This year, Facebook has come under tons of scrutiny from the federal government and investors due to the data breach with Cambridge Analytica. The breach brought to light the growing concern of customers regarding their privacy and the use of big data. While not on the same scale as Facebook, Amazon could be facing similar data privacy issue according to a statement from the company.
On Sunday, Amazon announced that they are conducting an investigation among their employees to determine if their e-commerce program is being taken advantage of. The statement from Amazon alleges that some employees may be offering advantages to some of their sellers by providing those sellers with customer data and other services in exchange for a fee. Included in those services is the ability of the independent merchants to be able to delete their negative reviews on their products. In turn, the merchants are able to appear higher up in search results and have overall better customer reviews on their products. Employees have also reportedly handed over proprietary sales information, turned over review email addresses, and unbanned banned Amazon accounts.
While the statement just came out, the internal investigation has been ongoing since May, when the company first learned that these practices may be taking place in China. The issue is believed to have started there as the so-called middlemen use a messaging service, known as WeChat, to connect with Amazon employees and connect with merchants. Reportedly, merchants are willing to pay more than $2,000 for customer data and the other services, which can benefit their appearance on the site. The practice is believed to be a commonplace occurrence in China at this point, but the investigation does also extend to employees in the United States.
Amazon is actively working to identify the employees and merchants who are breaking the rules and take corrective action. According to the statement from Amazon, “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. 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.”