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Amazon To Partner With NYC Colleges For A Cloud Computing Certificate Program Initiative

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Amazon Partnered With NYC Schools

Amazon announced its upcoming partnership with LaGuardia Community College (LAGCC), the City University of New York (CUNY), and the State University of New York (SUNY) to establish a cloud-computing certificate program. The initiative aims to equip tech students in the region with cloud–computing skills that will help them land a job in Amazon or other tech companies.

The e-commerce pioneer’s partnership with LAGCC, CUNY, and SUNY is part of the company’s campaign to broaden their workforce development and training initiatives for the locals across the New York region. This tech-education initiative is expected to be available in fall of 2019 to tens of thousands of residents of the said colleges and universities.

LinkedIn, for the last four years, have highlighted that cloud-computing and distributed computing is the #1 in-demand global skill offering skillful individuals with one of the highest paying IT careers.

“There is such rich talent in New York, and we want to ensure we’re reaching New Yorkers from diverse backgrounds, as we hire for 25,000 jobs across the region. We see this collaboration with LAGCC, CUNY, and SUNY as ensuring that more students have the opportunity to join companies like Amazon as we seek out more tech talent.” , said Ardine Williams, VP of Workforce Development at Amazon.

According to LaGuardia Community College President, Gail O. Mellow, LAGCC is one of the most significant employment pipeline of Amazon due to its diversity that has prepared their students for community-based tech development. “We are interested in collaborating with AWS, and any tech company, that recognizes the inherent business, cultural and technical skills that students from our community bring to the workplace.”

As part of the collaboration between AWS and the said colleges and university, the cloud computing certificate program will also include a partnership with at least one high school from New York City to offer concurrent enrollment in the 15-credit certificate program and other support. The AWS also would provide its partner schools with professional development opportunities, such as curriculum development workshops and AWS training. All students who graduate from the program will also receive membership in the AWS Educate program, which provides opportunities to gain hands-on experience with leading cloud technology and tools at no cost to the student. /apr

A consumer tech and cybersecurity journalist who does content marketing while daydreaming about having unlimited coffee for life and getting a pet llama.

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Amazon Voted Against Stopping ‘Rekognition’ Sale To Law Enforcement

Shareholders from Amazon almost unanimously voted against banning the sale of Rekonition to law enforcement and other government agencies. Click To Tweet

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Shareholders from Amazon almost unanimously voted against banning the sale of Rekonition to law enforcement and other government agencies.
Amazon is criticized for selling FR tech to police. Photo: Alessandro Benassi, Solid Pixel | Creative Commons | CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Despite the growing criticism and pressure from both the scientific community and civil rights activists, shareholders from Amazon almost unanimously voted against the proposal to ban the selling of their facial recognition technology software called ‘Rekognition’ to government and law enforcement agencies, a regulatory filing on Friday revealed.

While a little more support was given over another proposal, which aims to review and audit the software following the claims of it being biased racially. Only 2.4% of the shareholders voted in support of the ban, and only 27.5% voted for the call for a study to review Rekognition.

Polarized public opinions were raised amid Amazon’s sale of their facial recognition technology to Oregon and Florida law enforcement with some citing false matches and wrongful arrest while some argue that the technology was able to keep the public safe.

In January, Amazon came into heavy scrutiny after researchers from MIT and the University of Toronto have found out that their facial analysis software mistakes dark-skinned women to men. Results have shown that Amazon’s facial analysis have mistaken 31% of black women as men compared to 7% of white women being mistaken to men. The results also revealed that the analysis for men has essentially no identification.

Eighty-five social justice advocates, human rights activists, and religious groups have collectively sent a letter to Microsoft, Google, and Amazon to ask them not to market their facial recognition software to the government.

Google has said that it will not be selling its technology unless all racial bias and misidentification issues are addressed while Microsoft has acknowledged that it is their company’s duty to ensure that their technology is used responsibly. On the other hand, Amazon has reportedly given a demonstration of their product to Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency and will pilot the use of Rekognition to the FBI.

Ever since, Amazon argues that those who will use the software must follow the law. However, there is yet any law to regulate the use of facial recognition technology against people.

These and other Amazon resolutions by shareholders faced an uphill battle to winning majority support, with Amazon’s board recommending against them and founder and Chief Executive Jeff Bezos controlling 16% of the stock and voting rights.

It is with this kind of resistance that lawmakers are trying to step in to move to regulate facial recognition technology. A few weeks ago, San Francisco became the first U.S. city to ban the use of the facial recognition system by the police and other city agencies.

In the said ban, the California Legislature is considering a proposal to prohibit the use of facial recognition technology on body cameras worn by the police. This is a step up from the already existing senatorial bipartisan bill that exempts police applications but set limits on how private businesses can use the technology.

Other states and cities are also considering a ban on facial recognition. Similar legislation is also pending in Oakland, California and another was proposed in Somerville, Massachusetts.

In a move to regulate the use of facial recognition technology by commercial institutions and to forward the cause to protect people’s privacy, two US senators also have introduced a bill to prohibit companies from using facial recognition system data for identifying or tracking purposes without people’s consent.

“Our faces are our identities. They’re personal. So the responsibility is on companies to ask people for their permission before they track and analyze their face,” Senator Schatz, ranking member of the Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet, said.

“Consumers are increasingly concerned about how their data is being collected and used, including data collected through facial recognition technology,” said Senator Blunt. “That’s why we need guardrails to ensure that, as the technology continues to develop, it is implemented responsibly. This bill increases transparency and consumer choice by requiring individuals to give informed consent before commercial entities can collect and share data gathered through FR.”

The bipartisan move, known as the Commercial Facial Recognition Privacy Act of 2019, was introduced by US Senators Roy Blunt and Brian Schatz in a bid to protect people’s facial recognition data and make it much harder for the data to be sold, now that information is treated as currency.

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AI Researchers Asked Amazon To Stop Selling Rekognition To Law Enforcement

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AI researchers asked amazon to stop selling Rekognition to the police

The rise of the facial recognition technology has been shrouded with controversy as issues of privacy and abuse become the central concern in handling the said innovation. Companies producing the technology, like Amazon, have repeatedly been slammed for their move to sell their version of the technology, the Rekognition, to law enforcement agencies amid calls to stand down following the uncovered flaws in the software’s system.

Now, the world’s leading artificial intelligence experts, tech researchers, and academics joined together to call out Amazon for selling their “flawed” system to law enforcement agencies, racing concerns of security and police abuse aided by Rekognition.

The experts – together those from Amazon’s competitors like Google, Microsoft, and Facebook – published through an open letter to Amazon, the different issues they raised against Amazon and the Rekognition. They are also asking the company to stop selling the software to the police.

“We call on Amazon to stop selling Rekognition to law enforcement,” the open letter highlights.

The letter was premised on the recent study conducted by Inioluwa Deborah Raji and Joy Buolamwini, published at the AAAI/ACM conference on Artificial Intelligence, Ethics, and Society, where the researchers found out that the version of Amazon’s Rekognition tool which was available on August 2018, has much higher error rates while classifying the gender of darker skinned women than lighter skinned men (31% vs. 0%).

In January, Amazon came into heavy scrutiny after the researchers from MIT and the University of Toronto have found out that their facial analysis software mistakes dark-skinned women to men. Results have shown that Amazon’s facial analysis have mistaken 31% of black women as men compared to 7% of white women being mistaken to men. The results also revealed that the analysis for men has essentially no identification.

Citing a statement from Amazon’s vice president Michael Punke discrediting the study conducted by Raji and Buolamwini, the letter notes several important facts “reinforcing the importance of the study and discussing the manner in which Wood and Punke’s blog posts misrepresented the technical details for the work and the state-of-the-art in facial analysis and face recognition.”

According to the open letter, there is an “indirect or direct relationship between modern facial analysis and face recognition (depending on the approach)” and that the findings of the earlier study could severely impact people’s lives, especially when applied by law enforcement.

This specific argument responds to a statement made by Amazon’s Web Services’ General Manager of Artificial Intelligence, Matthew Wood. He argues that facial analysis and facial recognition are not one and the same.

“Facial analysis and facial recognition are completely different in terms of the underlying technology and the data used to train them. Trying to use facial analysis to gauge the accuracy of facial recognition is ill-advised, as it’s not the intended algorithm for that‎ purpose,” he said.

The AI experts in the open letter raised that there are no laws or standards to ensure that the use of Rekognition remain in the manner that “it does not infringe civil liberties.”

“There are currently no laws in place to audit Rekognition’s use; Amazon has not disclosed who the customers are, nor what the error rates are across different intersectional demographics. How can we then ensure that this tool is not improperly being used as (Amazon Web Services GM for deep learning and AI Matthew Wood) states,” the open letter reads.

According to the signatories of the letter, what can be relied on in the absence of legal controls are analysis and audits of independent and unbiased researchers “with concrete numbers and clearly designed, explained, and presented experimentation, that demonstrates the types of biases that exist in these products.”

These independent studies, as the open letter said, are critical in raising alarms on using such “immature technologies” in volatile scenarios to ensure that privacy and other civil liberties are not infringed.

In the past, 85 social justice advocates, human rights activists, and religious groups have also collectively sent a letter to Microsoft, Google, and Amazon to ask them not to market their facial recognition software to the government.

Google has said that it will not be selling its technology unless all racial bias and misidentification issues are addressed while Microsoft has acknowledged that it is their company’s duty to ensure that their technology is used responsibly. On the other hand, Amazon has reportedly given a demonstration of their product to Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency and will pilot the use of Rekognition to the FBI.

In the new letter to Amazon, 55 artificial intelligence researchers and tech experts from various universities across the United States have attached their virtual signatures. A registry for those who agree with the letter is also open for other experts to affix their signatures as well.

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Amazon Knows What You Like And May Send Samples To Prove It

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Amazon will send samples based on your own preference

Everybody loves surprises and gifts, especially when these presents are your personal favorites. To some, there is a level of satisfaction knowing that you have made someone happy. The best people who may send you gifts are your family and friends, who know what you like. But, what if I tell you that other than your closest friends and relatives, someone will send you the same thing that you’re dreaming of having? Would this scare you?

Actually, it’s just Amazon.

Amazon steps up the game and aces other online retailers such as Best Buy and eBay. It is now sending samples and freebies to its potential customers based on consumers’ data.

Amazon is working on new ways to capitalize on its user data to boost purchases. This move is under the company’s current sampling program with a primary goal to maintain customers’ loyalty. Today, the top 20 products featured on its website are expected to deliver samples to its loyal customers. These items include BSN’s Protein crisp, Maybelline’s mascara, and Oxi-clean.

This program is one of Amazon’s rewards to its faithful customers who have been purchasing products for a long time. However, this comes as a surprise for many who don’t know about the program until they have received samples right on their front door. The package automatically includes a note with instructions on how to opt out in the program if customers don’t want to receive another sample in the future.

Sampling programs have been available in various iterations on Amazon over the years including a program that allowed primary members to purchase trial size products.

How Amazon does its technique to attract customers remains a mystery to some of its competitors. Based on the previous reports, the company topped the survey for online retailers and sellers in the country from 2018 until now. The business industry coined it as ‘Amazon Effect’ in 2018, where the retail giant’s success resulted in the bankruptcy of some companies including Best Buy.

Best Buy rose from ashes and created a new retail paradigm to keep up with its name in the field of online business. The company launched its “Renew Blue” strategy which focused on the five key pillars to improve and strengthen its business. One of its procedure includes a physical store. This technique allows consumers to experience essential physical interaction with certain products where they can purchase online but do not have to wait for products to be shipped or delivered to their home.

Now, Amazon depends on its marketing strategy to increase its sales. Its new style is undoubtedly enjoyed by many. One customer received a physical sample box of protein bar on his home in New York. Amazed by the surprise gift from Amazon, he posted a photo on his Twitter account drawing a lot of attention from the public.

Brandon Mullins has been a consistent purchaser of BSN protein powder through Amazon. With his records and history on protein purchases, he is likely the type of customer the company wants to target.

For BSN, the new technique allows them to introduce its latest products based on their customers’ history purchases. Generally, Amazon offers this style to its brand sponsors as a way to boost buying and increase customer satisfaction. However, if you think that this is free, well BSN, although did not disclose how much they paid Amazon, confirmed that a lot of money was involved in delivering door to door samples to every consumer.

Amazon takes the competition into a higher level. From its recommendation style, which offers customers an idea of what to search for a specific product, including items bought by others and trending purchases based on search frequency to today’s sample program.

As the e-giant continues to make history, others argued that this might violate data privacy act in the country. To send target samples to every prospect, the seller should access one’s sensitive data and purchase information which can be used against them once the issue reaches higher grounds.

But, if persistent advertisers do not creep you out in the online world, then it is only reasonable that the company is just strengthening the bond between its consumers and its brands.

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