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Amazon's Employees Alleged to have Leaked Company Data for Private Gain

2018-10-09 14:51 Tuesday

Amazon.com Inc, the world's second-largest technology company by market value, has been hit by corruption allegations. Amazon is currently investigating certain employees on suspicion of leaking data and taking bribes, as well as trying to remove false reviews and other seller scams from its website.


Amazon employees, with the aid of intermediaries, provided internal data and other confidential information to independent merchants on the platform in exchange for payments ranging from about $80 to more than $2,000, according to people familiar with the matter. The leaked data included the site's internal sales metrics and the email addresses of users that left poor reviews of the merchants. Using this data, independent merchants would adjust their sales strategy and persuade reviewers to remove negative reviews. Furthermore, if independent merchants were willing to pay more, Amazon employees would help remove negative reviews for them and even restore banned Amazon accounts.

Some individuals also revealed that such violations of company policies were particularly rampant in China. One reason is fierce market competition among merchants in the wake of the e-commerce boom. Another reason is the relatively low wages of Amazon employees in China, which can drive resentment and incentivize misbehavior.

In May, Amazon launched an internal probe after its Vice President who oversees the international market, learned of the misconduct, according to an inside source. Amazon has since replaced its top executives in China, in an effort to root out the source of the corruption behavior.

Amazon has been working to prevent sellers from exploiting the system for illicit gain. An Amazon spokesperson said the company has strict policies with a rigorous code of business conduct and ethics, and has installed systems to restrict and audit what employees can access.

Nonetheless, underlying internal corruption remains, and illegal businesses are becoming more creative at thwarting the controls, enticed by the prospect of huge profits. Solving the problem of corruption, which is a long-term challenge for Amazon and other e-commerce companies, requires not only severe punishment and enforcement, but also putting responsible anti-corruption mechanisms in place.

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