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Courier Drivers Claim Amazon Spies on Private Facebook Groups

The online retail giant faces a proposed class-action suit alleging that it wiretapped closed Facebook groups, violating California's Invasion of Privacy Act.
By Simpluris Research
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Top Class Actions reported that a group of courier drivers for Amazon Flex filed a proposed class-action lawsuit, against Amazon.com Inc. for allegedly wiretapping private Facebook groups to "secretly observe and monitor Flex drivers’ electronic communications and confidential postings in their closed Facebook groups, through the use of monitoring tools, automated software, and dedicated employees with backgrounds in signals intelligence (SIGINT) and communications intelligence (COMMINT)." Thus, according to the complaint, Amazon violated the California Invasion of Privacy Act, intentionally intruded upon private matters of the plaintiffs and violated class members’ privacy rights under the California Constitution.

Amazon Flex is a courier service in which individuals or delivery partners use their own vehicles to deliver packages for Amazon.

The lead plaintiff, Drickey Jackson, is an Amazon Flex driver and "communicated with other Flex Drivers in closed Facebook groups that were monitored by [Amazon]." Jackson claimed that the company "monitored these closed groups secretly and gathered information about planned strikes or protests, unionizing efforts, pay, benefits, deliveries, warehouse conditions, driving conditions, and whether workers had been approached by researchers examining Amazon’s workforce." Amazon achieved this not only through automated tools and monitoring software but also by utilizing employees and investigators with backgrounds in intelligence, particularly SIGINT and COMMINT.

Jackson claimed that he was "unaware at the time that his electronic communications, including the information described above, were being intercepted in real-time and would be disclosed to Amazon, nor did Mr. Jackson consent to the same." Discussions in these private Facebook groups included complaints about "lack of job security, little to no benefits and low pay."

Amazon confirmed its "sophisticated and secret program that surveils dozens of private Facebook groups set up by workers." The program is formally known as the Advocacy Operations Social Listening Team. One of its documents called "social media monitoring" lists 43 private Facebook groups and pages run by Amazon Flex drivers to track as part of its "social media process." Additionally, the document outlines the process in which posts are intercepted in real-time, organized and possibly flagged. "Issues raised by the Drivers in these closed Facebook groups are compiled into reports and delivered to Amazon’s Corporate Department. The reports are then filtered and categorized through a tool called the 'Social Media Bank.'"

According to the lawsuit, "Amazon asked its employees to keep this monitoring program secret and created a special login page to access the reports." On the login page for Social Media Bank, the company explicitly states: "most of the Post/Comment screenshots within the site are from closed Facebook groups. It will have a detrimental effect if it falls within the reach of any of our Delivery partners. DO NOT SHARE without proper authentication." Thus, the plaintiff claims that "these processes, as currently employed by Amazon, function as a wiretap." 

Jackson is seeking to represent a class of all California Flex Drivers who were members of the closed Facebook groups, and whose electronic communications were unlawfully collected by Amazon. 

He is also seeking the Court:

  1. certify the Class under Rule 23;
  2. declare that the Defendant’s conduct violates California's Invasion Of Privacy Act, Section 631 and 635, Intrusion Upon Seclusion, and Invasion Of Privacy Under California’s Constitution;
  3. find in favor of Plaintiff and the Class on all counts;
  4. order compensatory, punitive, and statutory damages in amounts to be determined by the Court and/or jury;
  5. grant prejudgment interest on all amounts awarded;
  6. order restitution and all other forms of equitable monetary relief; injunctive relief as pleaded or as the Court may deem proper; 
  7. and award Plaintiff and the Class their reasonable attorneys’ fees and expenses and costs of suit.

Amazon has not yet released a comment regarding the proposed class-action lawsuit.

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