September 26, In 2018, a series of tech supervisors entered the marble-and-wood listening room and sat down behind a line of microphones and small water bottles. They were all summoned to testify before the Senate Commerce Committee on a tough topic – maintaining security and customer privacy – which made many people go crazy like hell.
The chairman of the committee, John Thune, of South Dakota, filed a lawsuit, which then went on to list last year’s events that showed how the information-based economy could be undermined. It had been 12 months since the news broke that the biggest possible breach of the Equifax credit bureau had revealed the names, social security numbers, and other information of more than 145 million Americans. And it was six months later Facebook Cambridge Analytica, a political law firm that managed to obtain confidential information from Facebook 87 million users on the seemingly infamous Bond process to help put Donald Trump in the White House.
To prevent such atrocities, the European Union and the California government have both enacted new laws regarding data privacy. Now Congress, Thune said, was ready to draft its own legislation. “The question is not whether we want federal law to protect consumer privacy,” he said. “The question is, what will the law look like?” Sitting in front of the senator, ready to answer the question, were representatives of two telecom companies, apple, Google, Twitter, and Amazon.
Missing from the list was anyone from Facebook or Equifax, who was fired by Congress separately. As a result for the judges who assembled, the case was an opportunity to initiate a friendly legal process – and to assure Congress that, yes, their companies had a complete problem.
No senior in the case has shown as much confidence in the case as Andrew DeVore, a representative of Amazon, a company that refuses to testify before Congress. After giving a brief greeting, he began his opening remarks by mentioning one of his company’s key principles for senators: “Amazon’s mission is to become the world’s largest customer management company.” It was a line of stocks, but it made the General Assembly sound as if it were speaking as an ambassador from a large and important country.
DeVore, a former state attorney, made it clear that what Amazon needs most from lawmakers is minimal disruption. Consumer reliability was already paramount in Amazon, and a commitment to privacy and data security was compromised in all of the company’s activities. “We make our products and services easier for customers to understand when their data is being collected and streamlined when it is distributed,” he said. “Our customers trust us to be able to manage their data safely and efficiently.”
On this last point, DeVore was probably making a sense of security. That year, a study by Georgetown University found Amazon to be the second most reliable location in the United States, after the military. But as companies like Facebook have learned in recent years, interdependence can become fragile. And looking back, what is most interesting about Amazon’s 2018 testimony is what DeVore did not say.
At the same time within Amazon, the company that manages to store customer information at the company was at risk: unemployed, frustrated, tired from frequent changes in leadership, and – with the accounts of their executives – severely disabled. in his ability to do his job. That same year and earlier, the group warned Amazon officials that sellers’ information was at risk. And the company’s actions were exacerbating the risk.
According to the internal notes reviewed by Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting and WIRED, Amazon’s largest consumer of customer data – its history of changing what you search for, what you buy, what you see, what pills you take, what you tell Alexa, and those in front of you. door – it had grown bigger, more fragmented, and recklessly shared within the company so that the security sector could not put it all together, especially to fully protect its borders.