Amazon’s dark secret: it failed to protect your data

September 26, In 2018, a row of technology executives filed into a marble and wooden hearing room, sitting behind a row of desktop microphones and small water bottles. They were all summoned to the US Senate Commerce Committee to testify on a boring subject-the security and privacy of customer data-which has recently driven many people crazy.

The chairman of the committee from South Dakota, John Thune, sounded the order of the hearing and then began to list the events of the past year that showed that the economy based on data could be terribly wrong. Twelve months have passed since the news that the credit agency Equifax had an apparently preventable violation that had taken the names, Social Security numbers and other sensitive credentials of more than 145 million Americans.And it’s been six months Facebook Cambridge Analytica was caught in a scandal. Cambridge Analytica successfully collected private information from as many as 87 million Facebook users and used it in a seemingly Bond villain-like psychological plan to help Donald Trump enter the White House.

To prevent such abuse, the European Union and California have passed comprehensive new data privacy regulations. Thun said that Congress is now preparing to formulate its own regulations. “The question is no longer whether we need federal laws to protect consumer privacy,” he declared. “The question is, what form will this law take?” Sitting in front of the senator, ready to help answer this question are representatives from two telecommunications companies. Apple, Google, Twitter, with Amazon.

It is worth noting that no one from Facebook or Equifax appeared in the lineup. These people have been individually questioned by Congress. Therefore, for the executives attending the meeting, the hearing marks an opportunity to start lobbying for friendly supervision—of course, assuring Congress, Their The company completely controls this problem.

At the hearing, no executive showed such confidence in this as Amazon’s representative Andrew DeVore (Andrew DeVore), the company rarely testified before Congress. After a brief greeting, he started his opening remarks. He quoted one of the company’s core mottos to the senators: “Amazon’s mission is to be the most customer-centric company on the planet.” This is a stock line, But this makes the deputy general counsel sound a bit like speaking as a messenger from a larger and more important planet.

DeVore, a former prosecutor with a rough personality, made it clear that what Amazon needs most from legislators is as little intervention as possible. Consumer trust is already Amazon’s top priority, and the commitment to privacy and data security has been integrated into everything the company does. “We design 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 that we will handle their data carefully and wisely.”

On the last point, DeVore may have made a safe assumption. That year, a Georgetown University study found that Amazon was the second most trusted institution in the United States, second only to the military. But as companies such as Facebook have learned in recent years, public trust can be fragile. In hindsight, the most interesting thing about Amazon’s 2018 testimony was what Dvor did not say.

At that moment inside Amazon, the department responsible for securing customer data for the company’s retail business was in a state of chaos: understaffed, low morale, exhausted from frequent leadership changes, and—according to its own leader— -Severe disability in terms of their ability to perform work. That year and the year before, the team had been warning Amazon executives that the retailer’s information was at risk. The company’s own practices are inciting danger.

According to internal documents reviewed reveal From survey reports and cable centers, Amazon’s huge customer data empire—its transfer records, including what you search for, what you buy, what programs you watch, the pills you take, what you say to Alexa, and the people standing in front of you Doors-have become so large, fragmented, and shared within the company that the security department cannot even map all the maps, let alone adequately defend its borders.

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