Tag Archives: amazon

Amazon Prime Day approaches, warm up your wallet



Very few people don’t shop at Amazon at least occasionally. Some perhaps more than they should – or more than the significant other wishes. 

Good news, Amazon Pime Day is coming. You have a little time to make up your mind, the announcement just came out but the big moment takes place over two days – June 21-22. 

Amazon promises “will deliver Prime members over 2 million deals across every category, including fashion, home, beauty, electronics, and more, along with the best in entertainment benefits and never-before-seen exclusives across Prime Video, Amazon Music, Prime Gaming, and more. Prime Day kicks off on June 21 at midnight PDT (3 a.m. EDT) and runs through June 22 for Prime members in the U.S., the U.K., the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Spain, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Portugal, Netherlands, Mexico, Luxembourg, Japan, Italy, Germany, France, China, Brazil, Belgium, Austria, and Australia. Not a Prime member yet? Anyone can join Prime or start a 30-day free trial at amazon.com/primeday to participate in Prime Day.” 

It’s a good thing you have a couple of weeks to browse because there’s a lot to look at and don’t forget to keep an eye out for current deals since some are already out there. 


D.C. Attorney General Sues Amazon on Antitrust Grounds



Attorney General for the District of Columbia, Karl A. Racine, filed an antitrust lawsuit against Amazon.com seeking to end its anticompetitive practices that have raised prices for consumers and stifled innovation and choice across the entire online retail market.

Amazon has used its dominant position in the online retail market to win at all costs. It maximizes profits at the expense of third-party sellers and consumers, while harming competition, stifling innovation, and illegally tilting the playing field in its favor,” said AG Racine. “We filed this antitrust lawsuit to put an end to Amazon’s illegal control of prices in the retail marketplace that expands options available to District residents and promotes competition, innovation, and choice.

CNBC reported that that Attorney General Racine is seeking to end Amazon’s illegal use of price agreements to avoid competition. The lawsuit also asks for damages and penalties to deter similar conduct. The lawsuit asks the court to stop what it calls Amazon’s ability to harm competition through a variety of remedies as needed, which could include structural relief, often referred to as a form of breakup.

According to CNBC, shares of Amazon barely moved on the announcement, down 1% as of Tuesday afternoon.

In my opinion, Attorney General Racine is doing the right thing by filing this kind of lawsuit against Amazon. Unfortunately, given how much money Amazon has, it seems likely that it has much more financial resources than an Attorney General’s office would have. I suspect that Amazon will win the case because it can spend more on attorneys and will not be harmed by dragging out the lawsuit for as long as possible.


Amazon Extends Moratorium on Police Use of Facial Recognition Software



Amazon announced that it is extending until further notice a moratorium it imposed last year on police use of its facial recognition software, Reuters reported. Amazon halted the practice for one year starting in June 2020, during the hight of protests across the United States against police brutality toward people of color.

Reuters was the first to report that Amazon’s extension underscores how facial recognition remains a sensitive issue for big companies. According to Reuters, Amazon said last year it hoped Congress would put in place rules to ensure ethical use of the technology. No such law has materialized.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation responded to this news in a tweet: “After a year of organizing by civil liberties and racial justice orgs, Amazon will indefinitely extend its moratorium on selling face recognition tech to police. The admission of those harms must be accompanied by ending Amazon’s Ring-police partnerships.”

The Guardian provided some details about the Ring-police partnerships:

Ring video doorbells, Amazon’s signature home security product, pose a serious threat to a free and democratic society. Not only is Ring’s surveillance network spreading rapidly, it is extending the reach of law enforcement into private property and expanding the surveillance of everyday life. What’s more, once Ring users agree to release video content to law enforcement, there is no way to revoke access and few limitations on how the content can used, stored, and with whom it can be shared.

According to The Guardian, since Amazon bought Ring in 2018, it has brokered more than 1,800 partnerships with local law enforcement agencies, who can request recorded video content from Ring users without a warrant.

It is good that Amazon is indefinitely continuing its moratorium on police use of its facial recognition software, but this should be considered a good start. Until and unless Amazon uncouples Ring video content from access by law enforcement agencies, innocent people can still be surveilled by local police.


Amazon Luna Early Access has Begun



Amazon announced that Amazon Luna early access begins today. Amazon Luna is Amazon’s new cloud gaming service that lets customers play great games on the devices they already own. The company has received “hundreds and thousands of requests for early access”, and they will begin granting invitations to a small set of customers in the U.S. to help shape the future of gaming on Luna.

We are just getting started and need streamers and players of all kinds – core, casual, and first-time gamers – to provide feedback. We want to hear what customers like, what they don’t like, and what they want to see us build. If we’re doing something great, tell us. If we’re missing the bar, we want to know that too. We can’t wait to hear what you think.

It sounds like Amazon is very interested in getting feedback from players who take part in the early access. There is no doubt in my mind that Amazon would love to hear what players liked about Luna. I’m hoping that they will at least take the time to consider the negative feedback as well. Not all gaming companies are willing to do that.

Early access gamers will have access to:

  • Amazon Luna – Where gamers go to play across Fire TV, PC, Mac, and on web apps for iPhone and iPad, with Android coming soon
  • The Luna+ Game Channel – For $5.99/month, during early access, customers can play 50 games to start, with more added over time.
  • The Ubisoft Channel, coming soon – Includes new and favorite titles, including Assassin’s Creed Vallhalla, with a growing catalog throughout early access. Amazon says to stay tuned for more news.
  • The Luna Controller – Early access participants can play using any Bluetooth gaming controller that works with their devices. Participants may also purchase the Luna Controller for $49.99, and take advantage of Cloud Direct technology for lower latency gaming and use Alexa for easy voice control.

To me, it sounds like early access participants need to pay $5.99/month to test out Amazon Luna. They can use any Bluetooth controller, but it sounds like Amazon is encouraging participants to buy the Luna Controller for $49.99. Not all video game players want to spend money on what amounts to beta testing. Streamers might request early access if they think it would improve the content on their stream, though.


DoD Reaffirmed JEDI Cloud Contract to Microsoft, Amazon Complains



The ongoing drama between Amazon and the Department of Defense about the JEDI contract continues, after a pause in August. Today, the Department of Defense announced that it has re-evaluated its decision to award the JEDI Cloud to Microsoft, and reaffirmed that decision.

The Department has completed its comprehensive re-evaluation of the JEDI Cloud proposals and determined that Microsoft’s proposal continues to represent the best value to the Government. The JEDI Cloud contract is a firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract that will make a full range of cloud computing services available to the DoD. While contract performance will not begin immediately due to the Preliminary Injunction Order issued by the Court of Federal Claims on February 13, 2020, DoD is eager to begin delivering this capability to our men and women in uniform.

Amazon does not appear to have accepted that outcome. The company posted a response explaining why they will continue to protest what they have described as a “politically corrupted contract award”.

Amazon feels that the review by the Department of Defense “was nothing more than a ‘do-over’ for Microsoft to fix its non-compliant proposal.” Amazon also complains that the Department of Defense cited price as a major factor in the previous decision, and Amazon feels that it offered a lower price than Microsoft did.

Personally, I doubt that Amazon’s decision to continue fighting against the Department of Defense’s choice to go with Microsoft is going to change anything. I find it incomprehensible that Amazon wants to sink more time and effort into something that is unlikely to go their way. But, this is the “hill they want to die on”, and Amazon clearly intends to keep pushing.


Amazon Tells Workers to Delete TikTok in Email Sent in Error



Amazon apparently sent its workers an email asking them to remove TikTok from their mobile devices. This was first reported by The New York Times, and several news sites have since posted about it as well. Later, Amazon changed its mind and said that the request had been sent in error.

Taylor Lorenz, a reporter for The New York Times Fashion and Style section, posted a tweet with a screenshot of the email that Amazon sent to its employees. The email was titled: “Action required: Mandatory removal of TikTok by 10-Jul”.

Hello,
Due to security risks, the TikTok app is no longer permitted on mobile devices that access Amazon email. If you have TikTok on your device, you must remove it by 10-Jul to retain mobile access to your Amazon email. At this time, using TikTok from your Amazon laptop browser is allowed.

According to The Verge, the email was obtained and independently published by multiple reporters on Twitter. Later, an Amazon spokesperson told The Verge: “This morning’s email to some of our employees was sent in error. There is no change to our policies right now with regard to TikTok.”

To me, this seems a little bit strange. Why would a company as big as Amazon write a very specifically worded email telling its employees that TikTok was no longer permitted on mobile devices that access Amazon email… only to walk that back after the email was posted on Twitter? Did someone at Amazon accidentally send that email earlier than planned? Or was Amazon unhappy that the email became public knowledge?

What we do know is that the U.S. Navy banned TikTok from government-issued mobile devices because the app represented a “cybersecurity threat”. U.S. Army cadets were also asked not to use TikTok. Some members of Congress expressed that they think TikTok poses “national security risks”.

Amazon appears to have had enough of a security concern with TikTok to tell its employees to delete it. Later that same day, Amazon seems to have changed its mind about that. One cannot help but wonder what happened behind the scenes.


Amazon Has An Oversupply Problem



During lockdown, I’ve been doing my very best to support local businesses and shop locally. However, sometimes the thing you want is simply too specialist to be carried by any emporium within a reasonable distance so inevitably I’ve fired up the browser and hopped on over to see what’s available at world’s largest online retailer, Amazon.

And it hasn’t always been a great experience. Too much of the market seems to be given over to sellers with company names full of consonants selling identikit products at similar prices. And there’s no way that the reviews are authentic: some of the products have hundreds of reviews but I very much doubt that they’ve sold that many items.

Take these ring LEDs…there are fifty three pages of sponsored products alone – that’s 367 items. Yes, there are variations based on ring size, accessories and so on but it’s obvious that many of the products are the same unit.

Some product categories are worse than others, but I’m quite sure everyone has seen this problem, whether with electronics, cookware or home furnishings. You can understand why companies are so keen on getting good reviews to bump their rankings to the first few pages.

In contrast, traditional bricks’n’mortar stores have a much more limited product range selected by the owners or a buying team who decide the best fit for the people coming into the shop. In this example, you could imagine a selection based on ring size but you’re probably choosing from three or four products at most. Not 367.

Brands are very relevant in these crowded markets too. I can’t be bothered to root through every single example and often rely on a brand name to help make the selection. Over the years, I’ve gathered my own selection of favourite go-to brands for preferred products and I’ll choose those over no-name clones every time.

Amazon does label goods as “Amazon’s Choice” as if this is the best product, whatever best might might be. My understanding is that these are only curated by algorithm and there’s no one behind the scenes checking, reviewing or testing.

There are consumer organisations like the UK’s Which? which provides advice and guidance on products in different categories. It’s a subscription service at just under GB£10 per month but perhaps worth considering if you are buying big ticket items. As an independent organisation it’s trusted and respected.

A tempting solution would be for Amazon to provide a similar service to Which? for its Prime members where real people test a range of products in a category and recommend the best. But would anyone trust Amazon’s recommendations? I’m not sure I would given some of the recent revelations about Amazon Basics.

There’s no doubt that Amazon has profited during the pandemic, but I’m seriously beginning to wonder if Amazon is allowing too many vendors with too many similar products. I know that I’m increasingly looking to other stores and branded products rather than going straight to Amazon. This week I’ve one delivery from Amazon but two from other online stores.

What about you?