The slogan “Amazon and you’re done” may have just taken on a whole new meaning -- at least for enemies of the state.
Privacy advocates and media watchdogs are challenging a contract between Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) and the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, calling it a potentially “ominous” convergence of mass surveillance and perpetual war.
In an online petition launched this month, the group RootsAction called on Amazon’s chief executive, Jeff Bezos, to make a “legally binding” commitment to Amazon users that it won’t share customer data with the CIA. Following a lengthy legal battle, Amazon in October defeated IBM (NYSE:IBM) in a bid for a $600 million cloud computing contract. Under the 10-year deal, Amazon’s cloud computing arm, Amazon Web Services, will build and operate a dedicated, private computer cloud for the agency.
“The relationship means that Amazon -- logoed with a smiley-face arrow from A to Z, selling products to millions of people every week -- is responsible for keeping the CIA’s secrets and aggregating data to help the agency do its work,” wrote Norman Solomon, co-founder of RootsAction, in a blog post. “Including drone strikes.”
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Solomon added -- somewhat melodramatically -- that should President Barack Obama order the CIA to kill a U.S. citizen, Amazon would be a “partner in assassination.”
In an email to IBTimes on Sunday, Solomon said the group’s petition had been signed by upwards of 27,000 in just the last few days. At last check, it was up to just under 30,000, with many commenters not holding back their disgust over the alliance.
“OK, Bezos, you’re rich enough and powerful enough that everybody is duly impressed,” one person wrote. “Now get a grip on yourself and get out of bed with the CIA. Those guys are evil.”
“If you can’t respect consumer privacy, it will be necessary to reevaluate doing business with your company,” wrote another.
Critics of the deal also cite Bezos’ ownership of the Washington Post, which they say creates a conflict of interest for a news outlet that often reports on CIA activities. A separate RootsAction petition is calling for “full disclosure” in the Post’s CIA coverage and has been signed by more than 33,000 people.
This isn’t the first time Amazon Web Services has teamed up with a government agency. In 2012, it was announced during the White House Big Data Summit that Amazon had completed the largest catalogue of human genetics for the National Institutes of Health.
So is it a match made in Orwellian hell or business as usual? Read the full petition from RootsAction here and decide for yourself.