Privacy, civil rights groups demand transparency from Amazon on election data breaches

A group of more than a dozen privacy and civil rights organizations on Thursday demanded that Amazon disclose information about breaches of election data in order to increase the company’s public transparency ahead of November. 

Groups including Color of Change and Demand Progress cited past incidents reported by Reuters that involved voter data, stored on Amazon Cloud servers, being left exposed online in expressing concerns about Amazon security. They noted that one or more of Amazon’s election services will be used in 40 states this year. 

“Amazon’s election services – including running election websites, storing voter registration information and ballot data, and helping to provide live results on election night – concentrate private voter data and history in a single centralized system,” the groups wrote in a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. “A single breach could have catastrophic consequences for election integrity in dozens of states.”

While the groups acknowledged that the election officials involved would have some responsibility for election data security, they warned that this did not mean Amazon should abdicate all involvement. 

“If a car seat manufacturer didn’t provide proper instructions to make sure people installed their car seats correctly, and it put infants in harm’s way, people would blame the manufacturer for its negligence,” the groups wrote. “The car seat manufacturer would be expected to do everything necessary to prevent infants from dying.”

Other groups that signed on to the letter were the AI Now Institute, Constitutional Alliance, Fight for the Future, Just Futures Law, Kairos Action, Media Alliance, MediaJustice, MPower Change, Open Markets Institute,, Partnership for Working Families, Secure Justice, STOP — The Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, Woodhull Freedom Foundation and X-Lab.

The letter was sent just over a month ahead of the presidential election and as election interference concerns increase.

A senior official at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence warned in an assessment last month that Russia, China and Iran were actively interfering in U.S. elections this year.

Microsoft warned this month that it was seeing Russian, Chinese and Iranian hackers target political groups including the campaigns of President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. 

The groups pointed to the Microsoft assessment in noting that adversaries were actively “looking for loopholes, like cloud security compromises” to interfere in the presidential election. 

“Given the stakes, Amazon should be doing everything they can to secure our elections,” the groups wrote. “Responding to these disturbing compromises by placing blame and putting the onus on the user, like you have in the past, is unacceptable.”

Evan Greer, the deputy director of Fight for the Future, criticized Amazon for not doing enough to shore up the security of its systems. 

“Amazon is the most profitable corporation on the planet and Jeff Bezos is the richest person in human history,” Greer said in a statement. “If a company this size wants to sell its software to governments for election purposes, it has a responsibility to ensure that those systems are properly configured and to be transparent about the steps they’re taking to secure our elections. We can’t let Amazon’s greed corrode what’s left of our democracy.”

Tags Amazon Donald Trump Jeff Bezos Joe Biden

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