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  1. Jeff Bezos to fly to the edge of space in first New Shepard crewed mission Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, is set to fly on the first crewed mission of Blue Origin’s New Shepard, according to a video he uploaded to Instagram. Bezos, who also owns Blue Origin, will be joined on the flight by his younger brother Mark Bezos. The flight is set to take place on July 20th, a little over two weeks after Jeff Bezos leaves his role as Amazon CEO. In the video, Bezos said: “To see the Earth, from space, it changes you, changes your relationship with with this planet, with humanity; it’s one Earth. I want to go on this flight because it’s the thing I’ve wanted to do all my life.” He goes on to ask his brother if he wants to go on the flight who says that he was awestruck to have received the offer. When the pair are aboard the rocket, they’ll be flown 60 miles above the planet’s surface on an 11-minute flight before coming back down to Earth. If the pair do not cross the Kármán line – the boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and outer space – they’ll certainly be very near to it. With this flight, Bezos beats both Richard Branson and Elon Musk into space. Branson has expressed interest in going to space aboard one of his own craft but Elon Musk hasn’t announced any plans to go despite having the Dragon capsule which can take people into orbit. Via: CNN Jeff Bezos to fly to the edge of space in first New Shepard crewed mission
  2. Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin to launch first space tourism passengers on July 20 and auction off a seat KEY POINTS Jeff Bezos’ space venture Blue Origin announced on Wednesday that it will launch its first astronaut crew to space on July 20. The company has yet to open ticket sales or release pricing information about New Shepard flights, but will host a public auction for a seat on the first crewed launch. New Shepard is designed to carrying as many as six people at a time on a ride past the edge of space. A New Shepard rocket launches on a test flight. Blue Origin Jeff Bezos’ space venture Blue Origin will launch its first astronaut crew to space on July 20, flying on its space tourism rocket called New Shepard, the company announced Wednesday. Blue Origin has yet to open ticket sales or release pricing information about New Shepard flights, but will host a public auction for a seat on the first crewed launch. A sealed online auction will run until May 19 and bids can go up to $50,000 – with the company requiring additional identification information and a $10,000 deposit for higher bids. Then, from May 19 onward, Blue Origin will hold a public bidding process – before a final live online auction on June 12. “We’re auctioning off the first seat to benefit our foundation Club for the Future,” a Blue Origin video said. New Shepard is designed to carry as many as six people at a time on a ride past the edge of space, with the capsules on previous test flights reaching an altitude of more than 340,000 feet (or more than 100 kilometers). The capsule has massive windows to give passengers a view, spending a few minutes in zero gravity before returning to Earth. A seat and the view from inside a New Shepard capsule at the edge of space. Blue Origin The company has yet to fly New Shepard with passengers on board. Blue Origin has test flown the rocket and capsule more than a dozen times to date without crew, including a test flight last month at the company’s facility in the Texas desert. Jeff Bezos takes a look at the New Shepard rocket booster on the landing pad after a successful NS-15 flight and landing in April 2021. Blue Origin The rocket launches vertically, with the booster detaching and returning to land at a concrete pad nearby. The capsule’s return is slowed by a set of parachutes, before softly landing in the desert. The New Shepard crew capsule lands in the West Texas desert after the NS-15 mission on April 14, 2021. Blue Origin Blue Origin’s announcement comes on the 60th anniversary of the Mercury-Redstone 3 flight, which carried astronaut Alan Shepard – after whom Blue Origin named its rocket system – on the first U.S. human spaceflight in 1961. Additionally, July 20 will mark the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Source: Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin to launch first space tourism passengers on July 20 and auction off a seat
  3. Jeff Bezos says Amazon needs to do a better job for employees in final shareholder letter Bezos pointed to the recent union election outcome at one of Amazon’s Alabama warehouses as an example of why the company needs to address challenges within its workforce. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos provides the keynote address at the Air Force Association's Annual Air, Space & Cyber Conference in Oxen Hill, MD. - September 9, 2018.Jim Watson / AFP - Getty Images file In his final letter to shareholders, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said Thursday that the company needs to “do a better job for our employees.” Bezos pointed to the recent union election outcome at one of Amazon’s Alabama warehouses as an example of why the company needs to address challenges within its workforce. Last week, Amazon secured enough votes to defeat a unionization drive at its Bessemer, Alabama, warehouse. “While the voting results were lopsided and our direct relationship with employees is strong, it’s clear to me that we need a better vision for how we create value for employees – a vision for their success,” Bezos wrote. Bezos also disputed previous media coverage of working conditions at the company, including the criticism that the pace of work inside its warehouses is too strenuous. Bezos said there’s an impression of Amazon workers “being desperate souls and treated as robots,” but that that’s inaccurate. “We don’t set unreasonable performance goals,” Bezos said. “We set achievable performance performance goals that take into account tenure and actual performance data.” The letter is Bezos’ final annual letter to shareholders as he’s set to step down as CEO in the third quarter. Andy Jassy, CEO of Amazon Web Services, will take over his role. Source: Jeff Bezos says Amazon needs to do a better job for employees in final shareholder letter
  4. An unleashed Jeff Bezos will seek to shift space venture Blue Origin into hyperdrive SEATTLE (Reuters) - Freed from his daily obligations at Amazon.com Inc, Jeff Bezos is expected to turn up the heat on his space venture, Blue Origin, as it faces a pivotal year and fierce competition from Elon Musk’s SpaceX, industry sources said. FILE PHOTO: Amazon and Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos addresses the media about the New Shepard rocket booster and Crew Capsule mockup at the 33rd Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado, United States April 5, 2017. REUTERS/Isaiah J. Downing/File Photo The 57-year-old Bezos, a lifelong space enthusiast and the world’s second-richest person behind Musk, said last week he is stepping down as chief executive of the e-commerce company as he looks to focus on personal projects. Blue Origin has fallen far behind SpaceX on orbital transportation, and lost out to SpaceX and United Launch Alliance (ULA) on billions of dollars’ worth of U.S. national security launch contracts which begin in 2022. ULA is a joint venture of Boeing Co and Lockheed Martin Corp. Now, Blue Origin is battling to win a competition with SpaceX and Dynetics to develop a new lunar lander for NASA’s potentially multibillion-dollar push to return humans to the moon in a few years. Dynetics is owned by Leidos Holdings Inc. Winning the lunar lander contract - and executing its development - are seen by Bezos and other executives as vital to Blue Origin establishing itself as a desired partner for NASA, and also putting Blue on the road to turning a profit, the people said. With limited revenue streams, Bezos has been liquidating about $1 billion of Amazon stock annually to fund Blue, which he said in 2018 was “the most important work that I’m doing.” A Blue Origin representative declined to comment, but pointed to comments Bezos made last week when he said he was stepping down as Amazon’s chief executive. He told Amazon employees he would “stay engaged in important Amazon initiatives” but also devote time to Blue Origin and various philanthropic and media “passions.” NASA is expected to winnow the lunar lander contest to just two companies by the end of April, adding pressure as Blue Origin works through problems such as wasting millions of dollars on procurement, and technical and production challenges, the sources said. One of the development struggles Blue has faced is getting the lander light and small enough to fit on a commercially available rocket, two people briefed on the development said. Another source, however, said Blue has modified its design since it was awarded the initial contract last April and that its current design fits on an additional number of available and forthcoming rockets, including Musk’s Falcon Heavy and ULA’s Vulcan. “He is going to kick Blue Origin into a higher gear,” said one senior industry source with knowledge of Blue’s operations. Bezos already has transplanted Amazon’s culture on Blue, down to enforcing similar “leadership principles” and kicking off meetings by reading documents in silence, sources say. But one industry veteran said Bezos needs to take a hands-on, operational role if he is going to fix a number of problems like bureaucratic processes, missed deadlines, high overhead and engineer turnover which, according to this source, have emerged as Blue Origin seeks to transition from development to production across multiple programs. One person familiar with the matter said that Bezos has no desire to immerse himself completely in daily operations, and instead would prioritize major initiatives and new endeavors. In his latest Instagram posts, Bezos is seen climbing into a crew capsule wearing cowboy boots, and sitting in his pickup truck watching a rocket engine test, which he described as a “perfect night!” BEZOS VERSUS MUSK Founded in 2000, Blue Origin, based in Kent, Washington, has expanded to around 3,500 employees, with sprawling manufacturing and launch facilities in Texas, Florida and Alabama. Its ambitious portfolio includes selling suborbital tourist trips to space, heavy-lift launch services for satellites, and the lander - none of which is yet fully commercially viable. Recent data shows Blue has overcome combustion stability problems on its BE-4 rocket engine - another business line, two sources said. Test engines for ULA’s inaugural Vulcan rocket are expected to arrive at Florida’s Cape Canaveral this week, with the first-flight engines and booster coming later this spring, one added. By comparison, Musk’s SpaceX, founded two years after Blue Origin, has launched its Falcon 9 boosters more than 100 times, launched the world’s most powerful operational rocket - Falcon Heavy - three times, and transported astronauts to the International Space Station. SpaceX said on Thursday it had 10,000 users on its nascent satellite-based broadband service, dubbed Starlink, which Musk says will provide crucial funding to develop his Starship rocket for missions to the moon and, eventually, Mars. Blue is also hoping for a steady stream of revenue for its heavy-lift New Glenn rocket - potentially set for a debut late this year - from Amazon’s forthcoming constellation of some 3,200 satellites dubbed Project Kuiper, sources say. Amazon aims to have half the constellation in orbit by 2026, but there is no public timeline for a first launch. Until now, Bezos has devoted one day a week to Blue Origin, with conference room meetings replaced in recent months by video calls, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the sources said. Source: An unleashed Jeff Bezos will seek to shift space venture Blue Origin into hyperdrive
  5. The Amazon CEO already invests $1 billion a year in the space company. Jeff Bezos believes in Blue Origin so much, he's investing even more money in the space company next year. On Monday, the Amazon CEO said he plans to invest "a little more" than a billion dollars in the company next year, up from his previous investment of $1 billion annually. "I just got the news from the team," he said during the Wired25 conference at the SFJazz Center in San Francisco. Bezos added that he never says no when Blue Origin asks for money. "We are starting to bump up against the absolute true fact that Earth is finite," he said said. "Blue Origin, what we need to do is lower the cost of access to space." Bezos became the world's richest person last October, thanks to the surging value of Amazon, which he founded in 1994 in his garage and stewarded into the world's biggest e-commerce site. He still owns 16 percent of the company. Amazon has upended the way we all shop for goods, and it's now aiming to change how we interact with our devices. The company's Alexa digital voice assistant works with more than 20,000 devices, including the new Echo smart speakers and Amazon's new voice-activated microwave. It's often considered by experts to be one of the smartest smart assistants available. Bezos' ambitions extend beyond Amazon. In addition to Blue Origin, he has moved into media with his purchase of The Washington Post. Last month, Bezos made good on a promise to start giving back more of his enormous wealth, announcing the Day One charitable fund and a $2 billion donation to help with education and fight homelessness. Blue Origin competes with Elon Musk's SpaceX when it comes to space exploration. SpaceX has received more attention, both for its successes and its failures, over the past few years and is further along in developing its business. But Blue Origin technically beat Musk to the punch with the first successful rocket launch and recovery -- on land at its west Texas facility in 2015. At Wired25, Bezos said Blue Origin "is the most important thing I'm working on, but I won't live to see it all rolled out." He added that it's important to take risks and work on things that are different from what everyone else is doing. "You want risk taking, and you want people to have vision that most people don't agree with," he said. "We have never needed to think long term as a species. And we finally do." Bezos also said that he will support the US Defense Department. Earlier this month, cloud computing rival Google pulled out of the bidding for a $10 billion Pentagon contract after employee protests. Google said the project may conflict with its principles for ethical use of AI. "If big tech companies are going to turn their backs on the Department of Defense, we are in big trouble," Bezos said. "This is a great country, and it does need to be defended." He added that despite its problems, the US is "still the best country in the world," and if it were up to him, he'd let anyone come to the country who wants. Source
  6. Jeff Bezos says National Enquirer is threatening to publish his nude photos A bombshell personal blog post from the world’s richest man Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has published an astonishing personal blog post on the platform Medium detailing what he claims is extortion and blackmail on behalf of the tabloid National Enquirer. In a post titled “No thank you, Mr. Pecker,” Bezos claims he’s being threatened with the publication of nude photos of him and suggestive photos of Lauren Sanchez, the news anchor and reporter with whom Bezos was having an affair. That is, unless he agrees to publicly make a statement downplaying the motivations behind National Enquirer parent company American Media Inc.’s investigation into his personal life, by saying the company was never “politically motivated or influenced by political forces.” National Enquirer first detailed Bezos’ affair, which led to the dissolution of his marriage to MacKenzie Bezos, last month. BEZOS IS STANDING UP TO EXTORTION AT THE RISK OF HIS NUDES LEAKING What could “political forces” have to do with Jeff Bezos’ love life? AMI is at the center of an ongoing legal controversy involving President Donald Trump over the practice of “catch and kill,” where a publication buys the exclusive rights to incriminating information about someone and purposefully prevents it from becoming news, through non-disclosure agreements and other legal techniques, to avoid it ever getting out — shielding a person, in that case Trump, from damaging stories. (Through court documents, AMI was found to have used the “catch and kill” tactic to kill a story about Trump’s alleged affair with a woman prior to his presidential campaign by paying $150,000 for exclusivity on it. AMI CEO David Pecker, a close friend of Trump’s, was allegedly then rewarded for this and other support during Trump’s campaignwith a White House dinner invitation for Pecker and someone close to the royal family of Saudi Arabia, where Pecker was pursuing business deals and looking for acquisition financing.) AMI allegedly approached Bezos after learning he had been conducting his own private investigation into how National Enquirer obtained his text message. Lawyers for the company tried to persuade Bezos into shutting the investigation down because of the likelihood it may lead to more damning revelations about AMI’s “catch and kill” tactics and its political ties to Trump and other world leaders, Bezos claims in the Medium post. “If your client agrees to cease and desist such defamatory behavior, we are willing to engage in constructive conversations regarding the texts and photos which we have in our possession,” read one of the emails sent to the legal team of Bezos’ private investigation. The photos in question include a “full-length body selfie of Mr. Bezos wearing just a pair of tight black boxer-briefs or trunks,” and a “naked selfie in a bathroom... wearing nothing but a white towel,” among others including an explicit dick pic. The full photo rundown came from a threatening email sent to the attorney of Gavin de Becker, the well-known security consultant Bezos hired to run the private investigation, penned by none other than the Dylan Howard, the chief content officer of AMI. (In late 2017, Howard was accused of sexual harassment and misconduct during his years at AMI and, according to The Hollywood Reporter, referred to himself around the office by the nickname “dildo.”) Here’s the full, seven-point extortion attempt from Jon Fine, AMI’s current deputy legal counsel and, coincidentally, a former Amazon lawyer who worked at the company for 9 years: “Well, that [the email] got my attention. But not in the way they likely hoped. Any personal embarrassment AMI could cause me takes a back seat because there’s a much more important matter involved here. If in my position I can’t stand up to this kind of extortion, how many people can?,” Bezos writes. “In the AMI letters I’m making public, you will see the precise details of their extortionate proposal: they will publish the personal photos unless Gavin de Becker and I make the specific false public statement to the press,” he goes on. “Be assured, no real journalists ever propose anything like what is happening here... Nothing I might write here could tell theNational Enquirer story as eloquently as their own words below.” “These communications cement AMI’s long-earned reputation for weaponizing journalistic privileges, hiding behind important protections, and ignoring the tenets and purpose of true journalism,” he adds. “Of course I don’t want personal photos published, but I also won’t participate in their well-known practice of blackmail, political favors, political attacks, and corruption. I prefer to stand up, roll this log over, and see what crawls out.” Amazon and representatives for AMI didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. Source
  7. Was Jeff Bezos the weak link in cyber-security? Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos A week ago, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos revealed what he described as an extortion attempt by the National Enquirer. The tabloid appeared to have got hold of some very intimate texts and photos he had sent to his girlfriend Lauren Sanchez. In my report for the BBC World Service programme The World This Week, I consider why humans are often the weakest link in cyber-security. Mr Bezos is the world's richest man, building his fortune via a company that is transforming the way we live with innovative technology. His business, Amazon, has cyber-security at the heart of everything it does. So how come he risked sending highly embarrassing photos to his lover's phone only to see them hacked and end up in the hands of a tabloid newspaper? If he could not stop himself from doing something so stupid in the first place, the argument goes, surely his company could have provided him with the world's most unhackable phone? On Twitter, someone called counterchekist had the answer to this, saying that all the world's money and experts could not protect a device against its biggest weakness, "the human using it". In other words, technology can only go so far. Good cyber-security depends on educating people not to be idiotic. The suggestion that the human factor is the weakest link is probably the biggest single cliche in the cyber-security industry. Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES Image captionMr Bezos sent selfies to TV host Lauren Sanchez Security firms may sell all sorts of expensive tools to protect their customers from attacks, but all too often they are rendered useless when someone in the organisation clicks on a dodgy link or forgets to install a vital software update. Look at any of the major cyber-security incidents of recent years and you are likely to find they begin with a human making a mistake. The fault that took down the O2 mobile phone network in the UK for 24 hours in December 2018 was first thought to have been the result of a hacking attack. It then emerged that someone had failed to renew a software certificate. "One of the most basic systems administration mistakes you can imagine," a waspish comment on the Computing Weekly site said. The attack which saw hackers - presumed to be from North Korea - take over the computer system of Sony Pictures and release all sorts of embarrassing information began with emails designed to trick executives into handing over their Apple ID credentials. And guess what? Some of those people used the very same passwords for their Sony account. Hey presto, the hackers were in. What is known as social engineering is becoming a key weapon in the hackers' armoury. Rather than mounting some devilishly clever hi-tech attack, they pick out a key individual and work out how to target their weaknesses. Scammed! A while back, I spoke to a cyber-security firm that specialises in countering so-called spear-phishing, where a senior executive is targeted for an attack. They proposed a challenge to me. Some time over the next few days they would prove that they could fool me into clicking on a questionable link in an email. Hah, I thought. Fat chance. I am very cautious about what arrives in my inbox anyway and I will be even more watchful now. A few days later, an email popped up from Jat, the producer of my World Service radio programme Tech Tent. He messages me several times a day. It was about my Twitter account and read: "You really need to take a look at this," pointing to a link. Of course I clicked, and found myself on a web page belonging to the cyber-security company with a message saying: "We got you". Somehow they had spoofed my producer's email address, and so found the gap in my defences. After all, everyone trusts their producer. This all begs the question: if protecting your vital information depends on making humans more sensible rather than using all sorts of whizzbang technology, wouldn't it be better to hire psychologists rather than cyber-security companies? They might even be cheaper. Of course, the truth is that plugging data leaks is a multi-faceted business. An organisation needs to make sure its employees have secure devices, understand the corporate data protection policies, and have a modicum of common sense. And on that last point, even billionaires can sometimes be found lacking. Source
  8. Very wealthy people are often targets for criminal hackers, tabloids and rivals, but there are steps anyone can take to avoid exposing sensitive personal and business communications. Watch your passwords, download a secure messaging app and make sure the other party you're texting with is on board. Secure texting shouldn't be viewed as something "shady" -- it's needed for everything from sharing confidential business plans to responding to breaches. High-profile executives, billionaires and media tycoons often employ the best technology, services and consultants to keep their private conversations private. Jeff Bezos is all three of these, and even he apparently fell victim to stolen private text messages. Bezos and his wife Mackenzie announced on Wednesday that they are divorcing after 25 years of marriage. A bit later, the National Enquirer published private text messages it claims Bezos sent to Lauren Sanchez, whom he's reportedly been in a relationship with. Amazon has not commented on the story except to tell CNBC, "Jeff remains focused on and engaged in all aspects of Amazon." Bezos didn't need to have his private messages exposed. For too long, secure texting has been regarded as something "shady" that should invite suspicion. But it's got plenty of uses: Sharing confidential business plans, responding to breaches and — indeed — expressing private affection for your loved ones. With this in mind, I've compiled a list of suggestions so that you can keep private messages more secure. Use encrypted messaging applications Modern secure messaging applications offer many features that can prevent the leak of private data into malicious hands, from multiple angles. Signal and Wickr are two of my favorites. I also have occasionally used WhatsApp for contacts who only have this option, but with an asterisk because it's owned by Facebook, and I don't like the fact that the application shares even a little bit of information with the social media giant. Even WhatsApp's co-founder has questioned this practice. All three of these use end-to-end encryption, which means the messages are encrypted even when sent over open channels like public WiFi. They are only readable between the two parties sending them. Signal and Wickr provide particularly good options for controlling when your messages "disappear" and are discarded. I've been particularly impressed with Wickr's "secure shredder" function that constantly works to overwrite even remnants of deleted data. Having a cloud backup service can also mess with the effectiveness of these apps' abilities to truly delete your messages permanently, so you may need to tweak your cloud settings. Always have a password ... just not that one These applications are only as good as the password on your device. First, make sure you have one, otherwise anyone who gets your phone can easily see any remaining messages in your messaging applications easily. Second, avoid using the security login function that requires you to draw a familiar shape. Because while you might not realize it, constantly swiping in a triangle formation has probably left a faint, triangle-shaped smudge on your phone that anyone can easily use to open it. Watch those numbers-based passwords, too -- don't pull a Kanye and make your password "000000." Third, even though it's kind of a hassle, it's a good idea to enable a password on your secure messaging app in addition to your phone's main login password. That way, in case someone is able to break into your phone, they still won't be able to access your messaging application or any saved messages. (All the secure apps mentioned here let you set a password.) The other person matters The security of your messages is only as good as the security of the person you're texting with. Having a secure messaging application helps because it forces the other person to download the secure app. It also gives you the control of setting a deletion period, which effectively deletes the message permanently from both of your devices, so you don't have to worry about someone else carrying around your sensitive conversations. Another strategy — don't laugh — is using code words. It might sound like a silly endeavor, but it's actually a low-tech and practical solution that's often used by cybersecurity professionals themselves. Cyber pros do this when they're exchanging sensitive information in the early days of a data breach, so they can avoid tipping off any criminals who may be active on their networks while they are investigating. In fact, the practice is actually codified in the National Institute of Standards in Technology's guide for computer incident response. This is why you won't see them throwing around terms like "breach," "data loss," and "hackers" during a breach — instead they'll give these terms distinct names so they can easily text about it without raising too many red flags. Having a few choice code words can cut down on everyone's anxiety, and they can be applied to any sensitive personal or business interaction. Try Donald Trump's method: courier Back in 2016, some observers ridiculed Donald Trump's suggestion that a cure for cyberattacks may be sending sensitive information by courier. But he was right. Writing down your message and delivering it to someone else can still expose sensitive information, but it cuts down the data points and transit methods to only one. Data loss can only occur via a stiff breeze or errant bike messenger. You also don't even have to sign your name. Face-to-face conversations work well, too. Source
  9. The tech giant’s hope is that federal lawmakers will adopt much of its draft legislation. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos says his company is developing a set of laws to regulate facial recognition technology that it plans to share with federal lawmakers. In February, the company, which has faced escalating scrutiny over its controversial facial recognition tech, called Amazon Rekognition, published guidelines it said it hoped lawmakers would consider enacting. Now Amazon is taking another step, Bezos told reporters in a surprise appearance following Amazon’s annual Alexa gadget event in Seattle on Wednesday. “Our public policy team is actually working on facial recognition regulations; it makes a lot of sense to regulate that,” Bezos said in response to a reporter’s question. The idea is that Amazon will write its own draft of what it thinks federal legislation should look like, and it will then pitch lawmakers to adopt as much of it as possible. “It’s a perfect example of something that has really positive uses, so you don’t want to put the brakes on it,” Bezos added. “But, at the same time, there’s also potential for abuses of that kind of technology, so you do want regulations. It’s a classic dual-use kind of technology.” He did not provide details on what’s in the proposed legislation. Bezos’s revelation comes a few months after Andy Jassy, CEO of Amazon Web Services, which sells the Rekognition software, told Recode’s Code Conference audience that he hoped federal regulation happened soon. Amazon’s Rekognition software lets its customers match photos and videos of people’s faces with databases of other face photos, such as those of criminals, in real time. (Amazon has marketed the tech to both corporations and law enforcement agencies.) That has led to outrage both inside and outside of Amazon. Hundreds of Amazon employees, along with civil liberties groups and lawmakers, have called out AWS for marketing Rekognition to police, ICE, and other law enforcement agencies, over concerns that the powerful technology could be misused. Case in point: Last summer, the ACLU tested the Rekognition software and found that it incorrectly matched 28 members of Congress with mugshots of people who have committed a crime. The false matches disproportionately involved members of Congress who are people of color. Amazon said the ACLU had used the wrong setting for the software. The Amazon policy team’s bold new step to start drafting regulation for the tech underscores the importance of Rekognition for Amazon Web Services. And it’s a sign that Amazon recognizes that in this era of powerful grassroots activist and political movements, it needs to do a better job reassuring people about innovative technologies whose downsides also terrify the public. “ In a statement, ACLU Northern CA Attorney Jacob Snow said: “It’s a welcome sign that Amazon is finally acknowledging the dangers of face surveillance. But we’ve seen this playbook before. Once companies realize that people are demanding strong privacy protections, they sweep in, pushing weak rules that won’t protect consumer privacy and rights. Cities across the country are voting to ban face surveillance, while Amazon is pushing its surveillance tech deeper into communities.” San Francisco and Oakland in California, as well as Somerville, MA, have banned the use of facial recognition by government agencies, including law enforcement. Source
  10. Exclusive: investigation suggests Washington Post owner was targeted five months before murder of Jamal Khashoggi The Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos had his mobile phone “hacked” in 2018 after receiving a WhatsApp message that had apparently been sent from the personal account of the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, sources have told the Guardian. The encrypted message from the number used by Mohammed bin Salman is believed to have included a malicious file that infiltrated the phone of the world’s richest man, according to the results of a digital forensic analysis. This analysis found it “highly probable” that the intrusion into the phone was triggered by an infected video file sent from the account of the Saudi heir to Bezos, the owner of the Washington Post. The two men had been having a seemingly friendly WhatsApp exchange when, on 1 May of that year, the unsolicited file was sent, according to sources who spoke to the Guardian on the condition of anonymity. Large amounts of data were exfiltrated from Bezos’s phone within hours, according to a person familiar with the matter. The Guardian has no knowledge of what was taken from the phone or how it was used. The extraordinary revelation that the future king of Saudi Arabia may have had a personal involvement in the targeting of the American founder of Amazon will send shockwaves from Wall Street to Silicon Valley. It could also undermine efforts by “MBS” – as the crown prince is known – to lure more western investors to Saudi Arabia, where he has vowed to economically transform the kingdom even as he has overseen a crackdown on his critics and rivals. The disclosure is likely to raise difficult questions for the kingdom about the circumstances around how US tabloid the National Enquirer came to publish intimate details about Bezos’s private life – including text messages – nine months later. It may also lead to renewed scrutiny about what the crown prince and his inner circle were doing in the months prior to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the Washington Post journalist who was killed in October 2018 – five months after the alleged “hack” of the newspaper’s owner. Saudi Arabia has previously denied it targeted Bezos’s phone, and has insisted the murder of Khashoggi was the result of a “rogue operation”. In December, a Saudi court convicted eight people of involvement in the murder after a secret trial that was criticised as a sham by human rights experts. Digital forensic experts started examining Bezos’s phone following the publication last January by the National Enquirer of intimate details about his private life. The story, which included his involvement in an extramarital relationship, set off a race by his security team to uncover how the CEO’s private texts were obtained by the supermarket tabloid, which was owned by American Media Inc (AMI). While AMI insisted it was tipped off about the affair by the estranged brother of Bezos’s girlfriend, the investigation by the billionaire’s own team found with “high confidence” that the Saudis had managed to “access” Bezos’s phone and had “gained private information” about him. Bezos’s head of security, Gavin de Becker, wrote in the Daily Beast last March he had provided details of his investigation to law enforcement officials, but did not publicly reveal any information on how the Saudis accessed the phone. He also described “the close relationship” the Saudi crown prince had developed with David Pecker, the chief executive of the company that owned the Enquirer, in the months before the Bezos story was published. De Becker did not respond to calls and messages from the Guardian. The Guardian understands a forensic analysis of Bezos’s phone, and the indications that the “hack” began within an infected file from the crown prince’s account, has been reviewed by Agnès Callamard, the UN special rapporteur who investigates extrajudicial killings. It is understood that it is considered credible enough for investigators to be considering a formal approach to Saudi Arabia to ask for an explanation. Callamard, whose own investigation into the murder of Khashoggi found “credible evidence” the crown prince and other senior Saudi officials were responsible for the killing, confirmed to the Guardian she was still pursuing “several leads” into the murder, but declined to comment on the alleged Bezos link. When asked by the Guardian whether she would challenge Saudi Arabia about the new “hacking” allegation, Callamard said she followed all UN protocols that require investigators to alert governments about forthcoming public allegations. Saudi experts – dissidents and analysts – told the Guardian they believed Bezos was probably targeted because of his ownership of the Post and its coverage of Saudi Arabia. Khashoggi’s critical columns about Mohammed bin Salman and his campaign of repression against activists and intellectuals rankled the crown prince and his inner circle. Andrew Miller, a Middle East expert who served on the national security council under President Obama, said if Bezos had been targeted by the crown prince, it reflected the “personality-based” environment in which the crown prince operates. “He probably believed that if he got something on Bezos it could shape coverage of Saudi Arabia in the Post. It is clear that the Saudis have no real boundaries or limits in terms of what they are prepared to do in order to protect and advance MBS, whether it is going after the head of one of the largest companies in the world or a dissident who is on their own.” The possibility that the head of one of America’s leading companies was targeted by Saudi Arabia could pose a dilemma for the White House. Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner have maintained close ties with the crown prince despite a US intelligence finding – reportedly with a medium–to–high degree of certainty – that Mohammed bin Salman ordered Khashoggi’s murder. Both Saudi Arabia and AMI have denied that the kingdom was involved in the publication of the Bezos story. A lawyer for Bezos who was contacted by the Guardian said: “I have no comment on this except to say that Mr Bezos is cooperating with investigations.” The Guardian asked the Saudi embassy in Washington about the claims. It did not immediately return a request for comment. Source
  11. Amazon thinks it lost a military cloud computing contract worth $10 billion to rival Microsoft because our vendetta-addled president wanted to personally “screw” CEO Jeff Bezos, court documents show. Per the New York Times, Amazon wrote in a federal court complaint unsealed on Monday that Pentagon officials reviewed outdated Amazon submissions for the Joint Enterprise Defense Initiative (JEDI) project before granting the contract to competitor Microsoft—whose CEO Satya Nadella is not currently the target of one of Donald Trump’s mostly one-sided feuds. (Trump is reportedly obsessed with “Jeff Bozo” almost exclusively because the billionaire CEO also owns the “fake news” Washington Post, but this is also a man whose list of top grievances includes water-conserving toilets.) Amazon’s complaint in the United States Court of Federal Claims in Washington claims that Trump intervened in the contract process to hurt Bezos, “his perceived political enemy,” with the Defense Department making “blatant, inexplicable errors” complying with the White House’s directive. The Pentagon “failed to acknowledge the numerous instances in which [Amazon Web Service’s] demonstrated capabilities vastly exceeded performance requirements,” Amazon’s legal team wrote, “while ignoring instances where Microsoft necessarily failed to demonstrate its solution met the technical requirements.” Amazon added in the complaint that the Pentagon had “departed from the rules of procurement and complied—consciously or subconsciously—with its commander in chief’s expressed desire to reject AWS’s superior bid.” Amazon claims in the filings those factors included a last-minute requirement preventing it from using “existing data centers already certified for classified use and instead requiring AWS to build new dedicated classified infrastructure for DoD,” driving up the cost of its bid. Another assertion involves Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, who re-opened the JEDI bidding process after the departure of his predecessor Jim Mattis in late 2018. Amazon wrote that while Esper recused himself from matters involving the JEDI contract on Oct. 22, 2019, citing conflicts of interest, the decision to award the contract to Microsoft had already happened five days earlier. The filing calls this an “unprecedented and bizarre attempt to rewrite the factual record and unsully a process tainted by the President’s intervention.” “DoD’s substantial and pervasive errors are hard to understand and impossible to assess separate and apart from the President’s repeatedly expressed determination to, in the words of the President himself, ‘screw Amazon,’” Amazon wrote, referring to an order Trump allegedly gave Mattis in 2018. The $10 billion isn’t all that’s on the table. While JEDI was initially billed as a data-management system for the military backend, it is also a potential opportunity for tech giants to expand their foothold in the wildly lucrative contracting business feeding off the U.S.’s ever-expanding war machine. An April 2018 article in Defense One indicated that top defense officials such as Mattis viewed cloud computing as a way “not just to manage files, email, and paperwork but to push mission-critical information to front-line operators.” Employee protests at the prospect of their work being used to fuel conflict drove Google out of the bidding process and created a ruckus at Microsoft, where staffers wrote a letter claiming JEDI could cause “human suffering” in pursuit of “short-term profits.” Amazon was widely considered to be the clear front-runner for the JEDI contract until the bidding process entered its final phase. Somewhat tellingly, competitors including Google, Microsoft, Oracle, and IBM were reportedly furious about stipulations in the contract that, to them, seemed designed to clear the company’s path of rival bidders (as well as reports Amazon offered a Pentagon official working on the project a lucrative job). One DC lobbyist for Oracle, Kenneth Glueck, reportedly shopped White House aides a memo claiming that Amazon won the contract due to a “conspiracy,” with the document making it all the way to Trump’s desk. In a statement to Times, the Defense Department denied that Trump’s hatred of Bezos or any other outside factors played a role in its decision. “This source selection decision was made by an expert team of career public servants and military officers from across the Department of Defense and in accordance with D.O.D.’s normal source-selection process,” Pentagon spokeswoman Elissa Smith told the paper. “There were no external influences on the source selection decision.” Source
  12. SIMI VALLEY, Calif. (Reuters) - Amazon.com Inc founder Jeff Bezos said it would support the U.S. Department of Defense as technology companies vie for more defense contracts and the Pentagon seeks to modernize itself. “We are going to support the Department of Defense, this country is important,” Bezos said at an annual defense forum at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California. Tech companies have faced challenges when trying to work with the Pentagon. Last year a defense program, named Project Maven, set off a revolt, as some employees opposed Google technology being used in warfare. Those employees said it clashed with Google’s stated goal of doing no harm and cited risks around using a nascent artificial intelligence technology in lethal situations. While Bezos said he supported employees having passionately held views, he said it was up to the senior leaders of companies to provide guidance on what projects they would and would not do. “My view is that if big tech is turning their back on the Department of Defense, this country is in big trouble,” Bezos said. Amazon had competed to provide cloud computing capabilities to the Pentagon. But last month the company filed a lawsuit in federal court contesting the Defense Department’s September decision to award a cloud computing contract worth up to $10 billion to rival bidder Microsoft Corp. Amazon had been considered a favorite for the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure Cloud (JEDI) contract, part of a broader digital modernization project at the Pentagon, before software developer Microsoft emerged as the surprise winner. Amazon has previously said that politics got in the way of a fair bidding process. Bezos, the chief executive officer of Amazon and owner of the Washington Post, has been an outspoken critic of U.S. President Donald Trump. Source
  13. It was a whirlwind day for Jeff Bezos. The world’s top billionaire briefly lost his spot as the richest man on Earth to Bill Gates on Friday morning, before recovering to reclaim the title by day’s end. The Amazon founder, who also owns the Washington Post, as well as aerospace firm Blue Origin among other holdings, fell to the No. 2 spot after the e-commerce giant’s stock price tumbled 7% in after-hours trading Thursday following a disappointing earnings report. It was the company’s first quarterly drop in profit since 2017, and it cost Bezos nearly $7 billion, lowering his net worth to $103.9 billion. Amazon shares roared back on Friday, however, allowing Bezos to finish the day with a net worth of $111.1 billion against Gates’ $107.5 billion. Bezos, 55, became the world’s richest man in 2018 with a net worth of $160 billion, ending Gates’ 24-year undefeated run in the top spot. The Amazon boss first joined The Forbes 400 list of richest Americans in 1998, a year after Amazon went public, with a net worth of $1.6 billion. Bezos’ brief slip Thursday wasn’t entirely due to his Amazon shares falling: He would never have lost the No. 1 spot if he and MacKenzie Bezos hadn’t divorced. In January, the pair announced their split, with MacKenzie, 49, receiving a quarter of their Amazon holdings in July. With a net worth of $32.7 billion, she is among the top 20 wealthiest people in the world. The Bezoses announced their split to fend off a news report about it — a report that included an embarrassing “below the belt” selfie Bezos intended for his mistress Lauren Sanchez. Gates, who debuted on Forbes’ first-ever billionaire list in 1987, with a net worth of $1.25 billion, stepped down as chairman of Microsoft in 2014, though he remains a board member. He is now the co-chairman of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Shares of Amazon finished the day down 1.1% at $1,761.33, a bounce back from the 4.8% down the stock was at the open, while Microsoft ended Friday up 0.6%, at $140.73. Source
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