Amazon says US government demands for customer data went up

Amazon said the U.S. government asked for more data from the company during the first half of 2019 than in the previous six-month period.

The latest figures in the company’s transparency report, published quietly on its website late Wednesday, said the number of subpoenas it received went up by 14% and search warrants went up by close to 35%.

That includes data collected from its Amazon Echo voice assistant service, its Kindle and Fire tablets and its home security devices.

Amazon turned over some or all data in about four out of five cases, the figures show.

But the number of other legal demands Amazon received were down slightly.

The company’s cloud business, Amazon Web Services — which makes up the bulk of Amazon’s annual operating income — also reported separately a 77% increase in the number of subpoenas it received for cloud-stored customer data, but a decline in received search warrants.

Per reporting rules set out by the Justice Department, Amazon said it received between 0 and 249 national security requests, for both consumer and cloud services.

Amazon was one of the last major tech companies to issue a transparency report, despite mounting pressure from privacy advocates. The company eventually buckled, releasing its first set of figures several days after whistleblower Edward Snowden leaked highly classified documents that revealed mass surveillance by the U.S. National Security Agency and its global intelligence counterparts.

The company said at the time and continued to maintain until recently that it “never participated” in the NSA’s so-called PRISM program, which allowed the government to obtain data from Apple, Google, Microsoft and several other tech companies.

But TechCrunch noticed that Amazon removed that wording from its transparency report pages several weeks ago.

When reached, an Amazon spokesperson said that the change was “simply because it was a somewhat dated reference.”