In the first six months of 2017, technology giant Amazon broke its own record for the amount of information it turned over to the U.S. government, according to a transparency report quietly released by the company at the end of December. Considering millions of people store their personal information on Amazon’s web services, it’s worth speculating what, exactly, the tech conglomerate turned over to the government, and why.

Zack Whittaker, the security editor of tech website ZDNet, explains:

The report, which focuses solely on its Amazon Web Services cloud business, revealed 1,936 different requests between January and June 2017, a rise from the previous bi-annual report.

The company received:

  • 1,618 subpoenas, of which the company fully complied with 42 percent;
  • 229 search warrants, of which the company fully complied with 44 percent;
  • 89 other court orders, of which the company fully complied with 52 percent.

It’s not clear why there was a spike in requests during the half-year period. An Amazon spokesperson declined to comment.

Whittaker goes on to note that, as in past reports, Amazon “refused to say if it had received a national security letter,” or a subpoena issued without needing prior approval from a judge. Tech companies are, he writes, “barred from disclosing exactly how many of these letters they receive,” although they are allowed to state if they have not received a national security letter. Amazon stated it received between zero and 249 national security requests.

The transparency report also does not address the Amazon Echo, a speaker system which has been making headlines for being a best-seller as well as a security concern. Whittaker writes that the latest transparency report does not note whether authorities collected data via wiretapping the Echo.

The report comes as Amazon’s Alexa—a “smart-voice” assistant that initially only worked with the Amazon Echo—becomes compatible with a wide array of third-party products, further increasing potential security risks.

Read Amazon’s full transparency report here, and Whittaker’s analysis here.

–Posted by Emma Niles

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