Are you finding it difficult to buy household items from Amazon? You aren’t the only one! It turns out that Amazon itself is having trouble stocking products that became extremely popular after COVID-19 started spreading. Not even Amazon is immune to the problems that occur when people start hoarding toilet paper.
Amazon posted an explanation about the situation it is facing:
…As COVID-19 has spread, we’ve recently seen an increase in people shopping online. In the short term, this is having an impact on how we serve our customers. In particular, you will notice that we are currently out of stock on some popular brands and items, especially in household staples categories. You will also notice that our delivery promises are longer than usual. We are working around the clock with our selling partners to ensure availability on all of our products, and bring on additional capacity to deliver all of your orders.
CNBC reported Amazon has added a notice to the top of its marketplace that reads: “Inventory and delivery may be temporarily unavailable due to increased demand. Confirm availability at checkout”. This issue is affecting Prime users, as well as those who don’t have Amazon Prime. It is an equal opportunity shortage.
This problem is happening because people are hoarding things like toilet paper and cleaning products. Some people have been selfishly buying all the hand sanitizer out of stores and selling it on Amazon for an inflated price. In response, Amazon has removed those items and blocked the sellers who are trying to profit from a pandemic.
It is a smart decision to do everything possible to limit the spread of coronavirus. Big tech companies are using the strategy of asking their employees to work from home. This may be a temporary decision, but I think the move could help normalize working from home.
The Verge reported that numerous tech companies have asked their Seattle-based employees to work from home to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. This includes Amazon, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, and Bungie.
Microsoft is allowing and encouraging its employees based in Seattle or San Francisco to work from home. These employees can work from home through March 25, 2020.
CNBC reported that Amazon is asking employees at its Seattle and Bellevue, Washington, offices to work from home (if they are able to) until the end of the month. This decision was made after an employee tested positive for coronavirus. Amazon has also restricted all nonessential U.S. travel in response to coronavirus.
CNBC also reported that Facebook encouraged all of its 5,000 employees in Seattle to work from home for the rest of the month. Facebook has closed its Seattle office until Monday.
Twitter announced that it is strongly encouraging all employees globally to work from home if they’re able. Working from home will be mandatory for employees based in Twitter’s Hong Kong, Japan, and South Korea offices (due in part to government restrictions). Interestingly, Twitter had already begun moving towards a more distributed workforce that’s increasingly remote.
Bungie stated that it has built a fully remote infrastructure for all Bungie employees across the globe, with the goal of prioritizing the safety of their employees.
My hope is that these moves will help to normalize working from home. Employees would no longer have spend time commuting, and could spend those hours with their families. They could reduce the amount they spend of gas each week. Workers could do their job without the risk of catching the next “office cold” or the flu.
JEDI saga continues! A federal judge has ordered a temporary block on the JEDI cloud contract, which Microsoft was selected for (over Amazon) by the Department of Justice. The judge’s action was in response to a suit filed by Amazon.
The Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI, cloud computing contract is intended to modernize the Pentagon’s IT operations. It could be worth as much as $10 billion over a decade. Personally, I don’t think Microsoft or Amazon would be in a dire situation as a result of not getting the JEDI contract. But, here we are.
CNBC reported that in January of 2020, Amazon’s cloud computing arm, AWS, filed a formal motion asking the court to pause Microsoft’s work on the JEDI cloud contract. The court granted that motion today.
Earlier this week, Amazon said that it wants to question President Trump, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, and former Defense Secretary James Mattis over the JEDI contract. Amazon has stated that the evaluation process included “clear deficiencies, errors, and unmistakable bias.”
Personally, I feel like this is a spat between two incredibly rich corporations over a contract that they both want – but neither of them actually need in order to stay in business. I’m finding it hard to care about the outcome of this case.
The saga of the JEDI contract continues! In October of 2019, The Department of Defense chose Microsoft over Amazon for its “Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure” project. The contract could be worth as much as $10 billion over a decade.
In November of 2019, The Washington Post (which is owned by Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon), posted an article stating that Amazon would challenge the Pentagon’s decision on the JEDI project. Today, CNBC reported that Amazon Web Services, Amazon’s cloud computing arm, wants to depose President Donald Trump, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, and former Defense Secretary James Mattis over the JEDI contract that was awarded to Microsoft.
A spokesperson for Amazon Web Services told CNBC the following:
“President Trump has repeatedly demonstrated his willingness to use his position as President and Commander in Chief to interfere with government functions – including federal procurements – to advance his personal agenda. The preservation of public confidence in the nation’s procurement process requires discovery and supplementation of the administrative record, particularly in light of President Trump’s order to ‘screw Amazon.’ The question is whether the President of the United States should be allowed to use the budget of the DoD to pursue his own personal and political ends.”
Personally, I don’t think this statement, or the (now unsealed) court documents filed by Amazon, are going to make any difference. The Trump administration has a history of not releasing information that it doesn’t want to. I have no idea why Amazon believes that Trump said ‘screw Amazon’, but honestly, this President has said other crass things, so it wouldn’t surprise me if President Trump actually did say that. I also do not understand why one of the richest companies in the world is so worried about the JEDI contract. It is unimaginable that Amazon needs the money.
The Department of Defense selected Microsoft over Amazon on a contract for their Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) project. In short, the Department of Defense selected Microsoft’s Azure Cloud over Amazon’s AWS business. As you may have expected, Amazon is displeased by this decision.
The Washington Post (which is owned by Jeff Bezos, who is also the founder of Amazon), posted an article stating that Amazon will challenge the Pentagon’s decision on the JEDI project. From the article:
“AWS is uniquely experienced and qualified to provide the critical technology the U.S. military needs, and remains committed to supporting the DoD’s modernization efforts,” Amazon spokesman Drew Herdener said in an emailed statement. “We also believe it is critical for our country that the government and its elected leaders administer procurements objectively and in a manner that is free from political influence. Numerous aspects of the JEDI evaluation process contained clear deficiencies, errors, and unmistakable bias – and it’s important that these matters be examined and rectified.”
Reuters reported that Amazon filed the notice that it will formerly protest the decision on JEDI. Reuters also reported that President Donald Trump has long criticized Amazon and its founder Jeff Bezos. CNBC reported that the decision about which company would get the JEDI contract was postponed until Secretary of Defense Mark Esper completed a series of thorough reviews of the technology.
Personally, I think this situation could potentially turn into a long series of court cases. In the meantime, it seems to me that the Department of Defense is not going to wait for the outcome, and will continue working with Microsoft.
Amazon is now allowing people who use Alexa to opt-out of human review of their voice recordings, Bloomberg has reported. This comes after a researcher revealed that some of Google’s Assistant recordings had been listened to by human contractors, and people started to become concerned about what other voice activated assistants do with recorded speech.
A new policy took effect Friday that allows customers, through an option in the settings menu of the Alexa smartphone app, to remove their recordings from a pool that could be analyzed by Amazon employees and contract workers, a spokesman for the Seattle company said. It follows similar moves by Apple, Inc., and Google.
According to Bloomberg, Amazon’s decision to let Alexa users opt-out of human review of their recordings follows criticism that the program violated customers’ privacy. Amazon says the Alexa app will now include a disclaimer in the settings menu that acknowledges that people might review recordings through Alexa. Bloomberg explains how to disable that and opt-out of human review.
The Guardian reported that Apple has suspended its practice of having human contractors listen to users’ Siri recordings to “grade” them. That decision came after a Guardian report that revealed that Apple’s contractors “regularly” hear confidential and private information while carrying out the grading process. The bulk of the confidential information was recorded through accidental triggers of the Siri assistant.
Google posted on The Keyword that it has provided tools for users to manage and control the data in their Google account. You can turn off storing audio data to your Google account completely, or choose to auto-delete data after every 3 months or 18 months.
The United States Department of Justice announced that the Department’s Antitrust Division is reviewing whether and how market-leading platforms have achieved market power and are engaging in practices that have reduced competition, stifled innovation, or otherwise harmed consumers.
The Department’s review will consider the widespread concerns that consumers, businesses, and entrepreneurs have expressed about search, social media, and some retail services online. The Department’s Antitrust Division is conferring with and seeking information from the public, including industry participants who have direct insight into competition in online platforms, as well as others.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the inquiry by the Justice Department add “a new Washington threat for companies such as Facebook Inc., Google, Amazon.com Inc., and Apple Inc.”
CNBC reported: “The move is the strongest by Attorney General William Barr towards Big Tech, which faces increased scrutiny from both political parties because of the expanded market power the companies have and the tremendous amount of consumer data they control”.
CNBC also reported that shares of Facebook, Alphabet, and Amazon all fell more than 1% immediately after the announcement and that Apple’s stock also dropped.
This follows the European Commission’s antitrust investigation to assess whether Amazon’s use of sensitive data from independent retailers who sell on Amazon’s marketplace is in breach of EU competition rules.
There have been several investigations, by other countries, regarding questionable practices made by the big technology companies.
It seems to me that the more investigations that happen, the less likely it is that all of these big tech companies will come away from this without facing penalties, fines, or requirements that they make changes.