On Friday, online retail giant Amazon released its first ever transparency report, thereby revealing how many requests the company has gotten from governments domestic and international, to divulge customer data. The company becomes the final technology firm in the Fortune 500 list, to have publicly disclosed this information, after other major tech companies like Google, Twitter, Yahoo, Snapchat, Dropbox and others. While Amazon is not legally bound to release this information, it has likely bowed to public demands after having resisted several calls from internet groups, civil rights groups and consumer rights advocacy groups for a long time, in the wake of the infamous PRISM program undertaken by the NSA. Amazon also said that henceforth, it would be releasing such reports on a half-yearly basis, meaning the next report will be due at the end of this year, or early next.
As for the report itself, Amazon says, in the year 2015 up until May 31st, the company received 813 subpoenas, and responded fully to 542 of them. The company also said that it received twenty-five search warrants out of which, it had complied with thirteen, and did not respond to four. The company revealed that the number of national security requests it received during the period is between zero and 249. The company also says that it had received 132 foreign requests during the period, out of which, it fully complied with 109, and it also admitted to complying with one user-data removal order it received during the period.
The chief information security officer for Amazon Web Services (AWS), Mr. Stephen Schmidt wrote on his blog, “Amazon does not disclose customer information unless we’re required to do so to comply with a legally valid and binding order. Unless prohibited from doing so or there is clear indication of illegal conduct in connection with the use of Amazon products or services, Amazon notifies customers before disclosing content information”. The company however, categorically denies ever having been a part of the NSA’s infamous PRISM program, as he clarifies, “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”.