Amazon says the clampdown is the result of additional security features it implemented in early 2019 but didn’t specify what those features were.Amazon tries to tightly control many aspects of its ecommerce platform, from how sellers communicate with customers to what kinds of information they’re allowed to see, to protect shoppers’ privacy and keep bad actors from gaming its system. But customer data is so valuable that some sellers have resorted to bribing Amazon staff to hand it over, according to a Wall Street Journal investigation last year, and the company has fired at least one employee as a result.
“Amazon has strict policies and procedures in place to protect our customers’ personal information, and we regularly audit use of our services to ensure compliance,” a spokesperson for the company said in a statement. “We also continuously assess and implement new measures when we see opportunity to further strengthen our protections for the use of Amazon data.”
Data DetoxYev Marusenko was working in marketing for a startup that sold products on Amazon several years ago when he noticed an issue many sellers faced: There wasn’t a good way to easily advertise on other websites, particularly on Facebook. He already had access to Amazon Marketplace Web Service APIs, since all that was required at the time was a valid professional Amazon selling account.So Marusenko built a tool that would let Amazon sellers automatically take their customers’ personal information, like their names, and then upload that data to Facebook’s Marketing API to better target campaigns. For example, if you purchased a T-shirt from a third-party seller on Amazon, Marusenko’s tool would allow that seller to target you—or people like you, using Facebook’s Lookalike Audience tool—with ads for more products, a common practice in the ecommerce industry. Marusenko called the app ZonTracker and sold it through his own website. Marusenko says that eventually more than 500 sellers were paying roughly $20 to $60 a month to use his tool.