Senators question the privacy of cameras in Amazon delivery vans

Amazon van driving down the highway

Every day, a fleet of Amazon delivery vans cruise through our neighborhoods, dropping off packages on doorsteps. Amazon is equipping an increasing number of those vans with surveillance cameras that monitor the driver for their entire shift.

Now, five US senators, citing privacy concerns, called on Amazon to provide more information about these cameras.

Democratic Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Ed Markey of Massachusetts, and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. In a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, the senators said Amazon “appears to be implementing a worker surveillance infrastructure that infringes on your workers.”

The senators wrote they’re “concerned that adding further surveillance tools and monitoring could increase dangers on America’s roads, place unsafe pressure on drivers, and infringe on individuals’ privacy rights.”

The cameras’ artificial intelligence (AI) software can flag safety violations, such as speeding or failure to stop at a stop sign. The cameras also shoot footage from four views: the driver, the road ahead, and each side of the van. The senators expressed privacy concerns about that too.

“As drivers and people go about their daily lives, these cameras will likely capture an enormous amount of video footage without their knowledge or permission,” they wrote. “Turning Amazon’s increasingly prevalent delivery vehicles into roaming video recording devices could dramatically decrease Americans’ ability to work, move, and assemble in public without being surveilled.”

In previous media coverage about the surveillance cameras, Amazon stressed the cameras are a safety precaution.

Amazon spokesperson Deborah Bass told CNN that drivers don’t get fired for a single mistake, and footage is sent to Amazon only in certain circumstances, such as hard braking, hard acceleration, and U-turns.

“Safety is Amazon’s top priority,” Bass told CNN. “Whether it’s state-of-the art telemetrics and advanced safety technology in last-mile vans, driver-safety training programs, or continuous improvements within our mapping and routing technology, we have invested tens of millions of dollars in safety mechanisms across our network, and regularly communicate safety best practices to drivers.”

The senators concluded their letter with several questions for Amazon to answer by March 24, including how many delivery vans have the cameras and how Amazon uses the recordings.