Amazonia for July 15, 2019

July 15, 2019

The Amazon displacement effect appears to be gaining momentum. Here’s a selection of Bezos bulldozer actions for the past week. DarkCyber has included a handful of items that took place outside this review window, but holidays can perturb in unexpected ways.

Amazon: Disinformation or Dissing the Competition?

A quite interesting article appeared in the Brisbane Times. The title caught my attention: “Former Amazon Scientist Pokes Holes in Data Collection at Brisbane Summit.” DarkCyber noted these quotes and statements in the write up:

  • …People in poorer economic areas may not drive, so might not see potholes as a problem, or they were less likely to be connected online, so were less likely to report them. DarkCyber note: This means that the data will mis-report potholes. In short, the data leads to uninformed decisions.
  • Organizations should be transparent about how they used private data, and that citizens should be able to see their own data within the organization…The “right to inspect the refinery”, he said, was another right – that any person must be able to see and observe how organizations were using their data.” DarkCyber note: Amazon seems to preserve and use Alexa data, but that information is not revealed to customers of the Alexa devices.

Note that the speaker is a “former” Amazon scientist.

Employment Developments: Efficiency and Beyond

A report which appeared on July 8, 2019, suggested that Amazon workers will strike on Prime Day. That is a Monday, the same day this Amazonia news run down appears. Alas, we can’t update before this goes live on Prime Day. The origin of this story appears to be Engadget which pegs the action in Minnesota. If false, Amazon has dodged a problem. If it is true, disgruntled Amazon low tier workers may become more bold. What happened in the Middle Ages when those lower down the Great Chain of Being were unhappy? I don’t remember. Perhaps Amazon will have a book about these historical antecedents.

Amazon Finds an Alternative Workforce Through Northwest Center, a Seattle Nonprofit Helping People with Disabilities” explains another Amazon management approach to staffing. The title explains the tactic.

Another tactic is the use of home workers for customer service roles. These employees receive some benefits. For details see “Amazon Is Hiring 3,000 Work-from-Home Employees with Full Benefits.”

Amazon will retrain its workers. Automation is coming and with it, many jobs will be crushed under the Bezos bulldozer. The New York Times explains the $700 million “retraining” effort but does not reference similar initiatives in Stalinist soviets.

ZDNet contributes the notion of a protest about upskilling. ZDNet reported:

Amazon’s announcement comes amid an Amazon Web Services conference in New York where CTO Werner Vogels was interrupted by protesters. Chants, which revolved around AWS providing technology to the US government, repeatedly picked up as Vogels talked early in his keynote. Vogels, flustered a smidge but rolling with it, said: “I’m more than willing to have a conversation, but maybe they should let me finish first.” AWS’ New York Summit had a similar issue last year, but the 2019 version was more persistent. On AWS’ live stream the protester audio was muted. “We’ll all get our voices heard,” said Vogels.

Does the Bezos bulldozer listen to humans directly or just through Alexa devices? DarkCyber does not know the answer.

Business Insider reveals that Amazon employees want the online bookstore to take a stand against the US government’s enforcement of immigration law. These individuals may not realize that Amazon facial recognition technology may be able to identify them.

Build a Serverless Architecture with AWS

A how to, diagrams, and step by step instructions. Navigate to Hypertrack and learn how “awesome” serverless is. The write up includes suggestions for specific AWS functions to include.

AWS Control Tower Available

I bet you didn’t know that Amazon AWS had a control tower. DarkCyber did not. Satellites, yes. Control towers? Sure, but these are a service automating “the process of setting up a new baseline multi account AWS environment.” InfoQ explains:

With Control Tower, a cloud administrator has a tool, which automates various tasks involving the initial setup of a new AWS environment such as identity and access management, centralized logging, and security audits across accounts. Furthermore, the service consists of several components, including:

  • A Landing Zone – the multi-account AWS environment the tool sets up
  • Blueprints – design patterns used to establish the Landing Zone
  • A set of default policy controls known as Guardrails
  • The Environment – an AWS account with all of the attendant resources set up to run an application.
Amazon QLDB

Jerry Hargrove published a useful diagram. Yes, we know it is small, but you can get a larger one and more from the link:

image

A link to the QLDB is included in the source.

Amazon Offers Centralized and Decentralized Blockchain Services

Most of the people with whom DarkCyber speaks are not aware of Amazon’s digital currency and blockchain services. We noted that Forbes, the capitalist tool, has noticed some blockchain capabilities available from Amazon. We noted:

AWS announced the preview for both of these models, centralized and decentralized, in late November of 2018, according to a press release. At the time of the July 3, 2019 interview with me, Pathak noted, “Quantum Ledger Database, QLDB, is still in preview,” while “Amazon Managed Blockchain went into General Availability at the end of April.” While in preview, customers can gain free access to these projects by filling out a form and signing up, an AWS representative clarified via email. When released for General Availability, anyone can use them.

Timely coverage.

Amazon Emotion Detection

Detecting a person’s emotions can be useful. Examples range from an insurance company’s identifying an insured driver evidencing signs of impending “rage” behavior to an Amazon DeepLens camera identifying an individual becoming increasingly problematic in a restaurant, night club, or sporting event. “Amazon May be Developing a Wearable That Detects Human Emotions” discusses this innovation. DarkCyber wonders if the technology has already been implemented in other Amazon devices; for example, the Alexa home gizmos. Could security and government authorities find this type of data-generating technology useful? DarkCyber thinks this is an interesting question.

DeepLens Now Available in Europe

DarkCyber covers the imaging devices in its Dark Web Version 2 lecture. We want to note The Register’s article “AWS’s Upgraded DeepLens AI Camera Zooms in on Europe” states:

The product is the result of work between AWS and Intel. DeepLens’s hardware consists of a mini PC running Ubuntu 16.4 LTS (Long Term Servicing) upon which is mounted an HD camera.

We noted:

The advantage of DeepLens is that it is ready to go, presuming you want to use AWS for your ML project. The pre-installed software includes AWS IoT Greengrass, which does local processing of IoT data such as the stream of images from your DeepLens camera.

This comment warranted a checkmark:

AWS has its own forthcoming Inferentia project, custom hardware for processing all the common ML frameworks, but currently it seems Google Cloud Platform has an advantage for TensorFlow.

Amazon Neighborhood Watch

A viewer of the DarkCyber Video news program questioned our assertion that Amazon was monitoring with humans, not just DeepLens and other zippy technology. Here’s a no cost source of information: “Amazon’s Neighborhood Watch App Raises Discrimination, Privacy Fears.” The problem is, of course, is that people cannot track Amazon’s activities nor do most professionals want to exert that effort. Hey, those meetings are important and there’s yoga and the off site. The write up points out:

Advocates and experts are worried that an Amazon-owned mobile app, used by owners of its Ring security cameras to upload videos for neighbors to see, could entrench racial discrimination and violate people’s privacy.

Why it matters: The app, called Neighbors, is striking deals to partner with police departments across the country.

Driving the news: Last week, journalists on Twitter noticed Ring was hiring an editor — prompting concerns that Amazon was stoking community fears to sell security systems. (Amazon bought the company last year.)

How it works: People with and without Ring cameras can download the Neighbors app. It features a feed where users can post videos and photos from their cameras, file reports of activity they think is suspicious and read crime reports from the app’s “News Team.”

Poke around online and other bits and pieces of information will surface. If you are lucky, you may get to meet Teresa Carlson, a former Microsoftie who is now Amazon’s VP of the Worldwide Public Sector. (This means government work.)

Amazon Brands

Trust Amazon?

Nope. “There’s No Reason to Trust Amazon’s Choice.” The idea is that Amazon recommends its own products. Do consumers know which products are really Amazon’s? No. The write up states:

Amazon’s typical statement on the matter is this: “Amazon’s Choice is just our recommendation, and customers can always ask for specific brands or products if they choose.” But Amazon’s recommendation doesn’t mean much if the recommendation engine is getting fooled.

Typical? Nope, standard operating procedure.

Furthermore, the article “These Are All the Businesses You Never Knew Were Owned by Amazon” was a heroic effort by a shopaholic. Among the gems in the list were these five brands with names DarkCyber found suggestive:

  • 206 Collective (Was a variant of this in use in Stalinist stores?)
  • Coastal Blue (Similar to the code name for the first stealth aircraft, “Have Blue”)
  • Core 10 (a phrase similar to those in use in the nuclear industry)
  • The Fix (slang for a rigged event or a drug injection)
  • Mint Lilac (a code name similar to those used by SAS operatives).
Amazon Acquisitions

Business Insider (which may or may not beg for your email or demand cash to view the article) compiled from open sources of information a list of Amazon acquisitions. These lists are usually incomplete because the researchers typically exclude partial investments, stakes held by individuals who employed by Amazon, and clever deals in which services are exchanged for stock. The real excitement is often in these secondary holdings. In the case of this article, the coverage of the list is superficial. Contact your local Wall Street purveyor of investor research for a more thorough run down.

Amazon’s Impact on Truck Drivers

Business Insider ran this story: “Truckers Say Amazon’s New Logistics Empire Is Being Underpinned by Low, Ridiculous Rates — and Some Are Refusing to Work with Them.” Amazon’s investments in self driving are not included in the lists of Amazon’s acquisitions. But Amazon is focused on efficiency. Robots are efficient. Humans require benefits, retirement plans, and other “soft” and “squishy” things which add escalating and variable costs. Nope, not in Amazon’s future.

How to Put Amazon in Your Business?

Answer: Just use Amazon. Plus, CTO Vision ran a “real” news story called “Amazon on How Businesses Can Implement AI.” The write up is a pointer to an Amazon movie “How AWS Is Changing Businesses Using Artificial Intelligence.” The video runs about four minutes, too short for popcorn, long enough to get the message across, “Embrace Amazon.” Admission is free even if one does not have a Prime membership. More Amazon PR is included in “At Re:MARS, Amazon Sells Itself As an AI Innovator.” Unlike Facebook and Google, Amazon is taking note of America Online’s disc campaign and refined it. Instead of CD ROMs, Amazon is using digital reminders, flashy technology, and glitzy conferences to make clear that it is the Bezos way or one will be sitting on the side of the Amazon toll way.

Amazon Revenue

According to GeekWire, Amazon’s sale of products make up less than half of Amazon’s revenue. Where’s the other revenue come from? Amazon Web Services, advertising, and “other” revenue streams. Is this important? Facebook, Google, and Microsoft may care. Regulators? Tough to say.

We noted a question posed by the Motley Fool, a rock solid financial advisory service: Is Amazon spending too much cash on Lord of the Rings? You can read the MBAistic discussion at this link. The answer is that the streaming world is a competitive place. Deep pockets are needed for this game. Even Google is working to fix up its YouTube service. If Amazon doesn’t get with the seeing stone, Apple, Disney, Netflix, or another outfit with cash will. Netflix has lost “Friends” and that’s the new world of streaming video. Losing friends.

Amazon: Asking Permission

Amazon Asks to Join Broadband Space Race with Elon Musk’s SpaceX” signals a new spirit at Amazon. The write up reports:

Amazon.com asked for U.S. permission to launch 3,236 communications satellites, joining a new space race to offer internet service from low orbits and challenge the fleet planned by Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

Yes, asking permission.

Amazon’s satellite initiative is designed to help people get Internet access. Those without Internet access can use Amazon for shopping, videos, and computer services. But the permission angle is noteworthy.

Amazon Faces Challenges

There has been an uptick in “Amazon faces challenges” news. The Telegraph published “As Amazon Turns 25, What Are the Biggest Challenges Facing the World’s Most Powerful Company?” The Week, another UK publishing outfit, chimed in with “Amazon at 25: Where Next for the Online Giant?” These “analyses” recycle truisms. But after a decade of inattention, the rush to criticize is amusing.

More interesting were these items about Amazon’s new world:

Deliveroo Stalled

CNN reported:

UK regulators have ordered Amazon to pause its investment in UK food delivery startup Deliveroo while they consider whether the deal amounts to a takeover.

UK Investigates Amazon

The Associated Press, an outfit which frightens us, emitted a write up called “UK Investigation of Amazon Investment Shows Tougher Approach.” The AP story appeared in SFGate. We won’t quote from the story. What’s up is that government authorities are going to scrutinize Amazon. Amazon has been in business for more than 20 years. What’s the rush? Possible revenue from fines and taxes. These are potent forces in some nation states.

French Push Back
SFGate reported that Amazon faced some environmental pushback in Paris, France. We learned:

Protesters also disrupted Amazon sites in the southern city of Toulouse and northern city of Lille, hoping to inspire similar action in other countries.

C’est dommage.

Adding fuel to the environmental dumpster fire was a report that the online bookstore will not reveal how much carbon is pumped into the atmosphere by its Australian server operations. The Register said:

It’s one rule for Jeff Bezos’ online empire, and another for everyone else.

Security Issue

A new exploit has appeared. The code is Magecart and it attacks misconfigured AWS S3 instances. The method used is called “skimming.” The basic idea is to siphon off credit card data.

One unique feature of the S3 attacks is that the group is using a “spray and pray” technique as opposed to previous attacks that were highly targeted. In this case, the Magecart group is installing the skimmer code on any open S3 instances it can find in the hope that some of them may be linked to sites that have e-commerce functions.

Financial fraud is a new core competency of some bad actors and industrialized crime cartels. You can read more in Silicon Angle.

Selected Partner / Integrator News
  • The Chengdu Hi-tech Zone has teamed up with the Chinese non governmental organization to create a joint innovation zone. The idea is that Amazon and its partner will have an accelerator, incubator, international maker space and talent base. Source: Yahoo
  • Datadog has achieved AWS Microsoft workloads competency status. Source: Business Wire
  • Dobler Consulting has achieved Select Partner status as part of the Amazon Partner Network (APN). Source: Business Insider
  • Saviynt announced support for the newly launched Amazon EventBridge, from Amazon Web Services (AWS). (Amazon EventBridge is a serverless event bus service that connects applications using events.) Source: Digital Journal
  • Iron Mountain now supports AWS. The announcement included this remarkable phrase: ‘’Iron Mountain announced it has joined the AWS Partner Network (APN) as a Select Technology Partner, enabling customers to accelerate their digital transformation journey with AWS.” Source: Yahoo
  • The Spanish vendor Media Interactiva Media Interactiva offers system developers and engineers the chance to prepare for certification in Amazon Web Services (AWS). Source: Business Insider (may be paywall protected or free. It’s sort of hit and miss with this media and “real” news giant.)
  • SentryOne has also achieved Advanced Tier status in the Amazon Web Partner Services Network (APN) as well as Amazon Web Services (AWS) Microsoft Workloads Competency status. Source: Yahoo
  • SIOS Technology Corp. achieved Amazon Web Services (AWS) Microsoft Workloads Competency status within the AWS Partner Network (APN). Source: Yahoo
  • Trend Micro will deliver transparent, inline network security with Amazon Web Services Transit Gateway. Source: MarketWatch
  • Turbonomic has achieved Amazon Web Services (AWS) Microsoft Workloads Competency status as an inaugural global launch AWS Partner Network (APN) Partner. Source: Yahoo
  • Unissant has joined the AWS consulting partner network. Source: Globe News Wire
  • Oooh rah. The US Marines and Amazon have teamed up for AWS training. Source: Education Drive

Stephen E Arnold, July 15, 2019

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