In a move to shake off its reputation as an unreliable data handler, e-commerce giant Amazon has released for the first time in the company’s history a transparency report which informs the public about data requests it receives from government authorities and the number of times they comply with it.
The Amazon transparency report has been a long time coming as the biggest public business based on a cloud infrastructure has come under scrutiny by many civil rights groups in the past, mostly for its refusal to show exactly in what ways it cooperates with state authorities and in what circumstances does it hand over its customers’ data. It also makes Amazon the last of Fortune 500 tech companies to do so, an aspect in which the e-commerce giant was shamefully lagging behind.
According to the report, which covers request the company received between January 1st and May 31st, the company has received 813 subpoenas, out of which they complied with two thirds of them. However, the company was more stubborn when it came to search warrants and court orders; out of 35 of the former it received it fully complied with about half of them, and out of 13 court orders it only heeded 4. The company also mostly complied when receiving international requests, offering assistance towards authorities in 82 percent of cases.
As far as classified orders go, the transparency report could only state that the company has received a number of national security-based requests between 0 and 249, as the law does not allow for an exact number to be released in such circumstances. The NSA surveillance scandal has pressured the Justice Department into reaching a compromise with companies who wanted to attest their credibility and transparency to their customers, leading to this system in which they are allowed to disclose the information only in really wide ranges.
“Where we need to act publicly to protect customers, we do. Amazon never participated in the NSA’s PRISM program” said Amazon Web Services chief information security officer Stephen Schmidt in the accompanying blog post.
Schmidt also disclosed the fact that, like most companies, Amazon will start publishing transparency records on a biannual basis, with the next report probably coming in January 2016 and covering the second part of 2015. The fact that this was the first such report ever for the company was confirmed by an Amazon spokesperson in an e-mail reply to CNET
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