Amazon chasing employees for acting as rogue 'data brokers'

Employees are selling services and internal information for between $80 and $2,000 to businesses seeking advantage

amazon building

Amazon is investigating several incidents in which employees in the US and China allegedly stole internal data to sell on to third parties.

People who are familiar with the investigation told the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) that internal sales data, reviewers' emails addresses and offering to delete negative reviews are among those offered by 'brokers' for between $80 and $2,000.

Sellers would be enticed by such offers to gain an advantage over rivals, and game the automated ranking system. Contact information for reviews, for example, would allow sellers to approach users to ask them to change negative reviews.

"We have strict policies and a Code of Business Conduct & Ethics in place for our employees," an Amazon spokesperson told IT Pro.

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"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.

"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."

Eric Broussard, Amazon's vice president for international marketplaces opened an internal probe in May, the WSJ report continued, after being tipped off about such activity in China.

The company has also shaken up the top roles in China in an effort to clamp down on any illicit activity that may have been overseen from a senior level.

Product rankings on Amazon are determined by a combination of factors - with reviews being one of the most crucial. WSJ says the rate for deleting one review amounts to $300 in China - with brokers usually demanding a five-review minimum. Sales data, meanwhile, would cost closer to $80.

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Amazon recently reached the $1 billion dollar valuation milestone, becoming the second company to achieve this following Apple in August. But the firm has sustained criticism, in the US especially, for paying its employees relatively low wages, and for "prison-like" working conditions in its warehouses.

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