Amazon Employees Sold Confidential Data to Independent Merchants
WASHINGTON — September 18, 2018
With good and decent marketing, you can do a lot. For paying the right company the right price you can do even more, even remove negative customer reviews. ..And with bribes, you can get away with almost anything.
For example, recently, Amazon employees leaked confidential user data, allowing merchants to delete negative reviews.
However, these actions didn't go unnoticed. Now Amazon has launched an investigation against its own employees after allegations that they sold confidential, internal data to independent merchants on the site.
Employees, mainly in China, have been selling sales and search information to vendors, according to the Wall Street Journal. The merchants can then use that leaked data, including spending habits, to boost sales by crafting targeted product descriptions.
Other sellers allegedly paid employees to delete negative reviews.
Bribes to Amazon employees ranged from $80 to $2,000, according to the Wall Street Journal.
"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," Amazon said in a statement.
"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," the statement added.
Amazon did not disclose the number of employees or merchants involved in the probe.
Citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter, the Journal reported that Amazon was investigating "a number" of incidents involving employees in the U.S. and abroad.
Amazon told journalists that it has policies and systems in place to protect internal sales data.
"We implement sophisticated systems to restrict and audit access to information," the spokesperson said. "We have strict policies and a code of business conduct and ethics in place for our employees."
Earlier, according to a 2015 complaint, Amazon sued more than 1,000 people who allegedly sold fake product reviews in an effort to mislead customers
Tommy Noonan, founder of ReviewMeta.com, which repeatedly analyzes Amazon listings noted that he had long noticed suspicious work within the company which often led to a serious showdown between customers and partners.
"Someone contacted me and mentioned the rumor that there was a way to delete negative reviews on Amazon by bribing people," Tommy Noonan, founder of ReviewMeta.com, which analyzes Amazon listings, told ABC News. "It's obviously not an isolated, one-off incident if someone contacted me, and it's also in the Wall Street Journal."
Noonan said that according to data collected by his company, millions of potentially fake reviews have been deleted.
"Amazon has created this cutthroat marketplace," Noonan added. "It benefits customers to some extent because vendors cut costs at all costs, but behind the scenes, it is creating a cutthroat environment. If sellers play by the rules, they get squashed. It creates huge incentives to break the rules — if you don’t get caught."