By Mark Wachtler
November 21, 2014. Seattle, WA. (ONN) Officially, the Amazon Fire TV’s and smart phones aren’t spy devices. They’re consumer electronics hardware. But the company admits they record audio, video, pictures and GPS locations without the owner’s knowledge, cataloging them in a massive database. The Amazon set-top boxes don’t even have an OFF button and never stop harvesting data. And to top it off, Amazon already works for the FBI, CIA and NSA, building their $600 million spy center. Now, the company is paying the price, literally.
Amazon’s TV isn’t the only set spying on its owners. This is from the UK’s Daily Mail showing the latest Samsung TV cataloging and storing facial images.
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Amazon - the $57 billion mistake
For the past 13 years, Amazon stock has slowly and steadily risen from $7.56 per share in 2001 to a high of $408.06 per share in January of this year. And while the rest of the business world has seen their stock prices continue to rise to new record highs, Amazon stock has made a rapid and sharp reversal led by four major sell-offs over the past year, each bringing the company’s stock and the corporation’s overall value lower with each recurring drop.
The company may have been paid $600 million to partner with the US government’s spy apparatus. But in the 12 months since, Amazon lost $57.4 billion in value as its stock price plummeted to a low of $284 per share less than a month ago. Company executives have recently blamed the dismal performance on its new Amazon Fire devices. And they are correct. But it was only the independent media and underground tech world that explained what it was about the Amazon Fire that was so hated by American consumers.
Partnering with the NSA
This summer, Amazon completed its $600 million spy center for America’s 17 espionage agencies, including the CIA, NSA and FBI. The defense industry website DefenseOne.com called the cloud-based database, “the equivalent of an adrenaline shot to the chest.” It’s a somewhat well-known fact that the US government has had repeated problems finding tech companies, even America’s largest and most well known, that could create a computer storage system large enough to create files for nearly every human on Earth.
Amazon’s contract with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, one championed by ODNI Director James Clapper according to Defense One, would solve the intelligence community’s problem. The company with more experience than anyone in managing data files on hundreds of millions of people created a cloud-based database system accessible by all 17 US spy agencies. And unlike all previous attempts, it wouldn’t crash or set computer servers on fire.
The new Amazon Fire devices
At the exact same time the US intelligence community was celebrating its new espionage capabilities, independent news outlets like Whiteout Press were warning readers about the new Amazon Fire devices. In our July article ‘Amazon Fire Devices are spying in US Homes’, we warned that if you own an Amazon Fire smart phone or set top TV box, the NSA is most likely watching and listening inside your home. The report quoted ComputerWorld.com saying of the Fire phone, ‘The Fire is optimized for spying on you.’
‘Here's a shocking fact about Firefly,’ the Computer World report reads, ‘When the Firefly button is pressed, a picture and audio clip plus GPS coordinates are all uploaded to Amazon's servers every time. Amazon retains the data on their servers. If you want it to recognize a song, it still uploads a picture. If you want to recognize a product, it still uploads an audio clip.’
The same Whiteout Press article quoted Natural News writing, ‘Amazon.com is building the CIA's new $600 million data center. At the same time Amazon.com is building this massive cloud computing infrastructure for the CIA, the company is also shipping millions of Fire TV set-top devices to customers who are placing them in their private homes.’ They go on to point out that the Amazon Fire TV box doesn’t have an OFF button and can only be stopped by physically unplugging it from the wall.
Amazon’s $437 million write-off
Flash forward three months to October 2014. When Amazon announced its quarterly profits, there were none - only a $437 million loss for the preceding three-month period. Company spokespeople blamed the dismal performance on failed new product launches, specifically the Amazon Fire. It appears the American people are smarter than Wall Street and Washington give them credit for. According to a report from Newsweek less than a month ago, the company can’t even give the devices away.
‘Released in July, the Fire Phone was Amazon’s first foray into the smartphone business,’ the publication reported, ‘It originally sold for $200, but lackluster sales forced the company to slash the price to 99 cents.’ Still, Amazon is sitting on $83 million worth of Fire phones it can’t seem to sell. The report, however, made no mention of any partnership with the NSA or the blow-back attributed to it. Instead, Newsweek wrote, ‘Some attribute the phone’s failings to the fact Amazon signed exclusively with AT&T in the US, while others point to the lack of Google services.’
While Wall Street analysts try to understand Amazon’s rapid loss of value, they would do well to just ask the average American consumer. The American people are tired of being spied on, by their government and by their corporate overlords. Whether or not the company figures that out before its stock crashes back down to single digits remains to be seen.
In the near term, analysts forecast Amazon will see an even greater loss this quarter, somewhere in the area of $570 million - the largest ever in company history. Partnering with America’s spy apparatus has turned out to be an expensive lesson for Amazon stock holders. And if the American people have their way, the lesson has only just begun.