Amazon’s Dark Secret: It Fails to Protect Your Data

On September 26, 2018, a row of tech executives filed in a marble- and wood-paneled hearing room and sat behind a row of tabletop microphones and small water bottles. They were all called to testify before the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee on a dry topic – the storage and privacy of customer data – that has recently angered many people.

Committee chairman John Thune, of South Dakota, gave the order hearing, then began listing events from last year that show how an economy built on data can go wrong. It’s been 12 months since news broke that a more preventable breach by credit agency Equifax claimed the names, social security numbers, and other sensitive credentials of more than 145 million Americans. And six months have passed Facebook filled with scandal by Cambridge Analytica, a political intelligence firm that was able to harvest private information from up to 87 million Facebook users for a Bond-villainesque psychographic scheme that would help put Donald Trump in the White House .

To prevent abuses like this, the European Union and the state of California have both passed new data privacy regulations. Now Congress, according to Thune, is ready to write its own regulations. “The question is no longer whether we need a federal law to protect the privacy of consumers,” he said. “The question is, what is the form of that law?” Sitting in front of the senator, ready to help answer that question, representatives of the two telecom firms, Apple, Google, Twitter, ug Amazon.

Particularly off the lineup is anyone from Facebook or Equifax, who are separated by Congress. So for assembled executives, the hearing marks a time to start lobbying for friendly regulations — and to assure Congress that, of course, wilderness Companies have complete control over the issue.

No hearing executive plans to go as far as relying on this count like Andrew DeVore, the representative from Amazon, a company that rarely testifies before Congress. After the briefest greetings, he began his opening remarks by quoting one of his company’s keynote words to senators: “Amazon’s mission is to be the most customer -centric company on Earth. . ” It was a stock line, but it made the fellow general advisor feel like he was speaking as an emissary from a larger and more important planet.

DeVore, a former prosecutor with tough sides, explained that what Amazon needs most from lawmakers is little interference. Consumer trust is already Amazon’s highest priority, and a commitment to privacy and data security is sewn into everything the company does. “We designed our products and services so that customers can easily understand when their data is collected and control when it is shared,” he said. “Our customers trust us to manage their data prudently and wisely.”

At this last point, DeVore is likely to make a safe assumption. That year, a study by Georgetown University found that the Amazon was the second most trusted institution in the United States, after the military. But as companies like Facebook have learned in recent years, public trust can be weak. And when you look at it, what’s most interesting about Amazon’s 2018 testimonial is what DeVore didn’t say.

At that time within Amazon, the division accused of keeping customer data safe for the company’s retail operations was in a state of turmoil: understaffed, demoralized, discouraged by constant leadership changes, and – on the leaders ’own accounts – severely disabled. of his ability to do his job. That year and the one before it, the team warned Amazon executives that the retailer’s information was at risk. And the company’s own practices increase the risk.

According to internal documents reviewed by Revelation of from the Center for Investigative Reporting and WIRED, Amazon’s vast empire of customer data — its metastasizing record of what you searched for, what you bought, what displays you watched, what pills you took, what you said to Alexa, and who is in front of you. doors — have become so wide, fragmented, and obscenely shared within the company that the security division can’t even map it all out, especially not enough to protect its borders.

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