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35% surge in warrant requests of Alexa recordings and other Amazon data

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The latest transparency report of the e-commerce giant Amazon revealed that the US government had asked for more data on private citizens in the first half of this year than compared to the second half of 2018. According to the figures furnished on the company website, it was found that there was a 35% increase in the search warrants and a 14% increase in the number of subpoenas received from the US government.

The US government asked for data collected from several Amazon services and offerings such as the Amazon Echo, Kindle, and home security devices. The company had handed over either partial or complete information in at least four out of the five cases in which the data was requested.

AWS, which contributes to a mammoth share of the company’s operating income reported a 77% increase in the number of subpoenas for cloud customer data and a decline in the number of search warrants. On the whole, Amazon reported that it received anywhere from 0 to 249 national security requests for both consumers as well as cloud services.

When Edward Snowden leaked several classified files regarding the spying and data aggregation practices of the US, several companies such as Amazon were forced into publishing a transparency report. However, despite mounting pressure from privacy advocates, Amazon was among the last set of tech companies to start publishing a transparency report.

During the Snowden breakthrough, Amazon stated that the company was in no way involved with the mass surveillance activities by the NSA and that it didn’t submit its data. Several high-profile companies such as Apple, Microsoft, and Google were accused of giving away customer data by creating a backdoor for the NSA for its ‘PRISM’ program.

For a long time now, Amazon had been explicitly mentioning its lack-of-involvement in the program in its transparency reports over the course of a few years. It, however, didn’t mention any such aspect in the latest report as the company felt that “it was a somewhat dated reference.”

Here’s an overview of the subpoenas and search warrants received by Amazon:

  • Out of 1955 subpoenas received, 889 were offered full response whereas 616 were offered a partial response. 450 subpoenas weren’t provided a response.
  • Out of 440 search warrants received, 230 were met with a full response while only 150 warrants received a partial response. 60 warrants received no response from the company.

“Where we need to act to protect customers, we do. We have repeatedly challenged government demands for customer information that we believed were overbroad, winning decisions that have helped to set the legal standards for protecting customer speech and privacy interests,” said the company in its official statement.


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