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Amazon's cloud outage saw Alexa's, Roomba robot vacuum cleaners and Ring doorbells go down - leaving some users trapped outside their own 'smart' homes

by German Hawken (2022-07-28)


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Amazon's China office responded to CAC that "it is difficult for Amazon China to accommodate such requests, and we'll relay the message to" Amazon headquarters "and seek their views about possibilities," the briefing document stated.





A customer can opt out of having their Alexa recordings examined, but they must navigate a series of menus and two warnings that say: "If you turn this off, voice recognition and new features may not work well for you." Asked about the warnings, Amazon said consumers who limit data collection may not be able to personalize some features, such as music playback.

The result was that Amazon took an unusual step for the company: It handed off its cloud technology to local companies so it could keep operating in China. and working with PRC (the People's Republic of China) authorities on all compliance-related inquiries that may arise," the 2018 document stated. The Chinese companies - not Amazon - were responsible for "monitoring and taking down illegal content, collecting and reporting basic information of customers ...

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Phillips, 57, a freelance reporter, was doing research for a Book Review on the trip with Brazilian indigenous expert Bruno Pereira, a former head of isolated and recently contacted tribes at federal indigenous affairs agency Funai.

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Amazon collects data on consumers through its Alexa voice assistant, its e-commerce marketplace, Kindle e-readers, Audible audiobooks, its video and music platforms, home-security cameras and fitness trackers.

Amazon stopped disclosing how often it complies with such requests last year. Asked why, Amazon said it expanded the scope of the U.S. report to make it global, and "streamlined" the information from each country on law enforcement inquiries.

In response to questions, Amazon said it "complies with all applicable laws and regulations, wherever we operate, and China is no exception." It added that "as a bookseller, we believe that providing access to the written word and diverse perspectives is important. That includes books that some may find objectionable."

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Alexa users, for instance, can stop Amazon from saving their recordings or have them automatically deleted periodically. And they can disconnect their contacts or calendars from their smart-speaker devices if they don´t want to use Alexa´s calling or scheduling functions.

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Among them: "Ideological control and propaganda is the core of the toolkit for the communist party to achieve and maintain its success," the document notes. "We are not making judgement on whether it is right or wrong."

In a statement, Amazon said it has scientists and engineers working to improve the technology and avoid false triggers that prompt recording. The company said it alerts customers that recordings are stored when they set up Alexa accounts.

Such information can reveal a person´s height, weight and health; their ethnicity (via clues contained in voice data) and political leanings; their reading and buying habits; their whereabouts on any given day, and sometimes whom they have met.

Among them are two Chinese companies, Tiktok developer ByteDance and video-surveillance firm Hikvision, as well as multinationals Nike, Samsung and Philips, according to the 2018 briefing document and a 2019 blog on AWS's website.

The 2018 briefing document advised Carney to raise the government's request on Guo when meeting a top Ministry of Commerce official in Beijing, and stress that China shouldn't make requests that involve data stored abroad.

"It was a wink and a nod." Amazon's public-policy team came up with the China Books project as a novel way "to get what we wanted on Kindle and other things," the person said. According to a former Amazon executive involved in talks with China, the company secured some, but not all, of the government approvals it needed to sell Kindle devices and e-books.
That situation gave the government leverage over the retailer, the former executive said.