Amazonia for August 19, 2019

August 19, 2019

Editorial note: Amazonia will not appear in September and October 2019. Due to international travel and conference commitments, it will be able to post this summary each week. If significant Amazon news surfaces and we have access to our publishing system, we will put the item in the daily DarkCyber posts. (The posts between September 10 and September 21, 2019, will be published automatically. Internet access in some of the areas from which the team will be operating may not be available.)

News about Amazon continues to trend toward the happy face side of the spectrum. The flood of “new” and “improved” announcements from the Bezos bulldozer have slowed. With record heat indices, perhaps the giant orange behemoth has overheated and cooling off in a large Amazon warehouse filled with happy, happy Tweeters?

Management, Employees, Immigration, and Religion: A Volatile Mix

DarkCyber noted “Jews Protesting Amazon’s Business with ICE Arrested.” This passage captured the basics of the report:

40 Jews were arrested in New York Protesting Amazon. A protest of Amazon’s work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) saw forty Jews arrested in New York City. Close to 700 people were pulled out in the previous week in the agency’s largest-ever raid. The activists rallied together to bring attention to Amazon’s cloud contracts with Palantir Technologies and ICE. Palantir Technologies gives ICE data which they make use of in enforcement actions as well as immigration raids.

The write up included this allegedly accurate factoid:

The protesters weren’t alone. They were joined by 50 other demonstrations which happened across the United States to highlight Tisha b’Av. Tisha b’Av is a Jewish day of mourning and was observed by Jews in the United States to oppose the immigration policy of the United States. The protests took place in many cities such as Washington D.C., Chicago, and Los Angeles.

If true, Amazon faces another staff management challenge. The mixture of religion and law enforcement is complex. DarkCyber will monitor the push back Amazon may be experiencing.

Happy Tweeters

The source of this “real news” is Bellingcat, an online “real news” outfit. We noted this story: “Amazon’s Online Bezos Brigade Unleashed on Twitter.” The thrust of the story is interesting because it reminded DarkCyber of methods employed by those who seek to manipulate the “augmenting” functions of certain social media channels.

The write up asserted:

Last year, Amazon rolled out a program where employees at these fulfillment centers (warehouses) are able to also work as brand ambassadors to describe their experiences working at Amazon. A number of media outlets reported on this new program last year after the first wave of Ambassadors sent out bizarre tweets promoting Amazon’s workplace conditions.

The acronym FC refers to an Amazon fulfillment center or warehouses. There have been allegations about the work environment in these facilities.

DarkCyber finds the report intriguing. If Amazon is manipulating some content streams, would other tech giants use similar tactics? What if search results on Bing, Google, or Yandex were shaped? What if Facebook were tweaking what content appears, where it appears, and when it appears?

DarkCyber has no answer to these questions. But the Amazon operation runs on efficiency and disintermediation, not raw innovation and invention. Therefore, it is possible that the fat bull’s eye of social media content streams may have caught an Amazon whiz kid’s attention.

There’s another approach to the topic in “There’s Something Fishy about Amazon’s FC Ambassadors.”

Amazon Capital One: No Problems

Cyberscoop reported that Amazon found no significant issues at other companies allegedly breached by Paige Thompson. The write up reports that Amazon said:

“As Capital One outlined in their public announcement, the attack occurred due to a misconfiguration error at the application layer of a firewall installed by Capital One, exacerbated by permissions set by Capital One that were likely broader than intended,” Stephen Schmidt, the chief information security officer for AWS, said in an Aug. 13 response to Wyden.

Paige Thompson once worked at Amazon. Amazon will be more proactive going forward. Amazon will “do more to ensure its anomaly detection services “more broadly adopted and accessible in every geographic region.” Otherwise, no problems.

Amazon Uses Old School Leveraging Methods: Vendors’ Choice

Amazon’s alleged vendor management tactics were the subject of “Amazon Offered Vendors ‘Amazon’s Choice’ Labels in Return for Ad Spending and Lower Prices.” The main point of the write up seems to be:

Amazon’s Choice label, which is a mark that denotes that an item is recommended, gives certain products and items higher and more obvious placement in search results. While it’s unclear how exactly the mark is earned, it’s been accepted that it’s generally a mix of product listing and specifications, price and reviews, operated by Amazon’s algorithms. But sources say that Amazon actually offered sellers the chance to bid on the mark back in 2017.

DarkCyber interprets this statement as the long way around a very small barn. The idea may be to use leverage to herd some products shepherds to a Bezos controlled happy valley. There are other terms which might be used to describe this approach. We prefer “leverage” to “strong arm” or “coercion.” If you are curious, the novel “Sophie’s Choice” is available for the Kindle for about $9, or you could buy it in hardcover for a low as $1.50. Look for the small blue price. Your choice.

Amazon: Price Controls for Some Sellers?

Modern Retail published “A Slippery Slope: Amazon Wants to Control Third Party Sellers Product Pricing.” The idea is that sellers in its third party marketplace submits a product to Amazon. Amazon’s smart software prices the product. The article states:

According to Amazon, SBA doesn’t cost anything additional to FBA, which charges sellers a fee to store and ship items from Amazon’s warehouses with Prime Shipping. With SBA, Amazon also exerts control over the product’s sale price, by dynamically pricing products to make sure Amazon’s prices are lowest.

Modern Retail notes:

But sellers should be wary when forfeiting control over any aspect of their business — and particularly pricing — to Amazon.

Slippery slope for whom? Amazon or its partners in the third party special category? The article sidesteps many questions. Hopefully investigators will be more persistent if Amazon’s use of its market position in an improper way becomes a matter of interest.

Amazon and Modern Marketing: Cheap Gasoline

Cops Put a Stop to Amazon’s 30 Cent “Mrs. Maisel Gas Promo” reports that the lure of cheap fuel was indeed a marketing magnet. To promote an Amazon film, Amazon hit upon the idea of using an idea from the 1950s. DarkCyber learned:

Santa Monica police made Amazon suspend a one-day Marvelous Mrs. Maisel promotion that charged people 30 cents for gas at a station to reflect prices in 1959 (when the show is set) due to sheer demand. Apparently, the traffic snarls from lined up cars were so severe that law enforcement had no choice but to shut it down.

Any publicity is good publicity, particularly in the Los Angeles area.

The Lure of India

Amazon Nears Deal for Up to 10% of India’s Second-Largest Retailer” explains that India is important to the Bezos bulldozer. The write up asserts:

Amazon.com Inc. is in late-stage talks to acquire as much as 10% of India’s Future Retail Ltd., people familiar with the negotiations said, as the U.S. company moves to bolster its brick-and-mortar presence in one of the world’s fastest-growing retail markets.

This is not a surprise. Amazon will follow the data to nation states where its approach to efficiency is likely to be welcomed. That’s the assumption.

Amazon Does Do Emotion. Not Its. Yours.

Amazon’s policeware capabilities continue to mature. The facial recognition subsystem has added emotion recognition to its capabilities. “AWS Adds Fear to Facial Recognition Repertoire, Draws Immediate Fire.” DarkCyber does not want to speculate about the use case for fear recognition. The write up is fearless and reports:

The public cloud behemoth has also improved accuracy for emotion detection of the other seven emotions it recognizes. These are “happy”, “sad”, “angry”, “surprised”, “disgusted”, “calm”, and “confused. It has also improved age range estimation accuracy.

DarkCyber anticipates more public announcements about the features and functionality of the SageMaker linked facial recognition subsystem; for example, how could age recognition integrate with surveillance of bars and dance clubs?

Amazon Donates Returns

Amazon Will Now Donate Unsold Merchandize by Default Instead of Trashing It” explains that “will donate unwanted products from third-party Marketplace sellers instead of sending them to the garbage dump.” The new program is Fulfilled by Amazon Donations. The write up included this statement:

The goal is to reduce waste and to allow sellers a more environmental friendly and cheaper way to get rid of unsold inventory. Prior to the new program, Amazon charged 35 cents less, or just 15 cents per unit, to dispose of a product rather than donate it.

The article did not comment on the tax upside or downside of the donation program. DarkCyber thinks this may be of interest to some Amazon observers.

Amazon and Publishing: Is a Takeover Underway?

The Amazon Publishing Juggernaut” explains that Amazon may take over traditional publishing. The idea is not a new one. Here’s a summary of where Amazon is in the once chummy world of publishing:

As Amazon Studios does with movies, Amazon Publishing feeds the content pipelines created by the tech giant’s online storefront and Amazon Prime membership program. At its most extreme, Amazon Publishing is a triumph of vertical engineering: If a reader buys one of its titles on a Kindle, Amazon receives a cut both as publisher and as bookseller—not to mention whatever markup it made on the device in the first place, as well as the amortized value of having created more content to draw people into its various book-subscription offerings. (One literary agent summed it up succinctly to The Wall Street Journal in January: “They aren’t gaming the system. They own the system.”)

The idea that Amazon would take over “publishing” is interesting, but once the hot properties are skimmed, what’s left in what has been for many firms a low margin business reduced to begging for dollars, pay walls, and ads which obscure the “real news”?

Amazon Police Interaction: Ring, Ring

Ring Rewarded Users for Reporting Suspicious Activities” provides more allegedly accurate information about Amazon’s burgeoning policeware business. The article states that Amazon

encouraged users to form Watch teams and to post videos on social media to receive promo codes for future devices. It also promised free swag to anyone who recruits 10 new users and to those who blog about Ring “in a positive way,” as well as 50 percent discounts on Ring products to those who can solve a crime with the help of local cops.

More information may be available at this link. Note: Content may be removed and/or a paywall may be in place. DarkCyber does not update links to keep pace with the fluid, uncertain world of free content from “real news” source.

Amazon and Blockchain

DarkCyber noted FXStreet’s article “Amazon Web Services (AWS) CloudFormation Will Be Integrated with the Firm’s Managed Blockchain.” Amazon has indicated that some of its services can perform deanonymization. The article does not address that interesting facet of Amazon’s blockchain activities. Instead the write up focuses on the fact that:

AWS, the firm’s cloud computing division, is going to be supporting Amazon’s blockchain in the management and structuring of all its interconnected networks and member nodes.

Important? Yep.

AWS Fargate Close Analysis

Curious about AWS Fargate? If so, you will want to read “How Far Out Is Fargate?

The key phrase in the write up is “clusterless container orchestration,” which strikes DarkCyber as a useful way to think of this feature/service/function.

Amazon describes Fargate this way:

AWS Fargate is a compute engine for Amazon ECS that allows you to run containers without having to manage servers or clusters. With AWS Fargate, you no longer have to provision, configure, and scale clusters of virtual machines to run containers. This removes the need to choose server types, decide when to scale your clusters, or optimize cluster packing. AWS Fargate removes the need for you to interact with or think about servers or clusters. Fargate lets you focus on designing and building your applications instead of managing the infrastructure that runs them.

The article contains a brief comparison of Fargate and Kubernetes and Fargate and Lambda. Good write up.

A related story is “Basecamp’s Cofounder Explains Why It Ditched Google Cloud for Amazon this summer. Note: you will have to pay to read this rah rah article about Amazon. In a nutshell, risk. Amazon is not cheaper and it is not without its own risks. But Basecamp is willing to deal with more complexity. Logical? The argument did not stop one DarkCyber researcher from asking, “Did Amazon cut this outfit a sweetheart deal to get a PR type article published?” We don’t know, but it seems plausible.

Partners/Integrators/Consultants

Amazon’s third party business relationships continue to bloom despite the blistering heat in the Lower 48. Here’s a selection of outfits involved with Amazon. Many of these sport extremely creative names:

AutoGrid. The company offers flexibility management software for the energy industry. The company now collaborates with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to bring artificial intelligence-powered distributed energy management to its energy-industry customers. Source: Yahoo

Center for Internet Security. Amazon has a security partner. Apparently Amazon is eager to do more security in the wake of some interesting developments. This particular service is call ATO on AWS. Does anyone remember the Capital One breach? Well, there may be 29 others after the handiwork of a former AWS professional. Source: MarketWatch

CloudHesive. CloudHesive has achieved Premier Consulting Partner status in the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Partner Network (APN). Source: Yahoo

Elastic. Remember the idea that Amazon would bulldoze Elasticsearch. Now Elastic is offering Elasticsearch on AWS in London. Source: Yahoo

Globe and Mail. The publishing company has adopted Amazon’s SageMaker and related service to promote its content. Source: SiliconAngle

Kickdynamic. This company will use TigerGraph on Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud to deliver hyper personalized marketing. Does this meaning user tracking? Maybe, and it means that TigerGraph is an Amazon customer. Source: MarketWatch

Rapid7. The company has increased its involvement with Amazon AWS. The company’s growth has come from products, many of which run on AWS. The firm’s consulting revenues declined. Source: Seeking Alpha

Stephen E Arnold, August 19, 2019

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