Delivery driver

Amazon in-van delivery driver footage makes its way online

Footage from technology used to monitor Amazon delivery drivers is leaking onto the internet. AI-enabled equipment which keeps an eye on the drivers’ speed, location, and other activities is part of the growing trend of workplace surveillance. In theory where drivers are concerned it could flag a lack of seat belt, or running red lights.

In practice the drivers aren’t too keen and insist that the companies using this tech can trust them without having a camera in their face all day long. There are other privacy issues to consider too.

When you receive a delivery nowadays, it’s not unusual for drivers to take a photo at the doorstep. You may or may not be present when these images are taken, but you’ll often see them on the web-based “parcel delivered” status page. If you’re lucky, your pyjamas are safely out of shot.

You may have wondered about the privacy issues related to these photographs. On the one hand, they’re attached to a URL online somewhere and they sometimes have your house number in shot. On the other hand, there’s a good chance nobody cares, those parcel delivered links tend to be temporary, and you’re not posing and waving alongside your delivery.

Why does this matter? Well, filmed footage takes in a lot more than a static, split-second shot of your doorstep. If a camera is rolling when a delivery person reaches your home, you could end up in the video footage or even just via the recorded audio should it exist. Ever had a casual chat with your driver? It could be in one of these recordings somewhere.

The cameras used are able to record both road and driver, with Vice reporting that drivers must consent to their biometric data being collected so their actions can be recorded “properly”. Despite this, there are examples of the cameras incorrectly penalising drivers.

Meanwhile the current clips are leaking to sites like Reddit, and nobody is sure who is doing it for the most part. Drivers claim they don’t have access to the footage: only Amazon, the technology maker, and the delivery service partner (DSP) which is the firm making the actual delivery.

On the Subreddit in question, drivers confirm that there is no live feed, but “dispatchers” on the other end can check-in, and drivers can request a pull up of specific footage as seems to be the case in this example. Whether the footage should be requested and dropped online is a different question. With drivers already worried about potential privacy issues of clips making their way to the internet, it’s probably not helpful if some drivers are contributing to the steady flow.

This isn’t the first time footage has appeared online, even if it seems to be more common now. Back in February of this year, one driver shared details of the AI system tracking her moments to a TikTok video which went viral. In that instance, she described the van’s four cameras (one forward facing, two on the side, and one facing her) and how they work together to “ding” her with a violation should she do something against the rules. Even there, she references a driver receiving a “distracted driver violation” for itching his beard which the system considered to be him using a phone while driving. Drivers can contest these supposed violations, but it all gives the impression of a system somewhat at war with itself.

Amazon’s stance on this technology is clear: It’s a valuable and necessary tool to ensure drivers are doing the right thing and not causing problems for other drivers. From Amazon’s comments to Business Insider:

“The safety technology in delivery vans help keep drivers and the communities where we deliver safe, and claims that these cameras are intended for anything else are incorrect. Since we started using them, we’ve seen a 35% reduction in collision rates across the network along with a reduction in distracted driving, speeding, tailgating, sign and signal violations, and drivers not wearing their seatbelts.”

As for people receiving the packages, this is more of a problem for drivers than the recipients for the most part. However, it would be a shame if this ends up encouraging a lack of interaction with the folks bringing you your packages on a daily basis. 

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Christopher Boyd

Former Director of Research at FaceTime Security Labs. He has a very particular set of skills. Skills that make him a nightmare for threats like you.