Amazon Accused Of Race-Gender Bias In Workplace

 

 

A lawsuit filed in US federal court on Monday accused Amazon of keeping women and Black employees down while publicly talking up the need for diversity and social justice.

Charlotte Newman, who is Black and heads Underrepresented Founder Startup Business Development at Amazon Web Services, said in the suit she has been harassed, sexually assaulted, and kept from advancing to positions she deserved in the corporation.

“Like so many other Black and female employees at Amazon, Charlotte Newman was confronted with a systemic pattern of insurmountable discrimination based upon the color of her skin and her gender,” attorneys argued in the lawsuit.

Newman is asking for her case to be heard by a jury, and to be awarded unspecified cash damages.

“Amazon works hard to foster a diverse, equitable, and inclusive culture, and these allegations do not reflect those efforts or our values,” an Amazon spokeswoman said in reply to an AFP inquiry.

“We do not tolerate discrimination or harassment of any kind and thoroughly investigate all claims and take appropriate action.”

Amazon is digging into allegations made in the lawsuit, the spokeswoman added.

Newman said she was hired as a public policy manager at Amazon four years ago, quickly doing work typically assigned to higher level employees and paid less than white co-workers.

In June of last year she filed a written complaint about harassment by a male executive and “discriminatory attitudes” expressed by managers at Amazon, according to the suit.

Later that year, she filed a complaint with the Office of Human Rights in Washington, DC, the filing said.

Practices at Amazon include putting Black employees into lower paying jobs at levels beneath their qualifications and skills, and then making them wait longer for promotions, the suit contended.

A number of Black women at Amazon, and particularly its cloud services division, have spoken of having their hair touched without consent or being criticized for not being friendly enough, according to the suit.

“Racial and sexual discrimination exists in Amazon’s corporate corridors, not just its warehouses – it simply takes a different form,” the lawsuit charged.

“Amazon has failed to seriously grapple with these issues among its management.”

Amazon Seeks To Build On Soaring Growth As Bezos Hands Over

(FILES) In this file photo taken on September 28, 2011 the Amazon logo is seen on a podium during a press conference in New York.  (Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP)

 

Amazon is changing at the top but stressing continuity after founder Jeff Bezos announced he was handing over the role of chief executive to trusted lieutenant Andy Jassy, capping a spectacular expansion for the 27-year-old technology colossus.

Here are some key questions and answers following Tuesday’s surprise announcement of a change in top management at Amazon.

– What is the significance of the Amazon CEO change? –
While Bezos has been the visionary behind Amazon, the shift is likely to have minimal impact for the moment. Bezos will transition to a role of “executive chairman” which will enable him to be involved in strategic decisions for the e-commerce and tech giant, while new CEO Andy Jassy manages day-to-day-operations.

Shares in Amazon showed little reaction to the CEO news which came as part of a strong fourth quarter earnings report.

“Andy Jassy is going to continue Bezos’ gameplan,” tweeted analyst Gene Munster of Loup Ventures. “Undoubtedly, Bezos will have a heavy hand in the company’s direction as chairman. Overall, a CEO change is a non event.”

The change gives Bezos more room to focus on his other ventures including the Blue Origin space group and the Washington Post, along with his philanthropic activities.

– Why Andy Jassy? –
Jassy, 53,  has been at Amazon since 1997 and led the creation of Amazon Web Services, the cloud computing arm which has become a key driver of revenue and profits for the company. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Harvard University.

According to his company profile, Jassy “has delivered more than 90 cloud infrastructure and application services that are used by millions of startup, enterprise, and government customers around the world.”

Analysts say the choice of Jassy underscores Amazon’s commitment to maintaining leadership in the internet cloud, where competition is heating up from the likes of Microsoft, Google and others.

Amazon held about 32 percent of the cloud infrastructure market in the past quarter as Microsoft’s share rose to 20 percent, according to Synergy Research.

“We view this as a major step up in the clouds arms race with crosstown rival Microsoft,” said Dan Ives at Wedbush Securities.

“Jassy is a undisputed cloud titan and has been a key force in getting AWS to the top of the cloud mountaintop over the past decade… Jassy taking over Amazon shows that the cloud stalwart is doubling down on AWS focus which is a smart strategic move given the transformational cloud opportunity on the horizon.”

– What are the challenges ahead for Amazon? –
Amazon has been on a scorching growth streak which has accelerated during the pandemic but also faces a tougher competitive environment and heightened scrutiny from antitrust enforcers around the world.

The e-commerce operations have been surging during the pandemic and “can thrive off the back of its superior logistics network,” said analyst Neil Saunders of GlobalData.

But Amazon “will also need to work hard against rivals which can use their store fleets to satisfy the immediacy and convenience that customers often crave,” the analyst added.

“As Amazon has demonstrated, markets are not static: with determination and effort, new entrants can grow and thrive and take on incumbent players. Others can do the same to Amazon, which is why Bezos’ efforts are still much needed.”

Daniel Newman at Futurum Research said Jassy has huge shoes to fill as Amazon expands into new geographies and sectors.

“Andy Jassy is a very hands-on leader who reviews press releases and keeps a watchful eye over products, events, messaging, and more,” Newman said in a research note.

“Jassy will be monitored similarly to (Apple CEO) Tim Cook. An operator with a great track record, but is he the visionary that can take Amazon’s trajectory to the next level? Based upon what he has done at AWS, there are certainly reasons to believe he has the wherewithal to make this happen.”

 

Bezos To Step Down As CEO Of Amazon This Year

In this file photo taken on September 19, 2019, Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos speaks to the media on the company’s sustainability efforts in Washington,DC. Eric BARADAT / AFP

 

Jeff Bezos said Tuesday he would give up his role as Chief Executive of Amazon later this year as the tech and e-commerce giant reported a surge in profit and revenue in the holiday quarter.

The company said Andy Jassy, who heads Amazon Web Services, would take over as CEO in the third quarter.

The announcement came as Amazon reported a blowout holiday quarter with profits more than doubling to $7.2 billion and revenue jumping 44 per cent to $125.6 billion.

Bezos, who has become the world’s richest person based on his stake in Amazon, said he will transition to the role of executive chair in the third quarter to hand over the CEO role to Jassy.

“Amazon is what it is because of invention,” Bezos said in a statement.

“Right now I see Amazon at its most inventive ever, making it an optimal time for this transition.”

Jassy joined Amazon as a marketing manager in 1997 and in 2003 founded AWS, the web division of the company which has been one of the most profitable but least-known units of the tech colossus.

Amazon To Show Champions League Games In Italy

A

 

Amazon announced on Friday that it would broadcast Champions League matches in Italy from next season, as the American online retail giant strengthened its burgeoning presence in the football rights market.

Amazon Prime have won the rights for 16 matches on Wednesdays, as well as the UEFA Super Cup, for 2021-2024.

The company said it would show games featuring Italian clubs, if qualified, up until the semi-finals.

 

READ ALSO; Cyberpunk 2077 Pulled From PlayStation Store After Bug Backlash

 

“Amazon is looking forward to the start of the next season of the Champions League, one of the most prestigious club competitions in the world,” said a spokesperson.

“We know that Italian football fans are some of the most passionate in Europe and we will do everything to provide them with a fantastic experience.”

Amazon already shows live football in Germany and has the rights for some English Premier League matches.

The company has been rumoured to be interested in buying the Ligue 1 rights in France and also broadcasts professional tennis tournaments and some NFL games.

EU To Unveil Tough Measures To Curb Tech Giants

This file illustration taken on October 1, 2019 shows the logos of mobile apps Facebook and Google displayed on a tablet in Lille, France. DENIS CHARLET / AFP
This file illustration taken on October 1, 2019 shows the logos of mobile apps Facebook and Google displayed on a tablet in Lille, France. DENIS CHARLET / AFP.

 

The European Union on Tuesday will unveil tough draft rules targeting tech giants like Google, Amazon and Facebook, whose power Brussels sees as a threat to competition and even democracy.

The landmark proposals — which come as Silicon Valley faces increasing scrutiny around the world — could shake up the way Big Tech does business by menacing some of the globe’s biggest firms with mammoth fines or bans from the European market.

EU sources told AFP the long-trailed legislation would see the internet behemoths facing fines of up to 10 percent of their EU turnover for breaking some of the most serious competition rules.

It also proposes banning them from the EU market “in the event of serious and repeated breaches of law which endanger the security of European citizens”, one of the sources said.

The Digital Services Act and its accompanying Digital Markets Act will lay out strict conditions for doing business in the EU’s 27 member countries as authorities aim to rein in the spread of disinformation and hate speech online, and Big Tech’s business dominance.

Around ten of the largest companies — including Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Microsoft — would be designated as internet “gatekeepers” under the legislation and subjected to specific regulations to limit their power over the market.

But the proposals will go through a long and complex ratification process, with the EU’s 27 states, the European Parliament, and a lobbying frenzy of companies and trade associations, influencing the final law.

“The idea is not to do away with the large platforms, but to impose rules on them to prevent them from posing risks to our democracy,” the EU’s industry commissioner Thierry Breton said.

– Illegal content –

The details of the proposals have until now been carefully guarded by the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, even though a few have leaked.

France and the Netherlands have already come out in favour of Europe having all the tools it needs to rein in the gatekeepers, including the power to break them up.

The main intention of the new rules is to update legislation that dates back to 2004, when many of today’s internet giants either did not exist or were in their infancy.

For the past decade the EU has taken the lead worldwide in trying to grapple with the power of big tech, for example slapping billions in antitrust fines on Google, but critics believe the method has been too cumbersome and done little to change behaviour.

The EU has also ordered Apple to pay billions of euros in back taxes to Ireland but that decision was quashed by the EU’s highest court.

The Digital Services Act is now being touted as a way to give the commission sharper teeth in pursuing social media platforms when they allow illegal content online, such as extremist propaganda, hate speech, disinformation and child pornography.

Activist group Avaaz called the proposed legislation a “bold and brave move” and insisted Brussels must make sure it is fully enforced.

“This is a strong framework and the EU has the heft and democratic values to hold the platforms to account, regulate the reach of disinformation and protect the free speech of the users,” Avaaz legal director Sarah Andrew said.

Under the Digital Markets Act, the EU is seeking to give Brussels new powers to enforce competition laws more quickly and to push for greater transparency in their algorithms and use of personal data.

Tech giants will also need to inform the EU ahead of any planned mergers or acquisitions under the regulations, Breton said.

The EU’s moves comes as regulators around the world have increasingly become concerned about the financial and social power of big tech.

US authorities have taken up the call, with several major antitrust cases putting Google under the gun in addition to a legal bid to strip Facebook of its Instagram and Whatsapp products.

Britain’s government was on Tuesday also expected to announce proposed legislation to tackle “online harms” by introducing the threat of huge fines for internet giants.

 

Tech Giants Will Need To Inform EU Of Takeover Plans

A photo combination created on December 10, 2020 showing visual identities of internet giants Facebook, Netflix, Twitter and Google.
A photo combination created on December 10, 2020 showing visual identities of internet giants Facebook, Netflix, Twitter and Google.

 

Tech giants will need to inform the European Union ahead of any planned mergers or acquisitions under tough new regulations set to be unveiled this week, the bloc’s industry commissioner Thierry Breton said Monday.

The EU is set to present on Tuesday its new Digital Services Act and its accompanying Digital Markets Act to lay out strict conditions for internet giants to do business in the 27 countries.

The biggest tech firms will be designated internet “gatekeepers”, subject to specific regulations to limit their power over the market.

“We’re going to require big platforms to notify us before they make an acquisition” as part of the new regulations, Breton told France Inter radio.

Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon, and maybe others, will almost certainly be slapped with the designation.

There has been growing concern among European and US regulators that the big tech firms have used purchases as a way to nip in the bud potential rivals.

Examples inlcude Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram and Whatsapp as well as Google’s purchase of YouTube and Waze.

Breton said the prior notification requirement would be a world first and was squarely aimed at the gargantuan firms whose client bases and market capitalisations “give them a predatory capacity” over other firms.

The EU believes that much like big banks that were deemed “too big to fail” and subjected to special oversight by financial regulators following the 2008 financial crisis, so too should big tech firms.

“Because when one is very big there are greater responsibilities,” Breton said.

He added, “My role is to set rules, and if they are not adhered to there will be sanctions.”

But Breton also warned that if these sanctions are repeatedly not respected “they could ultimately result in a breakup”.

The proposals will go through a long and complex ratification process, with the EU’s 27 member states, the European Parliament, and company lobbyists and trade associations influencing the final law.

France and the Netherlands have already come out in favour of Europe having all the tools it needs to rein in the gatekeepers, including the power to break them up.

AFP

Digital Privacy: France Imposes 135m Euros Fine On Google, Amazon

(FILES) A file photo taken on November 20, 2017 shows logos of US multinational technology company Google displayed on computers’ screens.  LOIC VENANCE / AFP

 

France’s CNIL data privacy watchdog said Thursday it had fined two Google units a total of 100 million euros and an Amazon subsidiary 35 million euros over advertising cookies.

The regulator said the fines were “for having placed advertising cookies on the computers of users … without obtaining prior consent and without providing adequate information.”

A cookie is a small piece of data stored on a user’s computer browser that allows websites to identify users and remember their previous activity.

The CNIL said when a user visited the website google.fr, several cookies used for advertising purposes were automatically placed on his or her computer, without any action required on the user’s part.

READ ALSO: Facebook Anti-trust Suits Seek To Separate Instagram, Whatsapp

It said a similar thing happened when visiting one page on the amazon.fr website.

CNIL said this type of cookie “can only be placed after the user has expressed his or her consent” and thus violated regulations on receiving prior consent.

It faulted Google for providing insufficient privacy information for users as it did not let them know about the cookies which had been placed and that the procedure to block them still left one operational.

CNIL also said Amazon had not provided clear or complete information about the cookies it placed on computers of users until a redesign in September 2020.

Google also stopped placing cookies on the computers of users without consent in September, CNIL said, but added it still does not provide a sufficient explanation for their use.

The regulator said “no matter what path the users used to visit the website, they were either insufficiently informed or never informed of the fact that cookies were placed on their computer.”

The 35-million-euro ($42-million) fine is on the Amazon Europe Core subsidiary.

CNIL imposed fines of 60 million euros on Google LLC and 40 million euros on Google Ireland Limited.

 

AFP

Deforestation Wiped Out 8% Of Amazon In 18 Years – Study

 Aerial file photo taken on August 24, 2019 of burnt areas of the Amazon rainforest, near Boca do Acre, Amazonas state, Brazil, in the Amazon basin.  Lula SAMPAIO / AFP
Aerial file photo taken on August 24, 2019 of burnt areas of the Amazon rainforest, near Boca do Acre, Amazonas state, Brazil, in the Amazon basin. Lula SAMPAIO / AFP

 

Deforestation in the Amazon destroyed an area bigger than Spain from 2000 to 2018, wiping out eight percent of the world’s largest rainforest, according to a study released Tuesday.

The Amazon plays a vital role in curbing climate change, but destruction of the rainforest has only accelerated in recent years, found the study by the Amazon Geo-Referenced Socio-Environmental Information Network (RAISG).

Since the turn of the millennium, 513,016 square kilometers (198,077 square miles) of the rainforest have been lost, according to the updated Amazon atlas produced by the organization, a consortium of groups from across the region.

It is RAISG’s first such atlas since 2012.

“The Amazon is far more threatened than it was eight years ago,” RAISG said in a statement.

The consortium found that after making gains against deforestation early in the century, the Amazon region has again slipped into a worrying cycle of destruction.

Deforestation hit a high of 49,240 square kilometers of forest loss in 2003 — a record for this century — then eased to a low of 17,674 square kilometers in 2010, the report said.

But the destruction has since surged to startling levels.

“Deforestation has accelerated since 2012. The annual area lost tripled from 2015 to 2018,” the study found.

“In 2018 alone, 31,269 square kilometers of forest were destroyed across the Amazon region, the worst annual deforestation since 2003.”

The destruction is fueled by logging, farming, ranching, mining and infrastructure projects on formerly pristine forest land.

“The statistics presented by RAISG are an alarm bell on the increasing pressures and threats facing the region,” said researcher Julia Jacomini of the Socioenvironmental Institute (ISA), a Brazilian environmental group that is part of RAISG.

The atlas “shows the importance of building an alliance of Amazon countries, which is non-existent at the moment, to fight those growing pressures and threats,” she told AFP.

World problem

The report comes as world leaders prepare for a virtual summit this weekend aimed at breathing new life into the 2015 Paris climate accord, whose goals on slowing the warming of the planet are currently set to be missed.

Forests such as the Amazon play a vital role in controlling climate change because they absorb carbon from the atmosphere.

However, when their trees die or burn, they release carbon back into the environment.

The Amazon stretches across eight South American countries — Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Suriname and Guyana — and the territory of French Guiana.

Brazil, which holds most of the Amazon — about 62 percent — is also responsible for the worst deforestation, the study found: 425,051 square kilometers from 2000 to 2018.

The destruction in Brazil has only accelerated since far-right President Jair Bolsonaro took office in 2019.

Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon surged to a 12-year high of 11,088 square kilometers from August 2019 to July 2020, according to government figures.

That was a 9.5-percent increase from the previous year, when deforestation also hit a more than decade-long high.

Bolsonaro has come under fire from environmentalists and the international community for cutting funding for rainforest protection programs and pushing to open protected lands to agribusiness and mining.

He has presided over a surge in wildfires in the Brazilian Amazon since taking office.

There were more than 89,000 of them last year, at one point sending a thick haze of black smoke all the way to Sao Paulo, thousands of kilometers away, and causing worldwide alarm over the future of the rainforest.

There have been even more fires so far this year: 101,434 and counting.

Experts say the fires are largely caused by farmers and ranchers bulldozing and burning trees to clear land for agriculture — an illegal but widespread practice.

Deforestation is also surging in Bolivia and Colombia, RAISG found.

Bolivia lost 27 percent of its Amazon forest cover to fires from 2000 to 2018, it said.

 

AFP

Amazon Launches Online Pharmacy for US Consumers


Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP

Amazon said Tuesday it was launching an online pharmacy for US consumers, who will be able to order prescription medications directly from the e-commerce giant’s website or mobile app.

The move comes two years after Amazon acquired PillPack, an internet pharmacy offering pre-sorted dose packaging and home delivery.

“We designed Amazon Pharmacy to put customers first — bringing Amazon’s customer obsession to an industry that can be inconvenient and confusing,” said TJ Parker, vice president of the new unit.

“We work hard behind the scenes to handle complications seamlessly so anyone who needs a prescription can understand their options, place their order for the lowest available price, and have their medication delivered quickly.”

Amazon has long been rumored to be interested in the pharmacy business, and the entry by a powerful new player could unsettle a business dominated by large American chains including CVS and Walgreens

An Amazon statement said PillPack would continue to operate as a distinct unit within Amazon Pharmacy for customers using the service.

The tech and retail giant said it would comply with US health privacy laws and not offer certain controlled medications such as opioids.

The online pharmacy would allow customers to use their insurance or pay out of pocket, with discounts offered for Amazon Prime members.

The move comes with increasing scrutiny of Amazon and other tech giants over their growing dominance in key sectors of the economy.

In pre-market trade, rival pharmacy operators saw their shares stumble with Rite-Aid down 11.7 percent, CVS losing 7.1 percent and Walgreens 9 percent..

Amazon earlier this year launched an online pharmacy for consumers in India for both prescription and over-the-counter medications.

-AFP

Amazon Unveils Payment By Hand-Waving

(FILES) In this file photo taken on September 28, 2011 the Amazon logo is seen on a podium during a press conference in New York.  Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP

 

Amazon on Tuesday unveiled a new biometric payment system using palm recognition, to be made available to rival retailers and also promoted as a replacement for badge entry at stadiums or workplaces.

The system called Amazon One was touted as “a fast, convenient, contactless way for people to use their palm to make everyday activities like paying at a store, presenting a loyalty card, entering a location like a stadium, or badging into work more effortless.”

The US technology giant said it would be installing the system at its Amazon Go retail locations, starting with two stores in its hometown of Seattle, Washington.

READ ALSO: India’s Richest Man Takes On Amazon, Walmart In E-Commerce Gamble

Amazon vice president Dilip Kumar said the system was developed as “a quick, reliable, and secure way for people to identify themselves or authorize a transaction while moving seamlessly through their day.”

Amazon One uses each individual’s “unique palm signature,” an alternative to other biometric identifiers such as fingerprint, iris or facial recognition.

“No two palms are alike, so we analyze all these aspects with our vision technology and select the most distinct identifiers on your palm to create your palm signature,” Kumar said in a blog post.

In Amazon Go stores, the palm-waving system will be added to the store’s entry gate as an option for shoppers.

“In most retail environments, Amazon One could become an alternate payment or loyalty card option with a device at the checkout counter next to a traditional point of sale system,” Kumar added.

The company said it was “in active discussions with several potential customers,” which could include other retailers, but offered no details.

Biometric blues

The announcement comes amid rapid growth in the use of biometric payments ranging from fingerprint verification on smartphones to more sophisticated systems using facial recognition.

China’s Alipay — the financial arm of ecommerce giant Alibaba — has been using a “Smile-to-Pay” system, with a machine roughly the size of an iPad, for retailers.

The shift has also raised privacy concerns about how biometric data will be safeguarded and protected from hackers.

Amazon workers arrive at the company's centre in Bretigny-sur-Orge on May 19, 2020 as Amazon France partially reopens amid the pandemic of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Eric PIERMONT / AFP
Amazon workers arrive at the company’s centre in Bretigny-sur-Orge on May 19, 2020 as Amazon France partially reopens amid the pandemic of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Eric PIERMONT / AFP

 

Amazon said the biometric data would be “protected by multiple security controls and palm images are never stored on the Amazon One device” but send to a “highly secure area we custom-built in the cloud.”

Doug Stephens of the consulting firm Retail Prophet, said Amazon would need to protect the data to gain user trust in the system to make it mainstream.

“Biometrics as a form of ID/payment etc. has always made ultimate sense,” Stephens said on Twitter. “The question is, will Amazon mainstream our comfort with them or violate our trust?”

 

AFP

Amazon Bans Sales Of Foreign Seeds In US After Mystery Packets

 

 

Amazon has banned sales of imported seeds in the United States after thousands of Americans said they had received packets of seeds they had not ordered, mostly from China.

“Moving forward, we are only permitting the sale of seeds by sellers who are based in the US,” the e-commerce giant said in a statement Saturday.

In late July the Department of Agriculture reported that packages of seeds had been sent to Americans and warned not to plant them, in case they posed a danger to US agriculture.

Examination of the mystery packages revealed at least 14 different kinds of seeds, including mint, mustard, rosemary, lavender, hibiscus and roses.

“At this time, we don’t have any evidence indicating this is something other than a ‘brushing scam’ where people receive unsolicited items from a seller who then posts false customer reviews to boost sales,” the Department of Agriculture said in a statement on August 12.

AFP

US Congressional Antitrust Hearing With Big Tech Ceos Postponed

The hearing is titled “Examining the Dominance of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google.”

 

 

A highly anticipated antitrust hearing including top executives of four Big Tech firms, originally set for Monday, has been postponed.

A notice filed by the House Judiciary Committee set no new date for the hearing titled “Examining the Dominance of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google.”

The hearing would have conflicted with the memorial service for the late representative and civil rights leader John Lewis, to lie in state in the US Capitol.

-AFP