Why This Author Is Taking A Stand Against Amazon’s Audiobook Monopoly

from Fast Company When science fiction writer and activist Cory Doctorow releases his new novel, Attack Surface, next month, you’ll be able to pick up a physical copy from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your local independent bookstore. If you’d prefer an e-book, you’ll be able to download it on Amazon’s Kindle, Barnes & Noble’s Nook, and other mainstream digital book platforms. But if you’re someone who prefers an audiobook, you’ll find the novel, which deals with a corporate cybersecurity expert struggling with the morality of her work, absent from one of the biggest audiobook stores on the internet: Amazon’s […]

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Building a World Where Data Privacy Exists Online

from NYTs Data is valuable — something that companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon realized far earlier than most consumers did. But computer scientists have been working on alternative models, even as the public has grown weary of having their data used and abused. Dawn Song, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and one of the world’s foremost experts in computer security and trustworthy artificial intelligence, envisions a new paradigm in which people control their data and are compensated for its use by corporations. While there have been many proposals for such a system, Professor Song is one […]

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The Ringification of Suburban Life

from Wired Across the US, consumers are canvassing their communities with a new type of device that’s changing civic life. Camera-equipped doorbells and other home surveillance devices, made by companies like Ring, are documenting facets of suburban existence that once went unnoticed. For years, citizens have used smartphones to monitor their neighborhoods, especially instances of police misconduct or abuse. But pointing a smartphone at authorities is an active choice. Homeowners use cameras and their ilk to passively monitor their neighborhoods and each other. Instead of capturing the moments citizens intentionally choose to record, Ring cameras log whatever may happen in […]

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The Only Way To Rein In Big Tech Is To Treat Them As A Public Service

from The Guardian After years of praising their virtues, governments across the world are belatedly waking up to the problems posed by big tech. From India and Australia to France and America – and now the UK, with its report from the Digital Competition Expert Panel – politicians have been reckoning with how to mitigate the harms of the world’s largest technology platforms. And they all seem to arrive at the same answer: competition is the magic mechanism that will somehow tame the giants, unleash innovation and fix our digital world. But what if competition is the problem rather than […]

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How Amazon Automatically Tracks And Fires Warehouse Workers For ‘Productivity’

from The Verge Amazon’s fulfillment centers are the engine of the company — massive warehouses where workers track, pack, sort, and shuffle each order before sending it on its way to the buyer’s door. Critics say those fulfillment center workers face strenuous conditions: workers are pressed to “make rate,” with some packing hundreds of boxes per hour, and losing their job if they don’t move fast enough. “You’ve always got somebody right behind you who’s ready to take your job,” says Stacy Mitchell, co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and a prominent Amazon critic. Documents obtained by The Verge […]

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Legal Scholar Tim Wu Says The US Must Enforce Antitrust Laws

from Wired LAST WEEK, PRESIDENTIAL candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) announced an ambitious plan to break up big tech companies like Google, Facebook, and Amazon and block them from selling their own products on their platforms. Warren called out Facebook’s acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp and Google’s acquisition of online advertising giant DoubleClick as examples of the deals she’d like to see reversed. But why were these companies allowed to grow so big—and these purchases allowed—in the first place? In his book, The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age, published in November, legal scholar Tim Wu explains […]

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Amazon Filed A Patent Application For Tech That Could Link You To Your Identity And Job

from Buzzfeed.News Amazon has filed a patent application with the US Patent and Trademark Office for technology that could one day scan your face and identify who you are, use visual cues to figure out the kind of work you do, and potentially track you as you move around. The patent application, which was filed in August 2017 and made public on Thursday, offers insight into Amazon’s possible ambitions for Rekognition — the company’s powerful facial recognition tool that it has aggressively pitched to law enforcement agencies across the US. While a patent application doesn’t necessarily mean that Amazon plans to implement the […]

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The Real Reason Tech Struggles With Algorithmic Bias

from Wired Are machines racist? Are algorithms and artificial intelligence inherently prejudiced? Do Facebook, Google, and Twitter have political biases? Those answers are complicated. But if the question is whether the tech industry doing enough to address these biases, the straightforward response is no. Warnings that AI and machine learning systems are being trained using “bad data” abound. The oft-touted solution is to ensure that humans train the systems with unbiased data, meaning that humans need to avoid bias themselves. But that would mean tech companies are training their engineers and data scientists on understanding cognitive bias, as well as how […]

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The Amazon Selling Machine

from The Atlantic The e-commerce company has so much information about us that it’s become expert at shilling us things we didn’t even know we needed. No wonder its advertising business is booming. What if there were a company that knew what you wanted to buy before you did? What if it made shopping recommendations that tapped into your deepest desires? Better yet, what if it then made buying completely seamless? Would you ever stop shopping? Amazon shareholders may like the answers to those questions. The company that revolutionized the way we buy has now gotten serious about selling the […]

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Amazon Patents Alexa Tech To Tell If You’re Sick, Depressed And Sell You Meds

from ars technica Amazon has patented technology that could let Alexa analyze your voice to determine whether you are sick or depressed and sell you products based on your physical or emotional condition. The patent, titled “Voice-based determination of physical and emotional characteristics of users,” was issued on Tuesday this week; Amazon filed the patent application in March 2017. The patent describes a voice assistant that can detect “abnormal” physical or emotional conditions. “For example, physical conditions such as sore throats and coughs may be determined based at least in part on a voice input from the user, and emotional conditions […]

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Report: Amazon’s AI Recruiter Favored Men

from Axios An algorithmic recruiter meant to help Amazon find top talent was systematically biased against women, a Reuters investigation found. Why it matters: This is a textbook example of algorithmic bias. By learning from and emulating human behavior, a machine ended up as prejudiced as the people it replaced. The details: Amazon’s experiment, which dates back to 2014, was trained on 10 years of job applications, most of which came from men, reports Reuters’ Jeffrey Dastin. * The system concluded that men were better candidates for technical jobs. * In 2015, Amazon began to realize that the system was […]

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Amazon Spent Nearly $23 Billion On R&D Last Year — More Than Any Other U.S. Company

from recode Tech companies claimed the top five spots in the U.S. for research and development spending again last year, investing a combined total of $76 billion. Amazon was at the top of the list, spending $22.6 billion in 2017, 41 percent more than in 2016 (when it also topped the list). Amazon has poured resources into AWS, Alexa and technologies like computer vision to support ambitious projects such as the Amazon Go cashierless store of the future. Amazon has also recently been the target of President Trump’s Twitter attacks accusing the company of not paying its share of taxes […]

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How Amazon’s Bottomless Appetite Became Corporate America’s Nightmare

from Bloomberg Amazon makes no sense. It’s the most befuddling, illogically sprawling, and—to a growing sea of competitors—flat-out terrifying company in the world. It sells soap and produces televised soap operas. It sells complex computing horsepower to the U.S. government and will dispatch a courier to deliver cold medicine on Christmas Eve. It’s the third-most-valuable company on Earth, with smaller annual profits than Southwest Airlines Co., which as of this writing ranks 426th. Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos is the world’s richest person, his fortune built on labor conditions that critics say resemble a Dickens novel with robots, yet he […]

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Walmart Is Losing More Ground To Amazon

from Axios Walmart is supposed to be making a solid run for second place in online shopping. But a leading Wall Street bank downgraded its shares today, as Amazon is instead extending its already-towering dominance of the market. What we’re hearing: Walmart had a respectable 2017 in terms of overall sales, racking up $485 billion in revenue, up 3.1% from the prior year. But Thomas Paulson of Inflection Capital says the retailer had $11.5 billion in online sales last year, amounting to 1.9% of a total $606 billion U.S. e-commerce market. Amazon commanded $219 billion in e-commerce sales — 36.2% […]

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Hearing Amazon’s Footsteps, the Health Care Industry Shudders

from NYTs With little more than a whiff of Amazon’s interest in a new business, the company can crater the stocks of potential competitors, prompting them to consider bold acquisitions and other drastic measures in response. Just ask companies in the home improvement, meal-kit and grocery businesses. The latest category alarmed by the specter of competition from Amazon is the pharmacy market. With huge amounts of consumer spending and frustrating inefficiencies, it is the type of business that invariably attracts Amazon’s attention. CVS Health is now in talks to acquire Aetna, one of the nation’s largest health insurance providers, a […]

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The Walls Are Closing In On Tech Giants

from Axios Tech behemoths Google, Facebook and Amazon are feeling the heat from the far-left and the far-right, and even the center is starting to fold. Why it matters: Criticism over the companies’ size, culture and overall influence in society is getting louder as they infiltrate every part of our lives. Though it’s mostly rhetoric rather than action at the moment, that could change quickly in the current political environment. Here’s a breakdown of the three biggest fights they’re facing. More here.

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Amazon Says Your Alexa Recordings Are Protected By The First Amendment

from BuzzFeed News Amazon is turning to the First Amendment to support its refusal to give law enforcement recordings and responses captured by the Alexa voice assistant on an Amazon Echo speaker that may help police solve a murder case. After James Bates was charged with murdering his colleague Victor Collins in Walmart’s hometown of Bentonville, Arkansas in November 2015, police issued a search warrant for the contents of Bates’ Echo speaker. But Amazon has fired back with a 90-page brief contending that the records Alexa collected are protected free speech. Forbes has reproduced the document in full. Bates also owned an LG […]

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How Apple and Amazon Security Flaws Led to My Epic Hacking

from Wired IN THE SPACE of one hour, my entire digital life was destroyed. First my Google account was taken over, then deleted. Next my Twitter account was compromised, and used as a platform to broadcast racist and homophobic messages. And worst of all, my AppleID account was broken into, and my hackers used it to remotely erase all of the data on my iPhone, iPad, and MacBook.  In many ways, this was all my fault. My accounts were daisy-chained together. Getting into Amazon let my hackers get into my Apple ID account, which helped them get into Gmail, which gave […]

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Amazon Didn’t Kill Macy’s. Macy’s Did.

from recode It has been a very bad week for some of the country’s biggest department stores, with Macy’s feeling the brunt of it. The mass-market retailer’s stock has dropped 16 percent since it announced disappointing holiday sales results and details on thousands of job cuts on Jan. 4. Macy’s has said that it has too many stores, in too many underperforming locations. It’s closing 100, and no one should be surprised if that number grows in future years. Macy’s has also blamed what it calls “changing customer behavior.” That’s code for the rise of Amazon.com and the adoption of e-commerce shopping in general. […]

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Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace

from NYTs On Monday mornings, fresh recruits line up for an orientation intended to catapult them into Amazon’s singular way of working. They are told to forget the “poor habits” they learned at previous jobs, one employee recalled. When they “hit the wall” from the unrelenting pace, there is only one solution: “Climb the wall,” others reported. To be the best Amazonians they can be, they should be guided by the leadership principles, 14 rules inscribed on handy laminated cards. When quizzed days later, those with perfect scores earn a virtual award proclaiming, “I’m Peculiar” — the company’s proud phrase for […]

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