Amazon turns over record amount of customer data to US law enforcement

The company's fifth transparency report reveals more customer data was handed to US law enforcement in the first-half of last year than ever before.

Law enforcement requests for Amazon customer data has gone up, but the company still won't say if Echo has been wiretapped. (Image: CNET/CBS Interactive)

Amazon has turned over a record amount of customer data to the US government in the first-half of last year in response to demands by law enforcement.

The retail and cloud giant quietly posted its latest transparency report on Dec. 29 without notice -- as it has with previous reports -- detailing the latest figures for the first six months of 2017.

The report 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.

Amazon also confirmed it had 75 requests from outside the US through a mutual legal assistance process, in which it partially complied with two cases. The remaining cases were rejected. But the company didn't say which countries made the requests.

Amazon said it did not receive any content removal orders during the period.

Like in previous reports, the company refused to say if it had received a national security letter during the period. Tech companies are barred from disclosing exactly how many of these letters they receive, but companies can under their First Amendment right to freedom of speech say if they have not received one.

Amazon instead elected to say it had received between zero and 249 national security requests.

Law enforcement has, since Echo's inception, looked at ways to obtain data from the voice-activated assistant. Amazon has largely resisted efforts by police to obtain data from the always-listening product, but acquiesced in one murder investigation after the suspect did not object to the turning over of his Echo data.

Correction: due to a miscommunication by an Amazon spokesperson, an earlier version of this article stated that the government data requests "focuses solely" on Amazon Web Services users. Amazon said, days later, that the figures are company wide, but would not say which products, services, or divisions the report includes data from. We regret the error, and will update once we know more.

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