retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Reuters reports that three US Senators and two members of the House of Representatives - four Democrats and one Republican - are calling for "federal consumer-privacy legislation after a Reuters report published Friday revealed how Amazon.com Inc has led an under-the-radar campaign to gut privacy protections in 25 states while amassing a valuable trove of personal data on American consumers.

"Amazon shamefully launched a campaign to squash privacy legislation while its devices listen to and watch our lives," says Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut). "This is now the classic Big Tech move: deploy money and armies of lobbyists to fight meaningful reforms in the shadows but claim to support them publicly."

Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) said that Congress "needs to … pass legislation that finally stops massive corporations from abusing and exploiting our personal data."

Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee) also said that there is a "need for federal action to protect consumers."

The original Reuters story framed the issue like this:

"In recent years, Amazon.com Inc has killed or undermined privacy protections in more than three dozen bills across 25 states, as the e-commerce giant amassed a lucrative trove of personal data on millions of American consumers.

"Amazon executives and staffers detail these lobbying victories in confidential documents reviewed by Reuters.

"In Virginia, the company boosted political donations tenfold over four years before persuading lawmakers this year to pass an industry-friendly privacy bill that Amazon itself drafted. In California, the company stifled proposed restrictions on the industry’s collection and sharing of consumer voice recordings gathered by tech devices. And in its home state of Washington, Amazon won so many exemptions and amendments to a bill regulating biometric data, such as voice recordings or facial scans, that the resulting 2017 law had 'little, if any' impact on its practices, according to an internal Amazon document."

Reuters also writes that, "Asked for comment, Amazon did not directly address the lawmaker criticisms of its lobbying campaign against privacy protections. The company reiterated its statement for the previous Reuters report, saying it prefers federal privacy legislation to a 'patchwork' of state regulations. The company said it wants one federal privacy law that 'requires transparency about data practices, prohibits the sale of personal data without consent, and ensures that consumers have the right to request access to and deletion of their personal information'."

KC's View:

It's interesting … over the years, I've never really felt that Amazon violated my privacy.  But then again, the Reuters story makes the compelling argument that I really have no idea how and whether it is doing so.  Which is disquieting.

I do know one thing - this story reinforces my general distaste for lobbying, and my opinion that every dollar spent on lobbying and political donations ought to be utterly transparent.  No exceptions, no dark money, not ever.

I think it was a fellow named Jeff Bezos that once said - and contributed the phrase as a  new motto for a newspaper he owns - that "democracy dies in darkness."

Ironic, huh?