Amazon says police demands for customer data have gone up

Amazon.com Inc. Echo Plus devices stand on display during an unveiling event at the company's headquarters in Seattle, Washington, U.S., on Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019. Amazon.com Inc. defended the privacy features of its Alexa digital assistant -- and introduced some new tools to reassure users -- following months of debate about the practices of the technology giant and its largest competitors. Photographer: Chloe Collyer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Amazon.com Inc. Echo Plus devices stand on display during an unveiling event at the company's headquarters in Seattle, Washington, U.S., on Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019. Amazon.com Inc. defended the privacy features of its Alexa digital assistant -- and introduced some new tools to reassure users -- following months of debate about the practices of the technology giant and its largest competitors. Photographer: Chloe Collyer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Zack Whittaker

Amazon has said the number of demands for user data made by U.S. federal and local law enforcement have increased more during the first half of 2020 than during the same period a year earlier.

The disclosure came in the company's latest transparency report, published Thursday.

The figures show that Amazon received 23% more subpoenas and search warrants, and a 29% increase in court orders compared to the first half of 2019. That includes data collected from its Amazon.com retail storefront, Amazon Echo devices and its Kindle and Fire tablets.

Breaking those figures down, Amazon said it received:

  • 2,416 subpoenas, turning over all or partial user data in 70% of cases.

  • 543 search warrants, turning over all or partial user data in 79% of cases.

  • 146 court orders, turning over all or partial user data in 74% of cases.

The number of requests to the company's cloud services, Amazon Web Services, also went up compared to a year earlier.

But it's not clear what caused the rise in U.S. government demands for user data. A spokesperson for Amazon did respond to a request for comment.

The company saw the number of overseas requests drop by about one-third compared to the same period a year earlier. Amazon rejected 92% of the 177 overseas requests it received, turning over partial user data in 10 cases and all requested data in four cases.

Amazon also said it received between 0 and 249 national security requests, flat from previous reports. Justice Department rules on disclosing classified requests only allow companies to respond in numerical ranges.

Amazon was one of the last major tech companies to issue a transparency report, despite mounting pressure from privacy advocates. But its report remains far lighter on details compared to its Silicon Valley rivals.

The company's Ring smart camera division, despite facing criticism for its poor security practices and its close relationships with law enforcement, has yet to release any data related to police requests for user data.


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