Amazon secretly planned to use facial recognition and Ring doorbells to create neighborhood "watch lists"

Ring is Amazon's surveillance doorbell division, and a big part of their sales strategy involves terrifying people about the possibility of crime, partnering with police to assist in terrorizing Ring owners, and to provide police with warrantless, permanent, shareable access to surveillance doorbell footage (something the company has repeatedly lied about). Hundred of police departments have now partnered with Ring and they act as buzz-marketing teams for the company in exchange for freebies and access. Read the rest

Networked authoritarianism may contain the seeds of its own undoing

James Scott's 1998 classic Seeing Like a State describes how governments shoehorn the governed into countable, manageable ways of living and working so that they can be counted and steered by state bureaucracies. Political scientist Henry Farrell (previously) discusses how networked authoritarianism is touted by its advocates as a way of resolving the problems of state-like seeing, because if a state spies on people enough and allows machine-learning systems to incorporate their behavior and respond to it, it is possible to create "a more efficient competitor that can beat democracy at its home game" -- providing for everyone's needs better than a democracy could. Read the rest

10,000 people are calling for Congress to investigate Amazon Ring

Evan from Fight for the Future writes, "Amazon Ring's surveillance doorbell partnerships with police are spreading like a virus. There are already more than 500 of them across the country. We can fight them at the local level, but at this scale we need Congress to intervene. Amazon is refusing to be transparent about its own policies and relationships with law enforcement. That's why more than 10,000 people have already called on Congress to investigate and demand answers about the impact these partnerships have on our privacy and civil liberties. If you're concerned, you can add your voice here." Read the rest

"Affordances": a new science fiction story that climbs the terrible technology adoption curve

"Affordances" is my new science fiction story for Slate/ASU's Future Tense project; it's a tale exploring my theory of "the shitty technology adoption curve," in which terrible technological ideas are first imposed on poor and powerless people, and then refined and normalized until they are spread over all the rest of us. Read the rest

Amazon's surveillance doorbell marketers help cops get warrantless access to video footage from peoples' homes

Every time I write about the unfolding scandal of Amazon's secret partnerships with hundreds of US police departments who get free merch and access to Ring surveillance doorbell footage in exchange for acting as a guerrilla marketing street-team for Ring, I get an affronted email from Amazon PR, implying that I got it all wrong, but unwilling to enter into detailed discussions of what's actually going on (the PR flacks also usually ask to be quoted officially but anonymously, something I never agree to). Read the rest

Amazon's secret deals with local cops give them access to realtime 911 data for use in scary alerts sent to Ring owners

Mining the results of public records requests relating to Amazon's secret deals with local law enforcement to promote its Ring surveillance doorbells (more than 200 agencies!) continue to bear fruit. Read the rest

Amazon's secret deals with cops gave corporate PR a veto over everything the cops said about their products

Last week, Motherboard broke a story revealing that Amazon had entered into secret agreements with local law enforcement agencies that had the cops pushing Ring surveillance doorbells to the people they were sworn to protect, in exchange for freebies and access to a system that let them request access to footage recorded by the Amazon's industry-leading internet-of-shit home surveillance tools. Read the rest

John Oliver on Facebook's role in fomenting genocide, pogroms and authoritarianism.: "a toilet"

Facebook usage is falling in the US and Canada, especially among young people, but it's still dominating the internet overseas, especially in countries where Zero Rating is legal. Read the rest