The doorstep has emerged as the new physical locale of consumption — the threshold at which purchased products become personal property. In this transformation, the porch has become a contested space: it is at once private property and, for delivery workers, their workplace. The growing popularity of Ring and other networked doorbell cameras has normalized home and neighborhood surveillance in the name of safety and security. But for delivery drivers, this has meant their work is increasingly surveilled by doorbell cameras and supervised by customers. The result is a collision between the American ideals of private property and the business imperatives of doing a job.
At the Digital Doorstep: How Customers Use Doorbell Cameras to Manage Delivery Workers, by Data & Society’s Labor Futures program director Aiha Nguyen and research analyst Eve Zelickson, offers insights into the changing nature of delivery work as a result of increased doorstep surveillance. Investigating the changing relationships between corporations, workers, and customers as a significant share of retail shifts from brick-and-mortar establishments to the doorstep, Nguyen and Zelickson focus on Amazon’s fleet of gig workers, known as Flex drivers, and the popular Amazon Ring home security camera. They draw on interviews with delivery drivers and video doorbell users from across the United States to explore how surveillance designed to protect private property is used to manage the workforce outside of it. At the Digital Doorstep documents the spread of a technology marketed as a safety and security tool, but whose primary use in practice is the monitoring, instruction, and punishment of workers by customers.