Amazonia for June 24, 2019

June 24, 2019

The Amazon online bookstore continues to push outside the virtual mall. Some of the more interesting announcements about the landscape changing Bezos bulldozer include:

Bebo Bepops into Amazon Twitch: Name That Gamer Tune

DarkCyber believes that Amazon’s acquisition of Bebo, a moribund social network outfit, is a big deal. You can get the Silicon Valley take on this cheapo acquisition in “Amazon’s Twitch Acquired Social Networking Platform Bebo for Up to $25M to Bolster Its Esports Efforts.” DarkCyber thinks that there are other reasons for this deal. Socializing esports is a great red herring snagged by a public relations hook. There is more behind this deal, but the explanation will not be disclosed in this blog. Catch me after my Amazon lecture in late September 2019. I will be in San Antonio at the TechnoSecurity & Digital Forensics Conference holding forth for law enforcement, security, and intelligence professionals.

Some Amazon game programmers now have an opportunity to drive Amazon delivery vans or flip burgers. Green Man Gaming reports that Amazon Game Studios lays off dozens of staff. We think Google Stadia may be hiring.

Surveillance as a Service

Quite a few pundits and wizards noted that Amazon received a patent for flying a drone with a camera. Now that is one of those inventions which is not on a par with the spat over calculus. If you want to read the document, navigate to this link. Why’s this important? It’s not, but it snaps into the matrix I use for Amazon’s push into policeware. Lecture available for a fee. Just write darkcyber333 at yandex dot com. Although not directly about Amazon, this write up edges close to the revenue potential of the alleged Amazon service.

DHS Has Moved Biometrics to Amazon’s Cloud

Ouch. Google, IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle just took one to the jaw. We noted this article in Geekwire: “DHS Moving Biometric Screening System to Amazon Web Services Amid Debate over Government Tech.” Here’s a statement we circled in bright blue marker:

The Department of Homeland Security is migrating the system it uses to search for people using biometric data to Amazon’s cloud….

The system is a catchall for fingerprints, iris scans, images of faces, and other information collected by the agency’s various departments, like TSA, FEMA, and ICE. It allows officials to scan a database and quickly identify undocumented immigrants, terrorist suspects, and other people of interest. The database is used by “DHS, other Federal agencies, State and local law enforcement, the intelligence community, and international partners to support counterterrorism, immigration and law enforcement, and credentialing efforts pertaining to identity services.”

You may be able to ferret out more clues in this RFI. Keep in mind that if the link goes dead, complain to USA.gov, DHS, or your favorite citizen services office, not DarkCyber.

Is this important? On a par with Bebo, the defunct social network company Amazon bought as most people read about Facebook’s sovereign currency play.

Ring May Amazonify Itself

Quartz reports that the Ring doorbell may undergo what MBAs call “ product extension.” What can Amazon do with Ring beyond connecting a Ring to Amazon’s connected lock service? There’s the sharing of video footage with neighbors and others, including “more than 50 police departments.” According to the “real” news outfit:

Amazon is apparently not stopping there with its one-stop viewing. The company recently received trademarks, uncovered by Quartz, for multiple products that bear the Ring name, including Ring Beams, Ring Halo, and Ring Net. All three trademarks are listed as covering a range of uses, many matching what Ring products currently offer, including internet-connected security cameras, alarm systems, lighting, and cloud video storage. They also mention new applications, such as cameras intended to be mounted on motor vehicles, electronic locks, indoor cameras like pet and baby monitors, and “home and business surveillance systems.” All three trademarks even suggest the marks should cover “navigation software for use with smart, autonomous vehicles and mobile machines for use in connection with internet of things (IoT) enabled devices.”

DarkCyber is disappointed that no “Ring a Dinga Ding Dong” was mentioned.

Amazon Twitch: Copyright Issues and Porn

Most of the people with whom I speak in Harrod’s Creek, Kentucky, think a twitch is what grandpa’s leg does when he wants to go to the tavern and grandma won’t let him. Twitch is Amazon’s “game” streaming service. The Verge reported “Twitch sues to unmask trolls that posted violent and pornographic streams.” DarkCyber noted this statement:

The videos were posted last month by an organized group of trolls in Twitch’s Artifact category, who are named in the lawsuit as John and Jane Does 1-100. Aside from the video filmed by the Christchurch shooter, trolls also streamed porn, copyrighted movies and television shows, and other illegal and harmful content.

Is the issue one that took place in the past, or is the problem of copyright violation and questionable content a “here and now” issue? I cover several facets of the Twitch service in terms of law enforcement and intelligence matters in my Dark Web 2 lectures. The reality of Twitch is not well understood.

Has someone like the Verge asked, “If it is your platform, how can you not know the identity of a user?” The answer is, “What?”

Amazon Is a Domain, Not a Jungle, a River, or a Region

We learned from the Conversation (a sort of one way thing) that Dot Amazon is a reality. How happy will be the countries bordering the region, the jungle, and the river? Probably happy enough to order products, buy ebooks, and learn about the AWS cloud. The article “Amazon Wins Amazon Domain Name, Aggravating South American Region and Undermining Digital Commons” reports:

Under international human rights law, the indigenous peoples in the region should have been consulted. Exclusive use of “.amazon” will deprive them of using it for economic opportunities in their historical lands, such as eco-tourism.

Amazon wants “amazon” to do many positive, US company things. The write up states:

The implications for the future of the internet are troubling.

DarkCyber is not sure the real Amazon cares or if the jungle, river, and governments bordering what is real estate care. Navigate to www.amazon.amazon, Amazonians around the world and in the area once uniquely named “Amazon.”

Amazon Bashing?

Fox News ran a story about the Amazon JEDI contract competition. “Amazon, Pentagon Accused of Swampy Dealings over $10B Contract” reported:

Amazon is poised to receive a lucrative government contract with the Pentagon, but a competitor is arguing it’s nothing more than a prime example of D.C. swamp politics.

That’s an interesting bit of prognostication. The Fox report then recounts the claims made by firms likely to be pushed to the gutter if Amazon wins the deal.

The write up points out:

The JEDI Contracting Officer said in a court document that a July 2018 review of potential conflicts of interest related to Ubhi and four other government employees with ties to AWS showed that they did not “negatively impact the integrity of the JEDI procurement.”

But predicting the outcome of a horse race with some of the jockeys wearing the logos of Amazon competitors? Interesting.

Amazon Poster Person

The Wall Street Journal on June 22 or 23, 2019 (love that precision in metatagging, don’t we?) published an encomium to Amazonian Nancy Nims. According to the glowing semi-interview, mostly rah rah rah:

…Nancy Nims pitches in on everything from blank screens to burst pipes.

You can find the story online at wsj.com (paywall) or snag a dead tree edition of the newspaper if you can find one on either June 22 or June 23, 2019.

Amazon Alexa and Yamaha TV Add Ons

Don’t have an Amazon device in your home? Just buy the Yamahas YAS-109 and the YAS-209 TV sound bars, and you have the problem solved. According to Slashgear:

Yamaha has introduced two new home sound bars, the YAS-109 and YAS-209. Both models feature native Alexa voice control, enabling users to directly access Amazon’s voice assistant and its various control functions. In addition, both new models pack wireless connectivity, support for various music streaming services, a discreet design, and more.

“Alexa, what’s the weather?”

Who Sponsored the AWS Public Sector Summit?

That’s a good question. Here’s the list. Where are the presentations? Well, that’s another good question to which DarkCyber does not have the answer. There are some PR type speeches available on YouTube plus the often opaque Amazon blog entries.

Look Out, NYT Best Sellers’ List

Amazon has announced the best books of 2019 “so far”. Yeah, it is June 2019, but this is a real time, year to date, Amazon analytics output. None of that checking with bookstores in places like Charlottesville, Virginia, and Boston, Massachusetts, where people still read old fashioned books. Digital Reader reports:

“We love selecting the Best Book of the Year So Far,” said Sarah Gelman, Editorial Director, Amazon Books. “We’ve read so many great books this year – a heart-wrenching memoir of loss, an intoxicating novel of a ’70s rock band, a psychological thriller worthy of Agatha Christie comparisons, and so much more. But one book stood out for us, Elizabeth Gilbert’s City of Girls. It has so many elements that make reading fun – the sparkle of youth, indiscretions, sassy characters, and freedom in a city that doesn’t sleep – perfect summer reading in our book.”

And the top book? City of Girls: A Novel by Elizabeth Gilbert (Riverhead Books). And where can one acquire this big dog? Did you guess Amazon? If so, you may be Jeopardy material.

Amazon Reveals How to Implement AI

CTOVision explains the ins and outs in “Amazon on How Businesses Can Implement AI.” The method is revealed in an AWS video, a “succinct video” because, as you know, artificial intelligence is really easy using Amazon’s software and its platform. Here’s an example of an explanation in the video:

image

Yep, easy.

Amazon Is More Than a Bookstore

Amazon is on a PR blitz. The BBC snagged an interview with the former Cornell professor and now big tech person at Amazon. There were some gems in “Amazon’s Next Big Thing May Redefine Big.” The first “big” thing is that DarkCyber must learn a new definition of “big.” Okay, what else? These are items extracted from the Beeb’s somewhat uncritical article:

  1. Only “mortal humans” ever saw Amazon as merely a retailer.
  2. Its big data capabilities are now the tool of police forces, and maybe soon the military.
  3. New Amazon could make today’s Amazon look quaint in both scale and power.
  4. AWS accounts for most of Amazon’s profits.
  5. Amazon provides the infrastructure backbone for major firms such as AirBnB and Netflix, as well as more than one million other clients who collectively give Amazon “control” of large swathes of the web.
  6. Amazon Rekognition can scan video footage and, for example, pick up people’s faces that can then be checked against a client’s database.
  7. Amazon will need to answer continued questioning about how it handles user privacy, and whether it is being entirely up-front with users when it comes to how data is stored and analyzed.

Interesting stuff. But the police and military? DarkCyber theorizes that these entities will buy something other than boots and tactical vests.

Amazon’s Choice: An Evaluation

Leave it to the real news outfit Buzzfeed. Its story “Amazon’s Choice Does Not Necessarily Mean a Product Is Good.” Shocker. The write up reveals:

A review of dozens of Amazon’s Choice products by BuzzFeed News found listings with troubling product defects and warnings, as well as review manipulation.

DarkCyber’s hunch is that “quality” is defined in terms of revenue and margin. The notion about “troubling” is probably not high on the list of considerations. We noted this passage:

But “Amazon’s Choice” isn’t that at all, and here’s the disappointing news: It’s a label automatically awarded to listings by an algorithm based on customer reviews, price, and whether the product is in stock. And those choices Amazon’s software makes aren’t always reliable — in fact, sometimes they’re Amazon-recommended crap.

We highlighted this snippet as well:

But what consumers are finding is that while a product that performs well on key marketplace metrics might get an “Amazon’s Choice” label, it isn’t necessarily a good product. There are many examples. A forehead-and-ear thermometer with a 3.6-star average rating over 1,509 reviews is distinguished as Amazon’s Choice for an “infant thermometer.” Yet the product description from the manufacturer itself said, “Widely inaccurate and the results could be found from the comments by yourself.” (After BuzzFeed News reached out to the company for comment, that description was removed from the Amazon listing.)

Interesting, if true.

Amazon Fights Human Trafficking

Here’s another example of Amazon PR and a less than obvious reminder of the company’s push into policeware. Quartz’s story “Amazon’s AI Is Being Used to Rescue Children from Sex Trafficking.” We learned:

The nonprofit Thorn, founded by actors Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore in 2009, wants to help to find these children and bring them to safety. To do so, it’s looking to AI… DetectText quickly extracts this information from the images, allowing Thorn to work backwards to find children from their last known number. IndexFaces, meanwhile, detects and matches faces to images of missing and exploited children from open web data sources, such as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s register of missing children.

Another message is, “Facial recognition is a pretty good thing.”

Now It Is Amazon Reinforcement Learning

Forbes is, it seems, an Amazon believer. “Amazon Dives Deep into Reinforcement Learning” explains:

The company [Amazon] applies RL in combination with other ML methods to optimize its warehouse and logistics operations, and assisting with automation in its various fulfillment facilities. The company has also applied RL to solving supply chain optimization problems and helping to discover optimal paths for delivery.

RL is an acronym for “reinforcement learning.” Useful when talking about ML and AI and APR (Amazon public relations).

The capitalist tool added:

the company has applied RL and other ML approaches to help create the latest iteration of its autonomous drone delivery device.

Okay, drones. What about those drones and RL?

Amazon used machine learning to iterate and simulate over 50,000 configurations of drone design before choosing the optimal approach.

Working at Amazon Twitch

SFGate, which is a bit rah rah for the Silicon Valley thing, published “Here’s What It’s Like to Work at Twitch, One of the Hottest Gaming Companies in the US.” Here’s a snapshot of the main point: Fun, food, autonomy, choice at an entertainment revolution.

Sounds like heaven or a bizarro world, almost the inverse of working at an Amazon warehouse.

Want to work in this paradise digital? I learned:

People who can show that they’re unabashedly passionate about something they do, whether it’s for fun or work, is a really nice cultural fit for us. We think that passion translates to your work, ultimately.—Alleged live streamed statement from a Twitch University Recruiter Gina Greenwalt.

Nothing about the streams which contain commercial TV shows (Russian streamers pump out US TV shows with dubbed Russian), movies (Pokémon is a fave), and the interesting pay-me-to have a private chat services. Odd that.

Next time around maybe SFGate will dig a bit deeper than free donuts. Plus a comparison with an Amazon warehouse job would be quite interesting. Perhaps free adult diapers instead of bagels?

Amazon: PR Diversity or Child Labor?

DarkCyber believes this is a PR play. Amazon is doing a lot of PR it seems. A 10 year old is now working alongside Amazonians who are young at heart if not in years. NBC Washington reports that Karthick Arun will enter the fifth grade. He will also work on robots because he is the youngest person to pass the Amazon AWS Cloud Practitioner examination. Will he take the now retired Google Labs Aptitude Test or GLAT? I once sent a page to an investment banker who told me he was good at math. I never heard a peep from this fellow after the snail mail was delivered to him. Arun would probably ace that confection. Too bad Google dumped its robotics company. You remember the one with the terrifying reindeer wandering the company’s front lawn. Arun wants to build a robot dog. Sorry, Arun, already done.

Amazon: More Planes Because…

DarkCyber’s answer is, “FedEx and UPS are like old, rotting trees to the gleaming blade on the front of the Bezos bulldozer.”

Amazon Prime Air Gets More Planes to Boost One Day Shipping to You” offers a different explanation. To wit:

Amazon said it agreed to lease 15 more Boeing cargo planes from GE Capital Aviation Services, helping the e-commerce titan continue growing its air fleet so it can speed up Prime deliveries.

FedEx and UPS will take heart with this statement:

Pilots working for Prime Air have regularly complained about poor pay and lousy working conditions.

Hmmm. Different from Twitch working conditions perhaps?

DarkCyber understands the Prime delivery notion. Customers are number one. However, DarkCyber believes the motivation is to leverage Amazon’s infrastructure and robots, a white elephant airport, and the loose regulatory environment to become the same-day delivery giant, none of this overnight, three day, or seven day approach.

Amazon Connect Lex Speech Recognition

Here’s a link to a news story titled “Amazon Connect Lex Speech Recognition advanced Configuration.” The short write up is duplicated plus there’s a link to a video. Lex is Amazon’s speech recognition system. You will have to navigate to the link and figure out what DrVoIP on Collaboration is trying to communicate.

The real news is that Amazon Connect has launched AI powered speech analytics. The idea is to capture speech, convert to text, add metadata, and run numerical recipes across the content. Who is excited about this? Well, marketers, of course. We noted this statement in the write up:

The solution combines Amazon Transcribe to perform real-time speech recognition and create a high-quality text transcription of each call into text; Amazon Comprehend to analyze the interaction, detect the sentiment of the caller, and identify keywords and phrases in the conversation; and Amazon Translate to translate the conversation into an agent’s preferred language. To learn more about AI Powered Speech Analytics for Amazon Connect, see the solution webpage.

Want more? You can read marketing detail in Martech Advisor.

Amazon Partners, Resellers, Innovators

Summer is approaching in rubber boots and with a brolly here in Harrod’s Creek. There was some partner and reseller news. We’ve tossed in innovators because there are some interesting rumblings in the Amazonian digital jungle.

  • Datacal supports AWS databases. Source: SD Times
  • Digital Asset Partners puts smart contracts on AWS. Source: Coin Telegraph
  • Domo has launched Domo on AWS. “Domo for AWS is a new purpose-built package that gives AWS customers an easy way to make data from nearly two dozen AWS services securely accessible to virtually anyone across the company to drive new business value.” Here’s another baffler: “to drive new business value.” Source: MarketWatch
  • FINEOS is now competent in AWS financial services. Did you forget that Amazon is into finance but in a different way than privacy-centric Facebook? Source: Digital Journal
  • HaTech is named an AWS advanced partner. We’re not sure what it means, but you can read more in the Yahoo write up. Only 10 percent have reached this tier. We have to ask, “10 percent of how many?”
  • iBaset, a manufacturing services outfit, is using AWS for aerospace and defense applications. Source: Yahoo.
  • IEEE and Amazon are teaming up to encourage entrepreneurs in the IEEE community. Would Amazon invest in a promising start up? Would Amazon encourage a promising start up to use Azure, Google, or another cloud? Source: Business Insider (a source which really wants money)
  • SenecaGlobal is now an Amazon EC2 partner for Microsoft Windows Server. Strange bedfellows perhaps? Source: Host Review
  • Smartsheet is now AWS government competent. Smartsheet is in the “work execution business.” No, we don’t understand the phrase either. Workflow, project management, and the like we get. But not work execution. Source: Bakersfield Californian
  • Solodev is using Amazon AWS as a customer experience platform. We think this means customer service. Source: EContent What’s this have to do with electronic content? [a] Self help Web site, [b] search FAQs, [c] another publication jumping on the Amazon bandwagon for content, [d] who knows. Pick one, please.
  • Tripwire signs up for Amazon AWS. Tripwire provides security and compliance services. Source: Host Review
  • Legal and General will use AWS’s blockchain service. Source: Forbes
  • ZeroNorth is now an Amazon advanced technology partner. Source: Digital Journal

Stephen E Arnold, June 24, 2019

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