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As concerns over Amazon’s data-hoarding grow, tech giant adds Obama-era spy chief to board

by Resurgent Insider Read Profile arrow_right_alt

As tech giant Amazon continues to grow, concerns are mounting over its size and ability to harvest a massive volume of consumer data through its multiple business verticals.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Amazon sales both through its website and its grocery subsidiary, Whole Foods, have been booming.

At the same time, with more remote work, more Americans are relying on cloud services, and Amazon Web Services provides a big one – not just to many employers, but also to the nation’s security services. Amazon may have lost out on the $10 billion JEDI contract (so far – the appeals process continues), but it has been a longstanding provider of services to the likes of the NSA, as detailed in Edward Snowden’s book, “Permanent Record.”

With more Americans staying at home and watching TV via streaming services, again, Amazon’s data-collection potential has surged.

Collectively, it means Amazon has a ton of data on you, me, and anyone else who uses any of its various services in an increasing array of verticals.

You very well may be using the Amazon cloud for work.

You very well may be ordering groceries through Whole Foods.

You’re very likely downloading your films on Prime.

And you’re buying everything to books to kitchen towels to your kid’s T-shirts on Amazon.com – to which, of course, more Mom-and-Pop third party retailers are gravitating because Amazon has a huge platform, and the facility to collect sales taxes for you, meaning you’ll shop there even more in future.

Amazon sees, and knows, all – and that’s setting aside anything it sees or knows thanks to its work for intelligence services, the Pentagon, and so on.

This is the backdrop against which a particularly interesting tidbit of news from last week should be seen – and it should worry every American remotely concerned about their privacy: Amazon has added to its board former National Security Agency director Keith Alexander who served under President Obama, when the U.S. government was exposed as illicitly spying on its own citizens.

According to CNBC, “Amazon told CNBC in a statement that it selected Alexander because he is highly qualified, citing his public policy experience.”

We bet. Not only will Alexander’s appointment likely make it harder for rival Microsoft to argue that the award of that $10 billion contract to it, and not Amazon, really made sense. It will also probably give Amazon extra heft and relationships with the DoD, NSA, CIA and more.

But it could also provide Amazon with additional insight into how best and most profitably to grab the data of its customers – something about which concerns have already been raised.

Basically every new-ish, “smart” Amazon product out there has been found to have major security and privacy flaws in the last couple of years.

Last year, an Amazon product launch veered off-script when the presenter was forced to address privacy concerns relating to Alexa, but also impacting a host of other products.

In an era where many people have shifted to working from home due to COVID-19, protecting Amazon Echo privacy has become a concern. That is especially so since apparently, privacy problems “go way beyond voice recordings.”

And this is not restricted to Echo or Alexa. Ring has experienced privacy issues, too.

Even Amazon Prime gets this rating from Mozilla, a big advocate for privacy in the tech space:

Given concerns about data-grabbing and Amazon’s mantra of being totally obsessed with its customers, bringing on Alexander is an interesting move, to say the least. Maybe they’re obsessed, but to a creepy degree.

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