After Amazon signed a lucrative, long-term cloud computing contract with the CIA, concerns surfaced that the Internet giant might divulge customer information to the agency. So far, a petition for Amazon’s owner to address these concerns has gathered over 29,000 signatures.
More than 29,000 Americans have signed a petition in the past few weeks, urging Amazon’s Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post, not to disclose the information of any Amazon customer to the CIA.
The progressive grassroots organization RootsAction, which advocates for economic fairness, equal rights, civil liberties, environmental protection and defunding endless wars, started the petition a few months after it was confirmed that Amazon signed a 10-year, $600-million contract with the federal agency to create and maintain a “cloud computing” service for the agency.
Activists such as Norman Solomon warn that this latest petition challenging the CIA-Amazon relationship is crucial given that Amazon’s “Privacy Notice” has “loopholes big enough to fly a drone through,” and that the
Amazon-CIA deal “has cranked up the basis for massive abuse.”
Amazon averages about 162 million unique visitors to its sites every month, a reason why groups such as RootsAction are concerned that the CIA will use the information Amazon has gathered about its users for its own purposes, including U.S. military interventions overseas, the petition states.
“The firm’s business model depends on accumulating and analyzing huge quantities of personal data,” RootsAction says of Amazon. “Meanwhile, the CIA depends on gathering and analyzing data to serve U.S. military interventions overseas.”
“The relationship means that Amazon — logoed with a smiley-face arrow from A to Z, selling products to millions of people every week — is responsible for keeping the CIA’s secrets and aggregating data to help the agency do its work. Including drone strikes,” Solomon added.
Given that U.S. agencies including the CIA and National Security Agency have been found to violate Americans’ constitutional rights in recent months, RootsAction warns that the CIA may use an Amazon-created digital place for mass surveillance, and a perpetual digital war may be converging, unless something is done.
“Amazon is being paid a huge sum to keep the secrets of an agency that is central to the U.S. surveillance state,” Solomon said, noting that when Amazon finally confirmed in October that it was working with the CIA, the company released a statement saying it was looking forward to a “successful relationship with the CIA.”
“As the largest Web retailer in the world, Amazon has built its business model on the secure accumulation and analysis of massive personal data,” Solomon said. “The firm’s Amazon Web Services division gained the CIA contract amid fervent hopes that the collaboration will open up vast new vistas for the further melding of surveillance and warfare.
“The surveillance state and the warfare state continue to converge,” Solomon warned. “The Washington Post does not want us to insist on journalistic disclosure. Amazon does not want us to insist on moral accountability. President Obama does not want us to insist on basic constitutionality. It would be a shame to oblige any of them.”
Many Americans agree with Solomon that “Amazon is now integral to the U.S. government’s foreign policy of threatening and killing,” including “ongoing drone strikes and covert lethal missions in many countries,” which is why almost 30,000 people have signed the petition challenging the Amazon-CIA partnership.
The goal is to get at least 30,000 signatures so that Bezos may agree to “make a legally binding commitment to customers that Amazon will not provide customer data to the Central Intelligence Agency.” But even if the organization does achieve its goal, there is no guarantee that either Bezos or Amazon will listen to or address the petitioners’ concerns.
As Solomon noted, despite obtaining more than 33,000 signatures, the group’s efforts earlier this year to have Martin Baron, the executive editor of The Washington Post, agree to disclose to the public that the paper’s owner, Bezos, not only works with, but also profits from the CIA was unsuccessful.
Signed by people from all over the country, including Washington Post readers, the petition asked for the Post to “include full disclosure that the sole owner of the Post is also the main owner of Amazon — and Amazon is now gaining huge profits directly from the CIA,” in “substantial and substantive coverage” of the intelligence agency.
Baron said such a disclosure was not necessary because there would be “no direct relevance of the (Amazon-CIA) cloud services contract to coverage of such matters as CIA involvement in rendition of prisoners to regimes for torture; or in targeting for drone strikes; or in data aggregation for counterinsurgency.”