Amazon installs AI-powered cameras in UK delivery vans

A privacy group called it 'excessive, intrusive and creepy worker surveillance.'

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Electric delivery vans leave the Amazon warehouse in the Titanic Quarter, Belfast. Picture date: Wednesday April 21, 2021. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire (Photo by Niall Carson/PA Images via Getty Images)
Niall Carson - PA Images via Getty Images

Last year, it was reported that Amazon planned to use AI-equipped cameras to surveil delivery drivers on their routes. Now, the company has started installing such cameras on its vans in the UK, according to The Telegraph. The action has created concern from privacy groups who called it "excessive" and "creepy." 

Amazon will use a pair of cameras to record footage from inside vans and out to the road. They're designed to detect road violations or poor driver practices and give an audio alert, while collecting data Amazon can use later to evaluate drivers. 

They don't allow drivers to be monitored in real time and won't capture sound, but can supposedly upload footage to a dedicated safety team in certain circumstances. Some of the actions monitored include illegal road behavior like failure to stop or speeding, along with actions like hard braking or seatbelt violations. 

A privacy group called Big Brother Watch said the system is "excessive, intrusive and creepy worker surveillance" and called for it to be paused. "This kind of directed surveillance could actually risk distracting drivers, let alone demoralizing them," director Silkie Carlo told The Telegraph. "It is bad for workers’ rights and awful for privacy in our country."

The GMB union that represents Amazon workers said the cameras inside the cabins aren't necessary and create a major distraction. "We are against cameras being pointed in the face of the drivers every second of every day that they are working. This is surveillance, it does not aid driver safety," a spokesperson said.

In a statement, an Amazon spokesperson told The Telegraph that "the purpose of introducing this technology is to keep drivers and communities safe, there is no other reason behind that. We have carried out a comprehensive data privacy assessment in line with applicable laws."

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