In brief

  • Amazon is installing cameras which measure how much heat employees emit to tackle COVID-19, Reuters reports.
  • The cameras come at a time when Amazon has faced criticism for running as normal during the pandemic.
  • It isn’t yet clear which brand of camera the tech giant is using.

Amazon is now using thermal cameras on their warehouse employees in a bid to contain the coronavirus, a major news agency has revealed. 

According to a Reuters report published yesterday, employees say the infrared cameras are able to measure how much heat people emit and are quicker and safer than forehead thermometers. 

The new measures come after Amazon workers were reported quitting over safety concerns after over 50 of the company’s US warehouses reported COVID-19 cases. 

But just how much of a worry is this for privacy experts? With the government’s across the world accused of dangerously extending their reach, could corporations be doing the same? 

Crypto developers told Decrypt that for now, there isn’t too much to worry about. Ex-Dash Adoption Leader and crypto entrepreneur George Donnelly said: "It's important to keep coronavirus out of the supply chain and the workforce. Businesses should be able to re-open on a voluntary basis with common sense precautions.

“As long as workers consent to this, it is a matter between the employer and the employee, and seems like good sense,” he added. 

Senior JavaScript Developer working on BCH privacy, Chris Troutner, did not think the relationship was so equal. He said that Amazon employees “have no expectation—or right—to privacy in that environment” and that “Amazon can do whatever it wants.”

Previously, workers would get tested with forehead thermometers by someone on the other side of a Plexiglas screen, the report states, but some workers were unhappy with this and deemed it risky. 

In France, six warehouses were closed after a court ruled the company was not doing enough to protect workers. 

Though in the US, Amazon has been allowed to continue delivering goods despite a nationwide lockdown and politicians and trade unions calling for the company to change the way it handles the outbreak. 

Reuters reports that Amazon workers say the new camera hardware is set up in at least six warehouses outside Los Angeles and Seattle. 

Amazon employees are quoted saying the cameras save time and are safer, as results can be read from a computer screen and don’t involve close contact with potential carriers of the virus. 

Kieran Mesquita, a developer working on Bitcoin Cash privacy, added that one “should question what kind of data collection they're [Amazon] doing, and if it's possible to do screening with a more targeted test.”

It is not clear what brand of infrared cameras Amazon is using but the technology is expected to cost between $5,000 and $20,000. These types of cameras were widely used at airports in Asia after the SARS epidemic in 2003. 

Tyson Foods Inc and Intel Corp. are also exploring using thermal cameras, Reuters adds. 

Though the coronavirus outbreak has seen many businesses crumble as the global economy sits at a standstill, Amazon and its CEO have done exceptionally well. The company has seen a surge in online orders as most countries are in a state of lockdown and the value of its shares have gone through the roof.

Let’s see how much they want to push the limits of privacy for their profit margin.