Reuters Reports on Amazon’s Alleged Lobbying Against Privacy Legislation

Published · Nov 22, 2021

Reuters released the third article in its series of reviews of Amazon internal documents. These also include interviews with over 70 lobbyists, advocates, policymakers, and former Amazon employees.

Reuters alleges that the company, which generates billions annually, has been lobbying against privacy legislation for years. Evidence suggests that Amazon has employed people with the job of blocking privacy legislation or influencing its makeup.

Supposedly, the company raised political donations in Virginia tenfold over four years. Then, it convinced lawmakers to pass a watered-down privacy bill that it drafted itself. When questioned, Amazon spokespeople claimed the company is in favor of privacy but in the shape of a federal bill rather than state-by-state legislation.

The spokespeople were unable to name a specific bill Amazon supported, but they did cite three examples that they said were statements of public support for federal consumer-privacy legislation.

The word “federal” is important to note, as the statements were criticisms of state legislation and support for legislation criticized by consumer advocates.

Give and Take

The State of California passed a law in 2018, despite Amazon’s attempts to undermine it. This law allows consumers to request the data Amazon holds on them. A number of Reuters reporters requested their own data and found that a lot of it is highly sensitive.

One found that Amazon had more than 90,000 recordings that Alexa devices had made of their family members since 2017. In some, appears the voice of a young child asking sensitive questions.

Another found that Amazon had data on their kindle readings sessions and a profile detailing their family’s “implicit dietary preferences.”

Amazon worked to have Alexa collection in particular exempt in legislation dealing with data collection. The report by Reuters goes into much more detail.

It immediately becomes clear that Amazon has access to a lot more data than initially thought. It’s more than an average people search site or background check service has, for example. Plus, the company is actively working to hinder regulation.

If legislation continues to be influenced by the corporations it’s supposed to hold accountable, the public’s trust will keep eroding.

People already turn to market solutions, such as VPNs, identity theft protection tools, and others. There is no word yet on how these findings may impact considerations going forward.

Garan van Rensburg
Garan van Rensburg

Garan is a writer interested in how tech reshapes the environment, and how the environment reshapes tech. You'll usually find him inoculating against future shock and arguing with bots.