According to internal documents, Amazon’s vast empire of customer data—its metastasizing record of what you search for, what you buy, what shows you watch, what pills you take, what you say to Alexa, and who’s at your front door—had become so sprawling, fragmented, and promiscuously shared within the company that the security division couldn’t even map all of it, much less adequately defend its borders.
Across Amazon, some low-level employees were using their data privileges to snoop on the purchases of celebrities, while others were taking bribes to help shady sellers sabotage competitors’ businesses, doctor Amazon’s review system, and sell knock-off products to unsuspecting customers. Millions of credit card numbers had sat in the wrong place on Amazon’s internal network for years, with the security team unable to establish definitively whether they’d been unduly accessed.
And a program that allowed sellers to extract their own metrics had become a backdoor for third-party developers to amass Amazon customer data. In fact, Amazon had discovered that a Chinese data firm had been harvesting millions of customers’ information in a scheme reminiscent of Cambridge Analytica.