Amazon investigates whether employees are taking bribes to leak company data
Amazon is investigating whether employees are being bribed to leak company data to sellers, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.
Employees have been allegedly handing over confidential information like search optimisation data to independent sellers, mostly via middlemen, to give them a leg up in the $1 trillion dollar company‘s marketplace, reads the report.
Plus, they’re allegedly offering sellers a way to delete negative products reviews, in return for a fee.
This comes according to both merchants who bought said information, and brokers who sold it, both of whom talked to the publisher, along with “people familiar with internal investigations.”
Amazon reportedly launched an investigation into the practice, which is apparently prevalent in China, back in May. Middlemen were said to be using the messaging service WeChat in China to make contact with Amazon employees.
An Amazon spokesperson confirmed its investigation in a statement to the Journal:
“We hold our employees to a high ethical standard and anyone in violation of our Code faces discipline, including termination and potential legal and criminal penalties,” the statement reads.
“We have zero tolerance for abuse of our systems and if we find bad actors who have engaged in this behavior, we will take swift action against them, including terminating their selling accounts, deleting reviews, withholding funds, and taking legal action.”
Mashable has reached out to Amazon for further comment.
While manipulating search results is wildly problematic, the ability to delete negative reviews on your products is particularly annoying for Amazon. The company has been cracking down on fake reviews for the past few years, a quicksand-ridden quest Gimlet Media’s podcast Reply All unpacked in July episode “The Magic Store.”
Attempting to compete with the likes of Alibaba, Amazon permitted a host of foreign third-party sellers to list directly on its site. This saw a flooding of the retailer with inferior products, with some of these sellers paying for positive reviews.
Even though Amazon has revamped its system to amplify reviews from customers who genuinely bought the product, sellers using paid reviewers have found ways around this — the podcast talks to a reviewer at a company using the strategy of tying fake accounts to random addresses all over the U.S. and shipping actual products to them.
“So the package gets shipped randomly to some address in the United States. And then the contractor that they hired would leave a glowing review for each of those products that they sent out,” explained Alex Goldman, host of Reply All.
So, there are loopholes for paid positive reviews. If, wielding a few tips and tricks straight from Amazon employees, you can also delete negative reviews from your products, this would mean a seriously warped marketplace for consumers.
Amazon could have quite the task on its hands.
Additional reporting by Jack Morse.