Amazon sees record government demand for user data in 2020

Tech giant processed more than 30,000 government demands last year

Anthony Cuthbertson
Wednesday 03 February 2021 17:30 GMT
Amazon processed nearly 30,000 government demands for data in the last six months of 2020
Amazon processed nearly 30,000 government demands for data in the last six months of 2020 (AFP via Getty Images)

Amazon responded to a record number of government data demands in 2020, according to new transparency figures from the company.

More than 30,000 demands were processed in total, with the report counting 3,222 US requests in the first six months and 27,664 global requests in the last six months. 

The majority of these demands came from Europe, Amazon’s bi-annual transparency report revealed, which covers data from its Echo, Fire and Ring devices, as well as shopping searches through its website and app.

Germany accounted for more than 40 per cent of all requests, while 11 per cent came from the US, 18 per cent came from Spain and 4 per cent came from the UK.

Amazon said it objects to “inappropriate requests" but does disclose customer information if the government request complies “with a legally valid and binding order”.

These include search warrants and court orders but does not include subpoenas.

Information shared with governments can range from basic subscriber information, such as a person’s name, address and retail purchase history, to private data like photos and videos.

Of the 30,886 data requests made by government authorities, only 523 were granted by Amazon.

A separate report from the Financial Times this weekend revealed that more than 2,000 police and fire departments in the US are now part of Amazon’s Ring program, which seeks to provide emergency services with footage from the smart cameras. 

Amazon’s Active Agency Map shows that police and fire departments across 48 states have partnered with the retail giants Neighbors App to “engage directly with the community, and enlist their help on active investigations”.

A spokesperson for Ring said: "Like many other companies, Ring receives and responds to legally binding law enforcement requests for user information that are not overly broad or otherwise inappropriate.

“At Ring, we are committed to being transparent about our privacy and security practices.”

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