Le Monde article
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- "This experience has been nothing less than a transformation for us. " On stage, in front of 10 000 people invited to an event hosted by Amazon for its customers in the public sector in Washington in June 2018, Sean Roche full of praise about the benefits of hosting services data online (cloud or cloud computing) of the American firm. Except that Mr. Roche is not a customer like any other. He is the deputy head of innovation at the CIA.
- To listen to him, the famous intelligence agency and sixteen other US pharmacies handling confidential information were right to sign, in 2013, a contract with Amazon Web Services (AWS), a subsidiary specializing in data storage and services accessible on Internet. Gone are the "cacophony" of updating hundreds of servers installed in the premises; ended the authorization process that "broke the souls" of employees by forcing them to wait months before testing software ... Welcome to "small teams of three people," which code "on the ground"quickly reusable applications by CIA agents around the world ... All the praise that John Roche's colleague John Edwards had already sung a year earlier at the previous edition of this event in June 2017 As for the security of this top secret data, Mr. Roche has the utmost serenity: "The cloud, even in its worst day, is more secure than a solution with internal servers. "
- It seems far away the online bookstore, opened in 1995 ...
- "For the general public, Amazon is an e-commerce company. But you have to look at it differently : the group has become an important player in the defense sector , " says independent consultant Stephen E. Arnold.
- According to former consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, AWS wants to supplant traditional defense providers, such as the IBM manufacturer. This rise raises all the more criticism that its CEO, Jeff Bezos, assumes to collaborate with security forces: Amazon indirectly sells benefits to the immigration services of the administration of President Donald Trump, his facial recognition software were tested by two US law enforcement units, and its subsidiary Ring, which produces connected videophones, has forged partnerships with more than 500 US law enforcement agencies.
- The "JEDI contract" escaped him
- Admittedly, its security offensive has suffered a setback: in late October, the US Defense Department awarded Microsoft its $ 10 billion (€ 9 billion) cloud migration contract, dubbed "contract JEDI ". Yet Amazon was seen as the big favorite. Moreover, his competitor Oracle had filed a complaint, judging the tender biased. Had not Jeff Bezos dined with former Defense Minister James Mattis in January 2018, on the initiative of his adviser, Sally Donnelly, a former consultant who counted Amazon among her clients? The appeal was rejected, but in July Trump was worried that he had heard "complaints from very good companies" . And, finally, Amazon did not have the market.
- The company reacted, denouncing "significant political influence in this process" . An allusion to the US president's public hostility to Amazon, accused of "not paying taxes," and to Mr. Bezos, owner of the Washington Post. An appeal is probable.
- Despite this annoyance, Amazon remains "fully engaged" in defense. It is still the number one cloud, with 47% of the market, against 22% for Microsoft and 7% for Google, according to the bank Goldman Sachs. "Microsoft has closed the gap on its competitor. But the defense sector remains a vast field of opportunity for Amazon, " says Daniel Ives, an analyst at financial services company Wedbush Securities. Other markets are planned, including the renewal of the CIA contract from 2020. Amazon will be obliged to share it, but its amount could explode to more than 10 billion dollars.
- AWS is a supplier of Palantir
- In five years, AWS's revenue from government structures has increased tenfold to about $ 3 billion annually, or about 10 percent of sales, according to Ives. And governments - and armies - around the world will spend 100 billion in the cloud by 2025, the analyst anticipates. What will ensure the future of AWS, created in 2006 and which generates 58% of the profitability of Amazon.
- "In addition to live contracts, Amazon has another, lesser-known, way to earn revenue by partnering with defense contractors," adds Arnold. The migration to the cloud of a US Army ammunition management system was done by HP Enterprise, but with support from AWS. Through his civilian space subsidiary, Blue Origin, Bezos has partnered with Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, two pillars of the US military industry, to build a machine capable of returning to the moon.
- Another controversial case: AWS is a provider of Palantir, a controversial data analytics provider, working with the United States immigration services, while keeping children separated from their families is a scandal . Forty associations and some shareholders asked the CEO to stop these activities.
- Denunciation of facial recognition software from Amazon
- "Amazon should not be in the business of the police. Neither in the surveillance, " summarizes We Will not Build It, a collective - anonymous - employees, author of a letter signed by 500 employees. The protesters also denounce the use of facial recognition software from Amazon - a leader in this field - by the police: in Orlando, Florida, where the project ended up being abandoned, and in an Oregon county, where photos are compared to a database of suspects.
- Read also Face recognition: 55 researchers ask Amazon not to sell its software to the police
- The US military has always invested heavily in Silicon Valley, in the open until the Vietnam War, then more discreetly, says Margaret O'Mara, author of The Code: Silicon Valley and the Remaking of America (Penguin, no -translated). But among the GAFAs (Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple) , Mr. Bezos' group is the most open to security activities. Apple and Facebook did not get a foothold. Google moved closer to the US defense, but, faced with opposition from employees, dropped the Maven contract for military drone image analysis and withdrew from the JEDI tender. In the name of ethics, the company has even ruled out using artificial intelligence to"Weapons or technologies that can cause physical harm".
- Article reserved for our subscribers Read also The general assembly of Amazon, place of expression of internal disputes
- In contrast, Jeff Bezos assumes:
- "If tech companies turn their backs on the US defense department, this country is going to get in trouble," he told Wired magazine in October 2018.
- "One of the missions of the management team is to make the right decisions, even when they are unpopular," he said, before becoming patriotic: "The United States is a big and beautiful country, which needs to be defended. "
- "We understand better the attitude of Jeff Bezos when we know that Lawrence Preston Gise, his maternal grandfather, of whom he was very close, was a soldier who was one of the executives of the Darpa, the research and development agency. development of the US military, and regional manager of the nuclear supervisory agency " , reports M me O'Mara. We are far from the cliché of left liberal Silicon Valley. "Amazon also has a strong presence in Virginia, one of the cradles of the US military-industrial complex," says Trey Hodgkins, public sector technology consultant.
- Firmness of Jeff Bezos
- The firmness of Bezos did not prevent him from responding to criticism. Facial recognition can be positive and help in the search for lost children or the fight against trafficking in human beings, repeats the company that has also enacted principles. In public safety, she recommends using her software if faces are identified with "a confidence level greater than 99%" . And advises against "taking decisions (...) without going through a human verification step". Amazon is also in favor of "the rights of immigrants" and is asking for a law on facial recognition. Admittedly, but the company will try to obtain a less stringent regulation, retort one at We Will not Build It.
- Article reserved for our subscribers Read also "This facial recognition is too much": in an area of New York, angry tenants
- Employees denounce another application, aimed at the general public: Ring connected videophones and their partnerships with police services, revealed by the Motherboard news site . These can - without a judge's decision - ask the users to provide them with the images filmed by these devices, which allow to open to a deliveryman, but also to monitor the pace of his door and the surroundings, when a movement is detected. Ring, which aims to "make neighborhoods safer," also invites owners to share their videos through the Neighbors app.
- Read also Amazon's Ring Videophones: Partnerships with the US Police Worry
- These videophones are sold in France, but Neighbors is not available, and no partnership with the police has been signed, says Ring. But Amazon's subsidiary works around the world with "police forces, independent charities like Crimestoppers and neighborhood protection groups like Secured by Design - both in the UK." For its detractors, the partnerships formed in the United States transform police forces into agents of promotion of a system of generalized surveillance, without control. Some worry that facial recognition may be integrated. Ring responds that owners may refuse to share their videos. Far from its online store image, Amazon's new security facet has not finished debating.
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