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Amazon Drivers Must Consent To AI Surveillance Otherwise They’ll Lose Their Job

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  • Amazon is telling its drivers that they will need to consent to having AI surveillance systems installed in their trucks if they want to keep their jobs. 
  • The cameras will reportedly record drivers, as well as track their “vehicle location and movement, including miles driven, speed, acceleration, braking, turns, and following distance.
  • They will also use facial recognition technology to verify driver identity and “collect, store, and use Biometric Information.”
  • Some drivers have refused to sign the form out of concerns for their privacy, echoing similar concerns from five Democratic U.S. senators earlier this month. 

Amazon Implements Surveillance Cameras in Delivery Trucks 

This week, Amazon reportedly began requiring its drivers to sign “biometric consent” forms that grant the company permission to use AI surveillance cameras on them while they deliver packages.

Any drivers who refuse to sign the consent form will lose their job, according to Vice’s Motherboard.

In addition to recording drivers and tracking their “vehicle location and movement, including miles driven, speed, acceleration, braking, turns, and following distance,” the AI system will also use facial-recognition software to “[confirm driver] identity and [connect drivers] to [their] account.”

“Using your photograph, this Technology may create Biometric Information and collect, store, and use Biometric Information from such photographs,” Amazon added in a statement to its third-party contracted drivers.

Amazon has described this system as a “safety” feature and said that it will improve the “quality of the delivery experience.”

A spokesperson also noted that during a pilot program last year, “accidents decreased 48 percent, stop sign violations decreased 20 percent, driving without a seatbelt decreased 60 percent, and distracted driving decreased 45 percent.”

Drivers Express Privacy Concerns 

Some drivers have refused to sign the form and even quit their jobs altogether because of privacy concerns.

“I had one driver who refused to sign,”  the owner of one Amazon-centered delivery company in the Pacific Northwest told Motherboard. “It’s a heart-breaking conversation when someone tells you that you’re their favorite person they have ever worked for, but Amazon just micromanages them too much.”

In an interview with the Thomas Reuters Foundation, one driver said, “We are out here working all day, trying our best already. The cameras are just another way to control us.”[

While the surveillance system is likely a response to past accidents involving delivery drivers, one critic argued that safety issues should be addressed by slowing down “outrageous delivery quotas that force people into unsafe conditions,” not through surveillance.

Earlier this month, five Democratic U.S. senators — Elizabeth Warren (Ma.), Ed Markey (Ma.), Cory Booker (NJ), Bernie Sanders (Vt.), and Richard Blumenthal (Ct.) — all wrote a letter to Amazon questioning its use of the AI surveillance system and how it will affect drivers.

“We are concerned that adding further surveillance tools and monitoring could increase dangers on America’s roads, place unsafe pressure on drivers, and infringe on individuals’ privacy rights,” they said in the letter.

The deadline for Amazon to respond is Wednesday. 

See what others are saying: (Motherboard) (Yahoo) (Insider)

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United Airlines Dispels Complaints That Safety Will Be Compromised By New Pilot Diversity Initiative

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  • Later this year, United Airlines plans to open a pilot training school that will have a focus on diversity.
  • According to a tweet from the company on Tuesday, the school plans to enroll 5,000 students over the next decade, with at least 50% of those students being women or people of color.  
  • The program has been met with condemnation by some conservatives, including Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who implied it would lead to increased plane crashes and deaths. 
  • Amidst the criticism, United has stressed that it is not lowering its safety standards but simply working to ensure that minority groups have more opportunities to become pilots.

United’s New Diversity Initiative

United Airlines is launching a new school that it hopes will increase diversity among pilots.

“Our flight deck should reflect the diverse group of people on board our planes every day,” the company said Tuesday on Twitter in a statement announcing the news. “That’s why we plan for 50% of the 5,000 pilots we train in the next decade to be women or people of color.”

Applications for the school are currently open, and United plans to enroll 100 students this year, with its first class of 20 beginning this summer. Reportedly, United and JPMorgan Chase will each provide $1.2 million in scholarships to incoming students. 

According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 94% of pilots and flight engineers are white. That data also indicates about as many are men.

United itself said only about 7% of its pilots are women and only 13% aren’t white. With those stats in mind, United said it’s working with three historically Black colleges and universities to help drive recruitment. 

United Faces Criticism From Tucker Carlson and Others

Since its announcement, United has had to contend with a hefty amount of pushback, as a number of people have replied to the company’s initial tweet by questioning the diversity initiative and its relationship with passenger safety. 

“How about you hire experienced, good pilots regardless of race or gender?” one person asked. “I don’t care about a pilot’s race — I care if he or she can land the damned plane safely.” 

Wednesday night, Fox News host Tucker Carlson even implied that the initiative could lead to increased plane crashes and deaths.

“An airline pilot transports hundreds of people at a time in a thin-walled metal tube going nearly 600 miles an hour 35,000 feet off the ground. Flying a commercial airliner is dangerous,” Carlson said. “Like performing heart surgery, no matter how many times you’ve done it, it is inherently high stakes. People die if you screw up. In the airline business, as in medicine, not killing people is all that matters. So how will racial and gender quotas make United Airlines safer?”

“The CEO of United Airlines is saying that we need to replace the pilots currently flying airplanes because they’re the wrong skin color,” he later added. “Only diseased people think like this. 

Factually, Carlson is wrong. United has made no indication that it is planning to replace current pilots; rather, it is likely responding to a long-term shortage of pilots, as many are soon set to begin retirement.

United Responds

United has defended its program multiple times over the last couple of days. 

“All the highly qualified candidates we accept into the Academy, regardless of race or sex, will have met or exceeded the standards we set for admittance,” United said in a clarification on its safety standards.

Others on Twitter have also dispelled the criticism around the pilot program, with one user saying, “@TuckerCarlson missed the point, again. @united is training pilots to a level of safety of all other pilots. The standard isn’t dropping, the opportunity for underserved segments of the population is increasing.”

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Fox News) (Newsweek

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Restaurants Across America Face Ketchup Packet Shortage

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  • Single-serving ketchup packets are in high demand across the U.S., but producers of the condiment are struggling to keep up with orders.
  • Restaurants have leaned heavily on packets for delivery and takeout options amid the coronavirus pandemic, and even when indoor dining began to return, the CDC advised businesses to opt for packets instead of shared bottles.
  • As demand surges, so have prices, which were already higher than bottle options.
  • Heinz, the biggest ketchup producer in the country, has promised to tackle the issue with a 25% increase in production, totaling 12 billion ketchup packets a year.

Ketchup Shortage

Restaurants across the country are struggling to get their hands on a steady supply of ketchup packets, making condiment production yet another facet of the food industry to be impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention discouraged traditional dine-in services to curb the spread of COVID-19, which forced many restaurants to lean on delivery and takeout. Even when indoor dining opened back up in some areas, the CDC advised restaurants to avoid using shared items like menus, condiments, and other food containers.

That means these businesses were suddenly forced to ramp up their take-out packaging efforts and offer more single-serving condiment options. On top of that, more people began cooking at home, triggering a 15% increase in retail sales of ketchup last year compared to 2019, according to The Wall Street Journal

As demand surges, so have prices, which were already higher than bottle options.
In fact, Long John Silver’s —a chain with nearly 700 stores, told the WSJ that the switch to packets is actually costing them an extra half-million dollars.

The company added that it’s been forced to seek ketchup from secondary suppliers, something Texas Roadhouse chains said they were also forced to do as well. Some restaurant staffers have had to scour wholesale stores like Costco and even turn to sites like Ebay.

Ketchup Maker Responds

Heinz, the biggest ketchup producer in the country, is at the epicenter of the problem since it’s responsible for about 70% of the U.S. retail market for condiments.

The company, however, promised that it’s trying to fix the issue. Just days ago, a Heinz executive told the WSJ that the company plans to open two new manufacturing lines in April, and more after that, increasing production by about 25% for a total of more than 12 billion packets a year.

Heinz already is running extra shifts at plants and cut back on some varieties to focus on making more single-serve packets. The company also invented a no-touch ketchup dispenser to help provide Covid-safe alternatives to shared bottles, but the pressure is on because the demand for single-serve packets is still expected to continue as the country opens back up.

See what others are saying: (The Wall Street Journal) (CNN) (Fox News)

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Florida Governor Denies Wrongdoing in Vaccine Deal With Publix After “Pay for Play” Accusations

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  • In a “60 Minutes” segment that aired Sunday night, CBS reported that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) gave an exclusive COVID-19 vaccine deal to Publix grocery stores in Palm Beach County weeks before announcing that the chain had donated $100,000 to his political action committee.
  • DeSantis and Publix have denied any form of “pay for play” deal, but this is not the first time DeSantis has been accused of engaging in a form of “vaccine favoritism” that had the effect of disproportionately benefiting wealthy, white communities.
  • While some have defended Publix’s exclusive distribution deal, many others have noted that Walgreens and CVS pharmacies are much more abundant in the state and also more common in less wealthy communities. 

“60 Minutes” Report on DeSantis’ Vaccine Favoritism

A Sunday night “60 Minutes” report on CBS found that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) announced a distribution partnership with Publix grocery store only weeks after the company donated $100,000 to his political action committee. 

While both DeSantis and Publix have denied any wrongdoing attached to the deal, this news comes after the Tampa Bay Times reported that DeSantis was acting as a vaccine gatekeeper by directing doses to wealthy communities — with some vaccination pop-up sites being affiliated with his PAC donors. 

It also comes after state Democratic leaders asked the U.S. Department of Justice in February to investigate whether or not DeSantis violated federal law by opening up a vaccination site that was only accessible to residents in two of Manatee County’s wealthiest neighborhoods. 

Sunday night’s coverage on “60 Minutes” echoed those concerns, describing Florida’s vaccine rollout as “deteriorat[ing] into a virtual free for all” as “wealthy and well-connected residents cut the line, leaving other Floridians without a fair shot.”

“I imagine Governor DeSantis’s office would say, ‘Look, we privatized the rollout because it’s more efficient and it works better,’” reporter Sharyn Alfonsi said during the segment.

“It hasn’t worked better for people of color,” State Rep. Omari Hardy (R) replied. “Before, I could call the public health director. She would answer my calls. But now if I want to get my constituents information about how to get this vaccine I have to call a lobbyist from Publix? That makes no sense. They’re not accountable to the public.”

Hardy’s statement is notable because, as “60 Minutes” pointed out during the segment, poorer communities in Palm Beach County — where Publix was granted exclusive rights to distribute COVID-19 vaccines — do not have a Publix. In fact, for some in the county, the nearest Publix is around 30 miles away.

The segment also aired a confrontation between Alfonsi and DeSantis from last month in which DeSantis called the donation report “wrong” and “a fake narrative.”

“I met with the county mayor,” DeSantis told Alfonsi. “I met with the administrator. I met with all the folks in Palm Beach County, and I said, ‘Here’s some of the options. We can do more drive-thru sites. We can give more to hospitals. We can do the Publix.’ And they said, ‘We think that would be the easiest thing for our residents.’”

“The criticism is that it’s pay-to-play, governor,” Alfonsi said. 

In a voiceover, Alfonsi then said Melissa McKinlay, the county commissioner in the Glades, never met with DeSantis about the Publix deal.

“The irresponsible suggestion that there was a connection between campaign contributions and our willingness to join other pharmacies in support of the state’s vaccine distribution efforts is absolutely false and offensive,” Publix said in a statement to CBS.

This is not the first controversial donation to be connected to Publix. Earlier this year, it was learned that Heiress Julie Jenkins Fancelli donated $300,000 to fund the pro-Trump “Stop the Steal” rally that preceded the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. 

DeSantis Condemned Online

On Monday, “DeSantis,” “Publix,” and “Walgreens and CVS” all became top-trending U.S. topics on Twitter. 

Many condemned DeSantis for the Publix deal while arguing that it would have made more sense for other pharmacies, such as Walgreens and CVS, to lead the charge in vaccine distributions. 

Others like Jesse Hunt, communications director for the Republican Governors Association, said, “60 Minutes makes the same mistake the dozens of national outlets have made when it comes to Ron DeSantis and Florida.”

“Publix was the first retail pharmacy ready to handle this massive undertaking & it’s objectively one of the most trusted & respected companies in America.”

Still, many were quick to argue Hunt’s claim, including Rep. Hardy. 

“But they are typically not located in communities of color. So when he tried to make Publix the sole distributor in PBC, he was trying an approach that he knew would leave out people of color in Palm Beach County. This was a textbook example of systemic racism at work.”

See what others are saying: (CBS) (Axios) (The Hill)

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