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Amazon probes allegations of illegal data sale by employees

By Sheetal Sukhija, Kuala Lumpur News
17 Sep 2018, 23:56 GMT+10

CALIFORNIA, U.S. - In a heavily damaging report, The Wall Street Journal revealed on Sunday that Amazon staff had accepted huge bribes in return for the illegal sale of customer data. 

The report revealed that sellers keen on getting their hands on the vast Amazon customer data and some key internal sales data had managed to tempt employees at the world's largest online retailer with bribes.

According to the report, Amazon staff were bribed and sold internal sales data, and even deleted negative reviews in return. 

It stated that employees had "turned over proprietary sales information, deleted negative reviews, turned over reviewer email addresses, or unbanned banned accounts."

Explaining the entire operation, the report revealed that middlemen used social media sites like WeChat to track down Amazon employees and offered them cash to turn over internal information or to delete negative reviews. 

Further, the WSJ report noted that employees involved in the dirty business made roughly about $300 by taking down a single bad review.

Adding that brokers even “[demanded] a five-review minimum” per transaction. 

It said that Amazon employees have also been asked to provide email addresses of customers who left negative reviews, or to provide sales information which would give the sellers an edge over rivals. 

After the report exposed the ugly details of the case, Amazon was said to have launched an investigation into the practice.

Confirming that a probe had been launched over the claims, an Amazon spokesperson said, "We have strict policies and a Code of Business Conduct & Ethics in place for our employees. We implement sophisticated systems to restrict and audit access to information. We hold our employees to a high ethical standard and anyone in violation of our Code faces discipline, including termination and potential legal and criminal penalties." 

The spokesperson added, "In addition, we have zero tolerance for abuse of our systems and if we find bad actors who have engaged in this behavior, we will take swift action against them, including terminating their selling accounts, deleting reviews, withholding funds, and taking legal action. We are conducting a thorough investigation of these claims."

Meanwhile, the report in WSJ also quoted an Amazon spokesperson as saying that in a bid to combat the behavior, the company had implemented “systems to restrict and audit what employees can access.”

According to the report, the practice “is particularly pronounced” in China. 

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