While people ready themselves for turkey feasts and a slew of Black Friday sales, Amazon has been busy preparing something else — a message alerting customers that their e-mail addresses were compromised.
The message, sent to users on Tuesday, read: “We’re contacting you to let you know that our web site inadvertently disclosed your e-mail address due to a technical error.” The company went on to say that the problem has been addressed and that no further action, such as changing passwords, would be required.
An Amazon spokesman echoed the sentiment in response to a WWD request for information: “We have fixed the issue and informed customers who may have been impacted.”
The company chalks up the problem to a mistake or bug that exposed the customer names and e-mails. It doesn’t believe it stems from a malicious attack or lax data privacy policies. That may be an important distinction in an era rife with hacks and malfeasance, particularly if it helps to separate this matter from high-profile issues like those facing Facebook.
Most recently, the social-networking giant was the subject of a scathing exposé alleging that company executives engaged in controversial efforts to bury the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
Amazon hasn’t been transparent in this matter either. The company declined to discuss the particulars of this incident — including which Amazon web site was impacted, how many people were affected, what caused the problem and how it was fixed.
One thing that is clear is that the timing, just days before the busiest shopping period of the year, couldn’t be worse. It also highlights an emerging reality for the retail sector: Safeguarding data is not the exclusive responsibility of Silicon Valley tech giants. As retailers and marketplaces increasingly collect customer information, it will also face a growing call to protect that data.