Senators question Amazon about using cameras to monitor delivery drivers

Key Points
  • Five senators wrote a letter to CEO Jeff Bezos on Wednesday, demanding more context around the company's recent deployment of AI-equipped cameras in some of its delivery vans.
  • The letter comes after CNBC reported in February that Amazon began rolling out cameras from Netradyne in vehicles at several contracted delivery partners across the U.S.
  • The senators said the company's use of the cameras "raises important privacy and worker oversight questions that Amazon must answer."
Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, pictured on Oct. 2, 2019.
Elif Ozturk | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Five senators are calling on Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to provide more information on the company's recent deployment of "surveillance cameras" in vehicles used by contracted delivery drivers.

In a letter Wednesday, Sens. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut asked for more clarity on Amazon's use of footage collected by the cameras and the scope of their use, with a deadline for Bezos to respond by March 24.

The letter was in response to reporting by CNBC in February, which revealed that Amazon recently began rolling out cameras from Netradyne in vehicles at a handful of contracted delivery partners across the U.S. The cameras, which Amazon said record drivers "100% of the time," have four lenses that capture the road, the driver, and both sides of the vehicle. The cameras are equipped with software that's capable of flagging a series of safety infractions, including failure to stop at a stop sign, speeding and distracted driving.

In a training video distributed to delivery firms, Amazon said the cameras will help improve safety across its delivery network, but drivers and privacy advocates raised concerns about the potential for heightened employee surveillance and a lack of privacy.

The senators called on Bezos to address these concerns, adding that the company's use of surveillance cameras in delivery vans "raises important privacy and worker oversight questions that Amazon must answer."

"While we applaud efforts to improve safety on the roads and decrease the plague of distracted driving, we need a better understanding of how your company will protect against potential new safety hazards stemming from increased worker surveillance," the senators wrote. "Although Amazon may intend for its use of Driveri cameras to improve safety on the road, this surveillance could, in practice, create significant pressure on drivers to speed up on their routes, which can lead to driver fatigue and decreased safety."

The Netradyne cameras are just one way that Amazon seeks to monitor and track its delivery service partner program, which refers to the network of Amazon-branded cargo vans responsible for a growing share of the company's last-mile deliveries.

As CNBC previously reported, Amazon also requires contracted delivery drivers to download and continuously run a smartphone app called Mentor that monitors their driving behavior while they're on the job. The app is designed to improve driver safety, but some delivery drivers have described the app as invasive and raised concerns that bugs within the app can sometimes lead to unfair disciplinary actions from their manager.

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