Amazon Finally Joins The Transparency Party: Notes That It Did Not Join PRISM

from the yes,-but... dept

Earlier this year, we noted that Amazon was alone among the giant internet companies in refusing to publish a transparency report providing details on government requests for information. Amazon was also absent from the legal fight that many big tech companies filed against the government over the right to disclose such information (a fight that only Twitter is still fighting).

Finally, however, late on Friday, Amazon joined the party with its first ever Transparency Report (though it tries to cover up the fact that it's the first time it's ever done this by calling it the company's "bi-annual report.") In an accompanying blog post, however, the company plays up its privacy fighting bona fides -- something many privacy advocates had long questioned -- by highlighting that it "never participated in the NSA's PRISM program" and that it had challenged government subpoenas for information:
Where we need to act publicly to protect customers, we do. Amazon never participated in the NSA’s PRISM program. We have repeatedly challenged government subpoenas for customer information that we believed were overbroad, winning decisions that have helped to set the legal standards for protecting customer speech and privacy interests. We also advocate in Congress to modernize outdated privacy laws to require law enforcement to obtain a search warrant from a court to get the content of customer communications. That’s the appropriate standard, and it’s the standard we follow.
That may be true, but it's also been true that Amazon has been noticeably absent from a variety of efforts to stop government surveillance -- including many that involve nearly every other big internet company. Hopefully this move, joining the rest of these companies in producing a transparency report, is a step towards being even more engaged on these issues as well. Given just how much infrastructure now runs on Amazon's web services platform, it needs to be a stronger champion for privacy and against unnecessary surveillance.
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Filed Under: nsa, prism, transparency, transparency reports
Companies: amazon


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  • identicon
    Hans, 15 Jun 2015 @ 7:31pm

    Privacy

    Note that the only subpoenas Amazon has challenged (that we know about) are for turning over sales records to states, for tax purposes.

    It's not about liberty or the right to privacy, as they're trumpeting, they're not insisting on a warrant before turning over records to law enforcement, it's about them not wanting to incur the regulatory cost of providing data to every State in the Union.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Gary Mont (profile), 15 Jun 2015 @ 9:03pm

    Participation VS Capitulation

    "Amazon never participated in the NSA’s PRISM program."

    Hmmmmmm... when a US company is legally forced to provide information to a US government agency that is running a semi-legal but White-House-approved surveillance and data mining program, can it actually be truthfully claimed that the company has "participated" in that program, if it simply adheres to the law and does what the courts order, such as hand over user information??

    It sounds to me like Amazon's lawyers have chosen their words very carefully and may indeed be telling only half the story here, through simple omission.

    I'd be far more interested in a statement of whether or not they actually turned over information to NSA's PRISM agents due to court orders, or failed legal challenges, or for any other reason.

    Their lack of active "participation" in the PRISM program is not actually pertinent to whether or not they capitulated under duress and gave the NSA what they wanted.

    A victim of torture can often turn over information to his/her tormentors (regardless of whether or not the information is actually valid), but certainly it cannot be truthfully claimed that the victim is "participating" in the torture.

    ---

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Mik K (profile), 16 Jun 2015 @ 8:04am

    Just Business

    This may be just lip service to entice more non-US companies to use Amazon's services, now that everyone knows US hosted services are open to prying eyes. Not based on fact, just the tiny sample size of the company I work for plus a few friends in the industry.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ot (profile), 16 Jun 2015 @ 11:29am

    hypocracy

    didn't I read somewhere these guys have government contracts? it's so refreshing when the .01% er's are fighting for our rights.
    how's that great humanitarian his employees in the warehouses these days?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    us0r (profile), 16 Jun 2015 @ 11:39am

    "That may be true, but it's also been true that Amazon has been noticeably absent from a variety of efforts to stop government surveillance"

    The US intelligence services are Amazon's biggest customer by a long shot. A quick search turns up all kinds of fun info on Amazon's massive contract.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      GEMont, 18 Jun 2015 @ 1:07am

      Re:

      It could also simply be that Amazon is a standing partner in one or more of the much broader, but far more secret Snoop'N'Scoop programs, such as KNAVE, CRUNCH, or TRIGGER, and thus the NSA has no reason to ask Amazon to participate in PRISM.

      ---

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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