtreden van de regels voor cookiegebruik bij advertenties. Google kreeg een boete opgelegd van 100 miljoen euro en Amazon moet 35 miljoen euro betalen.

De bedrijven zouden cookies hebben geplaatst op computers van gebruikers zonder dat ze daar vooraf toestemming voor hadden gevraagd. Ook ontbrak volgens de CNIL de juiste informatie over die cookies.

In januari vorig jaar werd Google ook al beboet door de Franse privacywaakhond. Toen moest het bedrijf een bedrag van 50 miljoen euro betalen, omdat het niet aan gebruikers niet duidelijk had gemaakt welke data het verzamelde.

Waarschijnlijk zullen beide bedrijven niet wakker liggen van de nieuw opgelegde boetes. De omzet van Google bedroeg in het derde kwartaal 39 miljard euro en die van Amazon 82 miljard.

NOS Tech

De Europese Commissie zegt dat Amazon de concurrentieregels overtreedt en op die manier het eigen bedrijf verrijkt. Volgens Eurocommissaris Margrethe Vestager van Mededinging heeft de Amerikaanse gigant zich schuldig gemaakt aan het gebruiken van vertrouwelijke verkoopdata van andere winkeliers die Amazon gebruiken als platform.

Het gaat volgens de commissie om data zoals het aantal verkochte producten, de omzet die hiermee wordt behaald en hoe vaak de aanbiedingen van winkeliers zijn bekeken. De commissie zegt in een persverklaring dat met het gebruiken van niet-publieke data Amazon de “risico’s omzeilt van het concurreren met andere winkels”.

Met deze stap klaagt Europese Commissie het bedrijf formeel aan. Amazon krijgt nu de gelegenheid om zich te verdedigen. Vervolgens kan de commissie wel besluiten om een boete op te leggen of veranderingen eisen.

Een duale rol

Wie via de webshop van Amazon producten bestelt, kan dit doen via Amazon zelf maar ook via andere winkeliers die het platform gebruiken als handelsplaats. Hierdoor kunnen ze potentieel meer klanten trekken dan via bijvoorbeeld hun eigen webwinkel. Dit zorgt ervoor dat de Amerikaanse webwinkelgigant een dubbele rol heeft.

“We moeten ervoor zorgen dat duale platforms met marktmacht, zoals Amazon, niet de concurrentie hinderen”, zegt Eurocommissaris Vestager in een verklaring. “Data van winkeliers zou niet moeten worden gebruikt ten gunste van Amazon als het een concurrent is van deze partijen. De aanklacht heeft betrekking op de Duitse en Franse Amazon-websites.

In een reactie tegenover persbureau Reuters laat Amazon weten het “oneens te zijn met de aanklachten”. Het bedrijf stelt 1 procent van de wereldwijde retailmarkt in handen te hebben.

De Nederlandse branchevereniging van webwinkels, Thuiswinkel.org, zegt in een reactie het probleem te herkennen. “Een gelijk speelveld is heel belangrijk. Als platforms dat niet bieden is dat geen goede zaak”, zegt directeur Wijnand Jongen. Tegelijkertijd kent Jongen geen Nederlandse webshops die bij de Europese Commissie hebben geklaagd.

Onderzoek naar voortrekken

Naast deze aanklacht, heeft deze Europese Commissie een nieuw onderzoek geopend naar de vraag of Amazon zijn eigen aanbod en het aanbod van winkeliers die gebruik maken van de logistieke diensten van de webwinkel voortrekt.

Bij Amazon kunnen meerdere partijen hetzelfde product aanbieden, waarbij er één wordt gekoppeld aan de koopknop ‘In winkelwagen’. De commissie wil weten welke criteria hieraan verbonden zijn en of Amazon hierbij winkeliers voortrekt. Ook gaat men kijken naar hoe winkeliers klanten met het zogeheten Prime-abonnement (die doorgaans meer kopen bij Amazon) kunnen bereiken.

De zogeheten mededeling van bezwaar van vandaag, volgt nadat Brussel vorig jaar bekendmaakte de zaak te starten. De Duitse mededingingsautoriteit heeft in augustus een onderzoek naar Amazon geopend. Dat richt zich op de vraag in hoeverre het miljardenbedrijf zich bemoeit met het prijsbeleid van winkeliers die via Amazon verkopen.

Big tech onder vergrootglas

Amazon is de derde techgigant in een paar jaar tijd waar de Europese Commissie zijn pijlen op richt. Onder leiding van Eurocommissaris Vestager zijn er al drie boetes aan Google uitgedeeld voor meer dan 8 miljard euro; het bedrijf heeft tegen alle drie beroep aangetekend. Eerder dit jaar is de commissie daarnaast een onderzoek gestart naar vermeend machtsmisbruik door Apple in de App Storen en bij betaaldienst Apple Pay.

NOS Tech

An eighth Amazon employee has died of COVID-19. The news comes as the company is under scrutiny for failing to be more transparent about the wider number of infections among its warehouse workers.

A spokesperson confirmed the reports of the death, telling TechCrunch, “We are saddened by the loss of an associate who had worked at our site in Randall, Ohio. “Her family and loved ones are in our thoughts, and we are supporting her fellow colleagues.”

According to the company, the worker in North Randall, a village outside of Cleveland, was sent home from work on April 30. She received a positive test a little over a week later, on May 8. Amazon says it notified fellow employees of the death and has provided counseling to colleagues.

The overall number of Amazon workers who have tested positive for the virus remains a mystery. The company stands by its decision not to disclose such information. “We don’t think that number is super valuable,” it has said previously. In a statement provided to TechCrunch, it added: 

Our rates of infection are at or below the rates of the communities where we operate. We see that in our quarantine rates as well. Quarantine rates are a critical part to understanding what’s happening in the workplace – it shows that our hard work around social distancing is paying off. Unlike others who hide beyond HIPAA, we alert every person at the site anytime there is a confirmed diagnosis. This alert to employees is a direct text message noting when the person with the confirmed diagnosis was last in the building.

The lack of transparency is one of a number of sources of criticism surrounding Amazon’s COVID-19 response.

While the company has repeatedly maintained that it has done all it can to protect the employees in its fulfillment centers, potential exposure to the virus among warehouse workers is difficult to avoid, even with the proper PPE. Earlier this month, a letter from 13 state attorneys general demanded that Amazon disclose the number of workers who have been impacted by the virus.

“We have requested but not received information on how many of the Companies’ workers have been infected with COVID-19, and how many have died from it,” the letter reads. “Please provide a state-by-state breakdown for each Company with this information.”

Earlier this week, The New York Times noted one particularly hard hit warehouse in northeastern Pennsylvania, where more than 100 workers have apparently tested positive for the virus. The exact figure is unknown, as Amazon will not disclose it. Yesterday, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel noted that at least 30 workers at the nearby Kenosha warehouse have tested positive for the virus.

As more housebound Americans rely on Amazon for deliveries, workers have largely fallen under the “essential services” guidelines issued by many states. In mid-May, the company extended its $ 2 an hour “hazard pay bonuses” through the end of the month. Amazon confirmed that it will return to standard salaries, come June, stating: 

To thank employees and help meet increased demand, we’ve paid our team and partners nearly $ 800 million extra since COVID-19 started while continuing to offer full benefits from day one of employment. With demand stabilized, next month we’ll return to our industry-leading starting wage of $ 15 an hour.

The company has been subject to additional scrutiny over the firing of several employees that have raised public concerns over its treatment of workers during the crisis. While Amazon has repeatedly denied the firings were retaliation, the reports were enough to warrant another letter, this time from a number of high-profile senators, including Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.


TechCrunch

Amazon, the e-commerce giant that has fared well financially amid the COVID-19 pandemic, is facing a bevy of worker strikes. Today, warehouse workers on Staten Island in New York walked off the job in protest of Amazon’s treatment amid the crisis.

“Like all businesses grappling with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, we are working hard to keep employees safe while serving communities and the most vulnerable,” an Amazon spokesperson told TechCrunch. “We have taken extreme measures to keep people safe, tripling down on deep cleaning, procuring safety supplies that are available, and changing processes to ensure those in our buildings are keeping safe distances. The truth is the vast majority of employees continue to show up and do the heroic work of delivering for customers every day.”

In solidarity with warehouse workers, tech workers at Amazon are demanding the company provide fully paid family leave for people who miss work, provide fully paid leave to all Amazon workers, close facilities immediately following contamination, ensure full paid leave for workers whose jobs are impacted by such closures and ensure everyone has unlimited time to take care of their health.

“Recognizing the urgency of the moment, tech workers are going beyond asking Amazon to take action and are pledging not to work for Amazon if it fails to act,” the DC Tech Workers Coalition wrote in a petition. “We also pledge to ask organizations in our communities such as universities and conferences to not accept Amazon as a sponsor or participant in events.”

Meanwhile, workers at Whole Foods, which is owned by Amazon, are organizing a “sick out” strike tomorrow to demand better protections on the job, Vice reports.

According to Vice, Whole Foods workers will call in sick tomorrow and demand paid sick leave for those who stay at home or self-quarantine during the pandemic. They will also demand free coronavirus testing for employees and hazard pay.

Led by group Whole Worker, the sick-out was originally planned for May 1, but was moved up in response to reports that workers have started getting sick and testing positive for COVID-19.

“As this situation has progressed, our fundamental needs as workers have become more urgent,” the group wrote on its campaign page. “COVID-19 poses a very real threat to the safety of our workforce and our customers. We cannot wait for politicians, institutions, or our own management to step in to protect us.”

This action will come one day after Instacart workers are refusing to shop and deliver groceries until the company meets their demands. Shoppers’ current demands are offering hazard pay of $ 5 extra per order, changing the default tip to 10%, and extending the sick pay policy to those who have a doctor’s note for a pre-existing condition that may make them more susceptible to contracting the virus.

“For the sake of public health and worker safety, every non-union grocery worker must speak out,” United Fodo and Commercial Workers International Union President Marc Perrone said in a statement. “If Amazon, Instacart, and Whole Foods are unwilling to do what is right to protect their workers and our communities, the UFCW is ready to listen and do all we can to help protect these brave workers from irresponsible employers who are ignoring the serious threat posed by the rapidly growing coronavirus outbreak.”


TechCrunch

Amazon Pay users in India can now use voice command with Alexa to pay their utility, internet, mobile, and satellite cable TV bills, the e-commerce giant said on Wednesday. This is the first time, the company said, it is pairing these functionalities with Amazon Pay in any market.

The e-commerce giant, which competes with Walmart’s Flipkart in India, said any Alexa-enabled device such as the Echo Dot smart speaker, the Fire TV Stick dongle, or headphones from third-party vendors will support the aforementioned feature in India.

To be sure, Amazon has long allowed users in many markets to purchase items using voice command with Alexa. But this is the first time the American company is letting users pay their electricity, water, cooking gas, broadband, and satellite TV bills with voice and Amazon Pay.

Amazon Pay is available in many markets, but the service has become especially popular in India, where the concept of parking money to a digital wallet skyrocketed in usage in late 2016 after the Indian government invalidated much of the paper bills in circulation in the country.

Without disclosing specific figures, Amazon said “3X more customers” compared to last year’s event used Amazon Pay service to pay during the recent six-day festive sales. It said a quarter of all digital transactions during the event was carried out on its Pay service.

To boost Amazon Pay engagements in India, the company has offered lofty cashback on Pay on a number of purchases over the years. Users can also enjoy hefty discount if they use Amazon Pay to pay for their food, tickets, and other things on select popular third-party services.

During the holiday season, the company said, “customers booked flight tickets worth 300 trips around the earth.”

Amazon Pay makes it much more convenient for users to pay their digital purchases especially those that are recurring in nature, said Puneesh Kumar, country manager of Alexa Experiences and Devices.

The company says users can engage with Pay through voice commands like “Alexa, what’s my balance,” which will reveal the amount they have available for purchase in their Amazon Pay wallet. Users can also initiate the process of topping money to their mobile wallet using a voice command. They can say something like, “Alexa, add Rs 1000 to my Amazon Pay balance,” which will send a link as a text on their phones to complete the transaction.


TechCrunch

Over 30 civil rights organizations have penned an open letter that calls on government officials to investigate Amazon Ring’s business practices and end the company’s numerous police partnerships. The letter follows a report by The Washington Post in August that detailed how over 400 police forces across the U.S. have partnered with Ring to gain access to homeowners’ camera footage.

These partnerships have already raised concerns with privacy advocates and civil liberties organizations, who claim the agreements turn neighbors into informants and subject innocent people to greater risk and surveillance.

Had the government itself installed a video network of this size and scope, it would have drawn greater scrutiny. But by quietly working with Ring behind the scenes, law enforcement gets to tap into a massive surveillance network without being directly involved in its creation.

The new letter from the civil rights groups demand that government officials put an end to these behind-the-scenes deals between Amazon and the police.

“With no oversight and accountability, Amazon’s technology creates a seamless and easily automated experience for police to request and access footage without a warrant, and then store it indefinitely,” the letter reads. “In the absence of clear civil liberties and rights-protective policies to govern the technologies and the use of their data, once collected, stored footage can be used by law enforcement to conduct facial recognition searches, target protesters exercising their First Amendment rights, teenagers for minor drug possession, or shared with other agencies like ICE or the FBI,” it says.

Additionally, the letter points out these police deals involve Amazon coaching cops on how to obtain surveillance footage without a warrant. It also notes that Ring allowed employees to share unencrypted customer videos with each other, including in offices based in Ukraine. And it raises concerns about Amazon’s potential plans to integrate facial recognition features into Ring cameras, based on patents it filed.

The groups also point to the map released by Amazon Ring, which now shows over 500 cities with Amazon-police partnerships across the U.S.

The groups’ letter is not the first to demand action.

Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) also last month wrote to Amazon to get more information about Ring and its relationships with law enforcement agencies.

But unlike Sen. Markey’s investigative letter to Amazon’s Ring, today’s letter has specific demands for action. The groups are asking mayors and city council members to require their local police departments to cancel their Ring partnerships. The groups also want local government officials to pass new surveillance oversight ordinances that will ensure police departments can’t enter into any such partnerships in the future.

And they want Congress to investigate Ring’s dealings with police more closely.

The letter itself was published online and signed by the following organizations:

Fight for the Future, Media Justice, Color of Change, Secure Justice, Demand Progress, Defending Rights & Dissent, Muslim Justice League, X-Lab, Media Mobilizing Project, Restore The Fourth, Inc., Media Alliance, Youth Art & Self Empowerment Project, Center for Human Rights and Privacy, Oakland Privacy, Justice For Muslims Collective, The Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI), Nation Digital Inclusion Alliance, Project On Government Oversight, OpenMedia, Council on American-Islamic Relations-SFBA, Million Hoodies Movement for Justice, Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club, MPower Change, Mijente, Access Humboldt, RAICES, National Immigration Law Center, The Tor Project, United Church of Christ, Office of Communication Inc., the Constitutional Alliance, RootsAction.org, CREDO Action, Presente.org, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, and United We Dream.

According to Evan Greer, Deputy Director at Fight for the Future, the letter has not yet been mailed. But the plan, going forward, is to use it in local organizing when groups on the ground make deliveries to local officials in cities where the partnerships are live.

“Amazon has created the perfect end-run around our democratic process by entering into for-profit surveillance partnerships with local police departments. Police departments have easy access to surveillance networks without oversight or accountability,” said Greer. “Amazon Ring’s customers provide the company with the footage needed to build their privately owned, nationwide surveillance dragnet. We’re the ones who pay the cost – as they violate our privacy rights and civil liberties. Our elected officials are supposed to protect us, both from abusive policing practices and corporate overreach. These partnerships are a clear case of both,” Greer added.


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