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"An Amazon spokesman said the company doesn’t use confidential information that companies share with it to build competing products"

Maybe...but in the past, AWS proactively looked at traction of products hosted on its platform, built competing products, and then scraped & targeted customer list of those hosted products. In fact, I was on a team in AWS that did exactly that. Why wouldn't their investing arm do the same?




Cannot up vote this enough. During my time both at Retail and AWS it was perfectly normal to trawl production customer data and come up with ideas to launch competing products. Prices were always set lower or free offering justified as data-driven and customer obsession. I hated the gas lighting their customers and left in disgust of the company and its leadership which encourages that behavior.


I know it's hard to do when you're making good money and would be going against co-workers.

But, if you see something, say something. This crap continues because there are too many folks that are happy to help support immoral business practices for some extra scratch. This isn't all on you in particular but when google folks started raising hell about Chinese censorship the company was forced to move. We all have the power to withdraw consent over how our labour will be used and, as software developers, we've got a strong enough employment market that we have real power to help make companies behave better - power that folks working in the warehouse are absolutely deprived of.


I mean the problem is corruption begets corruption. They WANT do to these things because you're going to get a massive bonus when the product you 'invented' does well because you stole the idea from an Amazon customer.

Amazon needs to be properly taxed so that this crap doesn't happen anymore.

The idea that they shouldn't pay taxes simply because they're large should absolutely enrage everyone.


This topic has nothing to do with taxes. They will always be trying to increase their bottom line whether that line is before or after taxes makes no difference. What is needed is a whistleblower. Not just a “when I worked for Amazon we did bad stuff”. We need that person to contact startup X, whose software and customer list was compromised. And then, this is key, share knowledge and proof of these accusations. Hell, do so through an attorney where you negotiate x% of resulting litigation proceeds of you’re worried about your privacy and financial situation. I’m pretty sure this would play out badly for Amazon in court.


Here's the thing it's not just Amazon they're just the biggest fish in the manufacturing pond in NA. Who's fault is it exactly? The system is designed to MAKE SHARKS LIKE THIS.

You're a fish, eat other fish and evolve into a shark, you eat other sharks and become a whale shark, you start eating everything and then become godzilla.

A whistle blower isn't going to fix this. This is the system. The system MAKES godzilla sharks like this.

Oh yeah sure a whistle blower will do what? Get amazon fined for how much? Then they just change tactics. Outsource. Make agreements and partnerships and farm out doing the same thing just with different proxies. I mean come on man this is a company that can buy other countries.

And let's not forget Microsoft was pulling the same shit until they got put under the same charges and then all of a sudden years later after Bill got tired of stabilizing his empire and making sure it would live without him he became a saint all of a sudden. Cuz like yeah if I was richer than 99% of the people on the planet yeah I could start being a nicer person and shit too.


The current zeitgiest is that taxes are Unamerican and tax evasion is American. Until that is fixed proposing solving problems with taxes is a pretty empty approach since people are happy to elect tax evaders to the highest office in the country and joyfully utilize services that are offered by companies that are famous for their tax evasion (Apple, Amazon, everyone honestly).

I think taxes aren't really a solution anyways - fines might be but taxes would hurt honest players just as much as dishonest ones. What they did is (AFAIK) illegal and needs to be punished, if it isn't then there is no incentive for them to correct their action.


Who is saying they shouldn't be taxed because they are large? There's no 'large company' tax break.

https://www.cnbc.com/2019/04/03/why-amazon-paid-no-federal-i...

There's specific credits/exemptions in the tax code that they are able to exploit (and perhaps they can only exploit some of them _because_ they are a big company), but it really isn't about their size.


What you say is openly contradictory. They receive certain exemptions due to their size, but their tax bill has nothing to do with their size. ???


No, I said quite clearly there are no exemptions due to their size. There's a difference between an exemption for companies with N+ employees and tax credits/exemptions you can capitalize on because you are a company that makes billions of dollars and can afford to take on different behaviors to take advantage of them. That's not the same thing at all.


I see what you are saying, but I think that if things exist in the tax code that can only be taken advantage of by large companies, it is -effectively- the same thing as a big company exemption.


He’s not talking about effectively what happens. He’s saying textually there is no “large company tax break” and if you tell legislators to repeal “large company tax breaks” they’d all give you confused looks. Textual precision is important if you want to start fixing the problem. What exactly are the test breaks that work for big companies and not small ones? Why do they exist? What was the original intent? What are the side effects?


Nobody said that there is a tax exemption for companies over N+ employees. The OP said that amazon doesn't have to pay taxes.

Can we please stop arguing like influencing is only true if it is done in the most direct way (similar to the quid pro quo debate). Obviously if big company lobbyists try to get tax law in their favour they are not pushing for "please write a law which exempts companies over N employees from taxes." They push for laws that sound innocent but only they will be able to take advantage of, just like it is at the moment. The outcome is still the same they pay less or zero taxes.


What types of AWS data would be trawled? Are we talking about data inside S3 buckets, database schemas, particular architecure styles, the fact that a product is consuming {x, y, z} amounts of cloud resources, or simply "spending $m / year" in gross?


I worked in an area where it is really hard to figure out exactly what workloads were being run and where it would have been extremely useful to know even basic things like CPU utilization patterns, network throughput patterns, etc for a specific customer.

We had access to absolutely none of that information. We flew blind, relying entirely on the fact that we gave our customers enough hand-holding support that they would willingly volunteer information about their workloads so we could help them optimize it/save money.

No one even attempted to get more detailed customer information AFAIK because it would have been extremely against company culture. That isn't Earning Trust or having Customer Obsession. The idea of reading data in someone's S3 bucket or inspecting what is happening inside of someone's EC2 instance in any way was unthinkable. Amazon is huge and imperfect, but from what I saw AWS takes data privacy extremely seriously.


I can confidently tell you that Amazon's employees cannot see customers data inside S3 buckets or EC2 instances. They are extremely serious about that stuff since they know that will erode their customer's confidence.

But there's probably other superficial business data that's helpful to evaluate that.


> I can confidently tell you that Amazon's employees cannot see customers data inside S3 buckets or EC2 instances.

From a technical standpoint, that statement is false.

Every employee might not have the credentials to, but for AWS to function as it does, SOMEONE inside the company has to have those credentials.

If you change 'cannot' to 'don't', well then we've just gotta take you at your word, which is where we started anyway.


> SOMEONE

That's not necessary unless SOMEONE includes computer programs.

Yes, when things go very seriously wrong, I believe AWS can have literal people override that permission, which will leave a mile long audit trail and likely accompanied by an internet scale outage.


The point I’m trying to get across is that the default viewpoint of many knowledgeable developers I know is ‘Of course AWS can’t see inside my EC2 instance because X’ — where X is some magical technology that doesn't exist.

I don’t want to devolve into audit logs and permissions and multi user key signing and wether they actually do or not.

The statement that ‘they can’t’ is 100% false, full stop. That’s all I’m trying to get across.


The technology to do it does exist likely on hardware you possess. The trusted computed platform lets you build a signed OS that encrypts its data using keys on the TPM. Using this, you could build an S3 implementation that stores customer data, but doesn’t let you access it.

It’s probably not a good idea to make a system with no human fallback, but it IS possible with current, non-magic technology.


The reality is that groups of people inside AWS have access to your stuff. A given person might only be on the S3 or EC2 team... but each of those teams can ssh to hosts in production, or has other access that could be used to compromise your data.

Amazon does take privacy and security very seriously, but these systems are run by people. Attacks like the recent Twitter attack could work for various AWS services.

Source: I used to work in EC2 Networking.


Are you sure about that? Most of the aws provided S3 sdks include the option of client side encryption. Not to mention that there are plenty of third party options for that as well. AWS could I guess look at your s3 data, but it will just look like gibberish.


I think it’s pretty clear the person you are responding to is not suggesting AWS can magically break encryption, but rather that they “have access to your stuff” that is actually on AWS. There are plenty of AWS customers running data through, or storing data on, AWS that is sensitive in the form it is in on AWS. If you have an rdbms (database) actively running on AWS for example it is not e2e encrypted. If you are terminating a customer TLS connection on an ec2 hosted web server their web form upload is exposed to that machine. Etc etc.


Except they get audited by 3rd parties on statements like that, and have controls tested. It's not like they're just ... digital ocean or somebody.


Do you have evidence of this claim re DO?

I worked with a DO on an technical issue, and they were steadfastly against me granting them temporary access to our servers even though it would have made the issue easier to diagnose. Cloud provider that verifiably get caught doing this will quickly lose the trust of all their large customers


DO doesn't have a great track record for customer trust. I run personal workload but couldn't recommend it over AWS to a larger company.

  - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23117660
  - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20064169


Sales != Engineering (in regards to the first one), AWS have had similar issues. The second one wasn't good.

https://www.zdnet.com/article/aws-error-exposed-godaddy-serv...


There comes a point where your pricing is so opaque and confusing that it's indistinguishable from lying.

Those people are jealous of AWS.


Reading through that second one, while the inciting incident was certainly pretty bad, their eventual response was, to my mind, all that could be hoped from a company in this day and age:

https://www.digitalocean.com/blog/an-update-on-last-weeks-cu...?

They recognized that their processes were too mechanistic and inhuman, and introduced a lot more compassion and open communication into them—and even chose to spend more money on hiring people to reduce ticket queue wait times.

I'd say that speaks volumes in DigitalOcean's favour.


The audits check that controls are in place, not that the controls are technically bulletproof or people-proof.

Source: Worked at AWS for several years including working on systems that had audit requirements for [secret project where I could not know the name of the customer because I don't have TOP SECRET security clearance].


Nobody said things were perfect or bullet proof. But that they are there, and it's not just 'trust us'. And it's not just single technical controls - the control regimes include mitigations against technical failure and requirements for ways to catch collusion and actions taken outside of authority.

And there are lots of things that many folks at the big cloud providers don't know about their internal threat management and monitoring. Source: Audited most of them for that customer you weren't allowed to know the name of. :)


Yeah. True. I guess what I meant is that just a handful of employees have access to that and they need to have legitimate reasons.


Also, it is possible to build systems such that, no, there isn't a 'root' or 'unlimited permission' or whatever. Or that there is, but it's a multi-person credential.

This is one area where AWS takes things MUCH more seriously than it's competition, and they don't talk about it enough publicly.


The critical factor here is whether there are controls in place to prevent it. Sure, somebody probably could, but what to what lengths must that person go to do it, and what happens when it is discovered? Most things are not technically impossible, after all.


for its faults aws takes data privacy super serious. if you are in support you cant even see attachments customers put on cases without providing auditable justification

and you def cant see in s3 buckets or instances. hell if a customer sends you a link to an object in their s3 youre not supposed to open it


Some group of people on the S3 team likely have root access to the machines where your objects are stored. If you don't have encryption turned on...


You keep making factually incorrect statements. I'm not going to go into detail to refute them, because I don't feel comfortable sharing internal design details and security mechanisms, but your comfort in confidently asserting falsehoods is disconcerting, to say the least.


If you work in AWS security, then you of all people know about the litany of service teams who don't meet their security goals every year.


I find it funny that none of the people here arguing really understand what data is important from a strategic sales point from view and what's not. The customers databases and other crap they store on the cloud. Not really important.

The raw billing information, oh motherfucking yes.


Agree. The billing data gets explicitly or implicitly discussed when various orgs talk about their successes, annual planning etc.


This is incorrect, at least from a logical POV and why it's hard to trust what cloud vendors say. A statement like this is either naive (most likely) or actively attempting to mislead.

Technically, its absolutely possible. Most likely you'll just need a support ticket or bug, and then you can troll around as engineer.

Also, security teams also usually have access to stuff when things get interesting.

Better to say that access is strictly on a case by case basis and monitored thoroughly.

Ideally customer is notified each time it happens - that would be cool, but likely technically not possible since data ends up in so many systems (like logs, SIEM, telemetry, debug files, backups, data scientist desktops,....)


> Ideally customer is notified each time it happens - that would be cool, but likely technically not possible

You're underestimating the investments that AWS (and Amazon at large) make in to security, confidentiality, and auditing. You're also missing a fundamental implication of building AWS on AWS primitives.

As a relevant example there is only one AWS IAM and one CloudTrail. It's a core tenant of AWS IAM to put that control and root of trust in to the customers control. That means when developer support is helping with your ticket they do so via your accounts AWSServiceRoleForSupport role. That means you can control whether that role exists, which principals can assume it, the capabilities it has, and you can see those same API calls in your CloudTrail logs. Although it would make support difficult you're welcome to delete that service linked role and prevent support.amazonaws.com from assuming said role in your account.

https://docs.aws.amazon.com/awssupport/latest/user/using-ser...


Yes, those are great features for compliance. But you seem to believe that your AWS instance is indeed yours. IAM is a concept built on top of lower level primitives that you do not control, but Amazon does.

I'm not talking about Amazon SSH into your EC2 instance - but of course they can do that also - at will, without you authorizing it.

Lower level disks, logs, hypervisor, telemetry, etc.. are accessible beyond your control.


> IAM is a concept built on top of lower level primitives that you do not control, but Amazon does.

Of course there are lower level primitives. And if the public documentation and observed behavior is insufficient I encourage you to inquire more about the various compliance, certification, and third party auditing programs in place https://aws.amazon.com/compliance/programs/. However at some point this approaches solipsism and I can’t prove a negative in a HN thread.

> I'm not talking about Amazon SSH into your EC2 instance - but of course they can do that also - at will, without you authorizing it.

No. Extraordinary claims need evidence. Either you have serious non public information counter to many AWS statements ... or you misunderstand some fundamentals of SSH and public key cryptography.

> Lower level disks, logs, hypervisor, telemetry, etc.. are accessible beyond your control

I would encourage you to read the AWS data privacy statements https://aws.amazon.com/compliance/data-privacy-faq/. Particularly the definitions of “customer content” and the “shared responsibility model.”


This really isn't how modern security works at most cloud companies. Even if you have root class credentials or the ability to escalate to them in some way (and that's a big if by itself), its a LOT of steps to get access to customer data, almost always involving broken glass, many protection layers, and often requires cooperation of multiple other root level people/credentials from completely different teams.

Depending on how the infrastructure is built, or what the particular service set up, it may not even be possible to gain access to specific data without extraordinary means, possibly involving replacing physical hardware.


I already corrected my statement in another reply. You're right. I said probably only a handful of people can access customer data to do their job. I personally never met one. The goal of my comment was to illustrate that in my experience handling customer data there was a big deal. It's not like something you can casually query to see if a particular customer has a good business or not.


Amazon is a massive company. How can you know this with confidence? Are you in the C-Suite?


It’s the thing they tell you the most when you work there. Like in a a obnoxious way. Most infosec training is about that.

If someone has access to customer’s data for their work they have to do a bunch of extra training and do other stuff. Potentially sign some things and there’s probably a different way to authenticate. I really don’t know because I never had to do that and nobody I knew had that type of access but I heard when you do you have to put with more things.


But then what about other commenters saying that this is exactly what their sectors of the company do? Do you think it's impossible that a massive company like Amazon that controls an ungodly amount of the Internet would break those rules? Especially when the government of their home country hasn't pursued an antitrust case in God knows how long


>But then what about other commenters saying that this is exactly what their sectors of the company do?

i don't see anybody claiming that amazon is harvesting data from inside their customer's infrastructure. amazon has a lot of data that's "amazon's data" that would tell them about businesses that are operating on AWS that might be ripe for competition.

For example, they know what your AWS bill is, and how it's been trending. If you pay a huge bandwidth bill and it goes up 50% each month, they know you've got a business model that's working and that they can undercut you on one of your big expenses.


You're right that other commenters aren't necessarily saying that they're peering into buckets and PII...but I err on the side of questioning that the company is committing wrongdoing.


Amazon does not trawl customer data.

However, metrics like AMI popularity is Amazon's data... and that definitely informs first-class AWS product development. Once the company identifies a business opportunity, different teams often investigate "build" and "buy" options simultaneously.

Same goes for retail - Amazon works backwards from high-margin categories to identify opportunities, then pursues investment in existing brands versus spinning up products under the company brands.

This all feels very monopolistic to me, but regardless it's worlds apart from the accusation of stealing private information through faux investment offerings.


I don't think the difference is all that large. Legally, yes. But ethically they are pretty close. After all, any product launched like that will be at the expense of those already operating in that niche including Amazon's platform users.


Yeah I don’t know. It’s possible that there’s some evil stuff happening. I’m just relating my experience as a pawn employee. They parrot this incessantly.


1. Did you work on a team at Amazon in the likes of what user throwaway_aws mentioned?

2. What measures that you know of is Amazon implementing to make sure no employees across all teams are having access to said resources?


As I said below this is something that they will talk a about like every freaking day. They talk about customer’s data as the most important thing to take care of.

Basically is preferable to get a bullet in the head than to ever reveal or tamper with customer’s data.

I cannot answer your question about who has access or not but I’m telling you what’s the culture when it comes to customer’s data.

At the end of the day I was just another IC doing menial work so probably not a good reference, but that was my experience


I'm sorry but what you just said is patently false:

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-07-29/capital-o...

Quote:

Capital One Financial Corp. said data from about 100 million people in the U.S. was illegally accessed after prosecutors accused a Seattle woman identified by Amazon.com Inc. as one of its former cloud service employees of breaking into the bank’s server.

While the complaint doesn’t identify the cloud provider that stored the allegedly stolen data, the charging papers mention information stored in S3, a reference to Simple Storage Service, Amazon Web Services’ popular data storage software.


My reading of this is that the ex-employee used the knowledge about EC2 instance credentials being accessible as a path to gain unauthorized access to data. In theory anyone could have exploited this vulnerability even if they had never worked for Amazon. They never say that Amazon employees had privileged credentaials that would give them unauthorized access to customer data.

AWS customers that want to avoid this vulnerability should disable IMDSv1 as per https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/security/defense-in-depth-open-...


There was zero inside knowledge and they were an ex employee at all times relevant to the incident.

The EC2 instance credentials via the metadata url is public documented functionality. Its how things like the SDK “just work.”

The S3 bucket policy, instance creds, and (inferred) overly permissive IAM policy is all public documented functionality. This looks like a simple case of an initial intrusion being escalated via permissive configuration and controls. There would be no story if the suspect had not been employed by AWS in the past.

Disclaimer: Im a Principal jn AWS but have no direct or inside knowledge of this incident. Everything I know or have stated here is public record (eg the indictment) or public AWS docs.


That leak didn't involve any insider access. So it doesn't prove that employees get access to the S3 data.


Can speak for AWS. Only the later. Basically the usage information for cloud resources. This constitutes the foundation for billing. BTW, this is be true for any cloud, any SAAS.

There is no way an employee can look into customer data. There's enough trail inside AWS to prove that without any doubt.


What are the measures being implemented to ensure that no employee can look into customer's data?


I used to work for AWS and had to deep dive into IAM to build a feature.

Basically Everytime you touch AWS your session is tagged with your credentials and has a unique ID. So everything downstream you touch has your session ID associated with it.

Now say somebody from Redshift wants to access the customer's data. They will then need to access to the encryption key in KMS. The trail will be there since KMS lives in the customer's account (you can audit your own access). And for production services, human actors cannot access these keys - only production credentials can. An engineer who can log into a prod host in theory can grab the temporary credentials there but it expires in 15 minutes so your trail will be rather visible. Also access to prod host has a high bar - only senior people can do it.

Now in theory somebody can coordinate with a malicious user in KMS team - but the bar is high. Also the actual master key never leaves the premise for KMS so your attack surface is very limited.

Of course there are some core teams like IAM and KMS where if they become vulnerable the whole thing falls apart. But that's a big stretch for those systems since they are the core to the business.


This is about as bad a revelation as the original one. So the encryption key is fair game without explicit customer approval?


I think perhaps you misunderstand the architecture of KMS. KMS master keys are used to remotely decrypt the symmetric encryption keys for encrypted data that are stored alongside the encrypted data. KMS master keys don't ever leave the KMS servers themselves, and servers can't be accessed directly by anyone. AFAIK they don't have open ports except for handling production traffic and are hardened against opening a shell. An engineer on a different team with access to a host running a customer workload could potentially run off with a temporary customer credential being used by the customer workload, which they could then use to call KMS to decrypt encryption tokens for as long as the credential lasted. But they couldn't get at the KMS key itself or retain access past the expiration of the stolen credential, and all of the aforementioned audit logs would report all of the activity of the stolen credential.


I think you misunderstand my concern. What I'm missing in the above scenario is that a resource that should be 100% under the control of the customer and nobody else can be accessed by AWS personnel to open up a door that should be closed unless the customer permits access.

What the technical implications are is moot, the process that hands out these credentials should not be accessible to anybody but the customer. It implies that AWS personnel can impersonate customer representatives or processes run on behalf of those customers. That's a serious problem.

In all the years that I've been co-locating I do not remember a single instance where a representative of the hosting facilities that I've used gained access to our data or hardware without my very explicit permission.

As for audit logs: they are only as useful as those inspecting them, and more often than not are entirely passive until required for evidentiary purposes.


> It implies that AWS personnel can impersonate customer representatives or processes run on behalf of those customers. That's a serious problem.

Rather than being a serious problem I think it's more on an obvious fact. AWS personnel build services that specifically exist to act on the customer's behalf with delegated credentials. Any time you configure a managed service to run with an IAM role, that service assumes the role and acts with the credentials granted to the role. AWS personnel have access for emergencies to the systems running their services, and by their very nature those services are in possession of customer credential sets for the IAM roles that the service is configured to use.

For example, a Lambda Function can be configured to run with a particular role. When the Lambda service goes to run the function, it fetches the role credentials from IAM and makes them available to the running Function. It could not be otherwise, because the purpose of a managed service like Lambda is to carry out actions on behalf of the customer. The role's credential set is as much a piece of data as the code of the function to be executed.

But leaving all of this aside, of course AWS personnel can access any and all data you store in their systems. They are legally obligated to turn whatever you have stored over to the courts in response to a warrant. So not only could they gather up your data by this roundabout method of misappropriating credential sets, they must have a way to simply access all of the data directly in a way that doesn't appear in audit trails. I assume for simplicity that the IAM service simply has an endpoint accessible to the company's lawyers that will serve up forged customer credentials on demand.


I believe youre misunderstanding how KMS works and is exposed. You probably want to look at the concept of “kms grants.” Thoese regulate which principals, including service principals, can use CMK materials. The customer controls those grants. There are also substantial public docs, and more available on request, around the implementation, certification, and compliance of KMS infrastructure. If KMS is insufficient for your needs CloudHSM is availble for something even closer to “hosted HSM” than “key service.”

In short IAM controls everything, there is no “back door” or universal admin access, and KMS is used to perform sensitive operations NOT handing secrets to arbitrary (internal or external) consumers.


some1 with the right access to the kms service could change a key policy to allow access to a bad guy. in theory. bcuz some1 has to have access to key policies since customers lock themselves out of their keys all the time.

but no 1 can export the private key itself. and key policy changes are vry heavily audited by aws (and can be by the customer, too). this is all proven by the 3rd party audits aws receives


Yes, they can. However, that will leave their trails in their KMS service CloudTrail - unless they manage to exploit CloudTrail as well. That's a lot of barrier to bypass, especially because accessing all these services require you to be in the correct permission group with a hardware MFA token.

Somebody can access the key hardware but they can't extract the actual key out of that. However, I've never met anyone with that level of access - and AFAIK you have to go through various security clearance and approval before such human intervention is permitted.

There's no such thing as perfect security - but KMS is as solid as I can see with centralized key management at the moment. And customer can roll out their own key server as well that is managed in your own data center.


Plus, if there is any legitimate concern about AWS having access to KMS keys (at this point it would be that they own the servers, and that's about it), you can roll a CloudHSM and import your own keys.

KMS is very clear about it's usage and what it involves. It's obvious that with Symmetrical Encryption AWS obviously needs to know the other end of the key at some point so that it can decrypt the data.

However, as customers can't even export these keys and the whole system is based on using KMS to actually perform the decrypt operations it is a non-starter. It's a lot more secure than most infrastructure which probably encrypts locally but is stored in a broom cupboard with a $10 lock.


> It's obvious that with Symmetrical Encryption AWS obviously needs to know the other end of the key at some point so that it can decrypt the data.

Its worth noting that even symmetric keys dont imply direct access to the secret itself. You can instead use the highly controlled secret material to derive less sensitive material. For example a hash derived from a known input + the secret. A third party can use this to prove that two other parties both have/had access to the shared secret. But the third party never needs to access the secret itself.

Theres a great example of this in the chained hashes that make up an AWS sigv4 API request signature. https://docs.aws.amazon.com/general/latest/gr/sigv4-calculat...


I can tell you generally how this works in Azure, I can't speak for AWS, but unless a customer is using BYOK for encryption of their data, I can't imagine how AWS c o u l d n ' t be capable of accessing data, and even then I wouldn't gurantee they couldn't still get your data. In Azure (as of a couple years ago), in order to access a customer's tenant it required VP approval, the support engineer was granted access for a specific amount of time, and typically only to specific services, all with the customers knowledge beforehand. It may have changed since the last time I had to go through this process and was restricted to blue badge employees. I have worked support cases since then and the support engineer would not even do a log me in/WebEx, etc session as they said they were not allowed to see the portal. But it may have been that they were not a blue badge and/or bcuz the customer was a critical infrastructure customer.

In order for AWS to comply with LEO's they must have some way of accessing data, that is NOT to say they do this for business purposes.


At the end of the day there's obviously nothing other than remotely storing your keys that will keep your data opaque. Even supposing that the IAM team doesn't have a way to forge a valid credential if they need to, the confirm/deny response of their service to authorization checks is the source-of-truth for whether a credential is valid, and they could update their service endpoint to affirm bad credentials if they wanted to. Presumably for law enforcement purposes they have a way to forge a credential that doesn't show up in audit logs.


Other than the data each service actually retains themselves (i.e. the Lambda service themselves store your Lambda Functions because they need to execute them) customer data is generally stored encrypted at rest with KMS keys belonging to the customer (or sometimes managed by the storage team). It wouldn't be possible to peer into unencrypted data without persuading the KMS API to authenticate your access to the key. Presumably this capability exists, because otherwise Amazon wouldn't be able to honor warrants for customer data, but the premise that KMS is handing out decryption tokens for customer data for the benefit of Amazon Retail's business analysts is pretty silly.

And of course, you're always vulnerable to someone with access to the physical host of an EC2 instance where your workload is running. Only GCP AFAIK offers an encrypted-in-processing compute service, and it's like a week old.

https://cloud.google.com/blog/products/identity-security/int...


Given how granular AWS billing data is, I would expect the odds to be fairly good that it alone is sufficient to make a good analysis for which third-party offerings are compelling markets. Then AWS takes their execution advantage, along with things like the lower friction that arises from first-party integration with IAM and billing, as well as not having to pay retail for the cloud resources, and it becomes very difficult to retain a moat unless you have a paradigm or perspective that is both critical to succeeding and is also incompatible with AWS culture.


You’re correct. It’s disturbingly detailed as far as what it reveals about architecture.


aggregated api usage stats, api client headers is often enough to identify competitor products and their traction, and is non-sensitive, coupled with account id to customers.


Do you have to use AWS to sell on Amazon?


no


"perfectly normal to trawl production customer data"

It's not. And there are plenty of trainings inside of Amazon to make you aware of that. It is your fault, in the end, to not report your team. I have been on several teams at Amazon and this would always be an absolute no-go. It's already difficult to even get basic ideas about customer data, things that you would consider "essential" to improving the customer experience.


>> It is your fault, in the end, to not report your team

Talk about all time gaslighting. It's the managers/directors job to ensure compliance, not normal employees.


If you see another employee committing a crime, you're obligated to report it under US law. You can be considered an accessory if you don't.


Attorney here!*

That is totally false.

Conspiracy requires two elements: an agreement to commit a crime, and an act in furtherance of said crime. There is nothing unlawful about looking the other way. You might be a scumbag, but that's a different problem.

The elements of criminal accessory require one to harbor, conceal, or act in such a way as to help someone avoid or escape arrest or punishment (CA law here, other states may be different). Again, merely "looking the other way" is not an act. Otherwise, anyone who merely witnessed a crime could be charged with criminal accessory.

That said, corporate policy might be quite different. If I look the other way while a colleague violates customer security policies (and I'm aware of such violation), I can justifiably be fired.

*Not giving legal advice, seek licensed counsel in your jurisdiciton.


We need more attorneys. Attorney saves the day.


We need more attorneys only in that their services will get cheaper.


no you're not


Considering that OP created this account today and that they're admitting to what would be a felony and against Amazon's own privacy policy, I doubt this statement is true.

Even if the customer had a misconfigured S3 bucket that was exposed to the public, it would still constitute as accessing customer data you're not meant to see.

As other users have provided insight on, everything you do as an Amazon employee basically leaves a trail with your employee ID, even if you had access to private information (which you wouldn't basically because it's locked behind several layers of security). Fireable and sueable offense which Amazon would definitely not allow, let alone endorse.


> everything you do as an Amazon employee basically leaves a trail with your employee ID

That might be true in retail, but it wasn't anywhere close to true in AWS. When I left most engineers still had SSH access to the production hosts (and a not-insignificant portion of operations relied on that fact).


Leaving aside the question of what SSH access looks like today versus whenever you left...

There are many easy mechanisms to audit and monitor SSH sessions. So... no?


They weren't audited at the time (nor was there a standardised way of doing so).


Definitely not defending parent here, but in this day in age many people create burner accounts specifically to avoid tying any statements back to them. It’s pretty acceptable practice to create burner accounts on HN. That said, I agree, I doubt any of these claims are true.


This frankly doesn't match my experience and I have to say I find it unlikely.

Before going into our AWS production S3 buckets, looking at our databases for customer lists AWS seems to be pretty careful to get an OK.

Now we are being told that production customer data was normal to trawl? How in the HELL are they passing all their certs with all production data so wide open. I do customer managed keys - I mean, this is a HUGE backdoor.

Either Amazon is lying about AWS security (and has fooled a bunch of others) or routinely trawling AWS customer production workloads for data is a false statement.


My understanding is that Customer Managed CMK in KMS only means that the customer has control over the key operations - like rotation, key policies, IAM policies, etc. AWS still has actual control over the KMS system and full access to the HSM.


Even under this definition how in the HELL are they "routinely" trawling our production data secured by these keys. I mean, does not one think that is rediculous?

This isn't amazon billing data etc (obviously I expect they analyze that carefully given they bring in billions from billing). To ROUTINELY go through AWS customer production datasets is beyond all reason.


No. AWS has no access to your material, nor is there a code path where they could get it.


We just had someone claiming to work for amazon who said it was "routine" to "trawl" through CUSTOMER production data.

How are they trawling through all our buckets and databases without codepaths for access?

Again, they aren't talking about amazon data (ie, billing, support inquiries etc). They are talking about customer production data.


I would assume the comment you're replying to means things like resource usage patterns and costs to estimate a client's profits for example. Rather than reading actual data from S3 or a database.


As I said to throwaway -- if you are of the mind to share, i am here to listen. my email is dai.wakabayashi@nytimes.com


Come on NYTimes! You can do better than email.

Don't ask someone to admit to felonies over email. Tech employers have a LOT of power to investigate their employees' digital behavior.

How about this instead: https://www.nytimes.com/tips


I want to be careful here, as I respect that you worked at AWS (that is, most likely), while I never have, and don't know what goes inside the company.

But it would be helpful if you broke that down a little more than 'trawling customer data', because at the most innocuous, if they're just looking at what's publicly selling on Amazon, what goes into sales rank, that seems acceptable, to me anyway.


I think there's a difference there, though. Retail sales and reselling are parts of what most people broadly consider the "same industry". I mean, a small seller making a deal with Amazon to resell something that they know Amazon could sell on its own is at least always aware of the competition.

In this case, tech investing and online retailing are not the same industry. Amazon is using a dominance in one to fund the other, which then it uses to either drive valuations of potential competitors down or to simply outcompete them.

And that's a plausible antitrust problem.

I'm normally not in the Amazon haters camp. Most of the time I'll defend them against the typical charges of unfair competition. Not this time. This is sketchy.



Hi former-aws: I'm one of the reporters and would like to hear more about your experience. Mind sending me an email at cara.lombardo@wsj.com so we can connect?


caralombardo: Please don't ask people to admit to felonies over email. That goes double for any FAANG employee; their employers have many options to surveil them. Your employer has a page listing better options

https://www.wsj.com/tips


In fact, I would add: do not trust a journalist that doesn't try to protect his/her source. Nothing personal, Cara Lombardo.


Didn't you anonymously tip off the customer?


As it happens, the Congresswoman who represents the part of Seattle that contains Amazon is on the House Judiciary committee, and may also very well be your member of Congress. Seems like something her office would probably want to know about if you could substantiate the claim.

https://www.wsha.org/policy-advocacy/legislative/u-s-congres...

(ignore the odd source of the link. it's the only place I could find her CoS and District Director's email addresses.)


It didn't sound like GP was saying their team did anything illegal – they accessed _public_ information about the companies they were copying.

It definitely feels scummy, but it didn't sound like GP had access to evidence of a crime. IANAL.


Neither "traction of products hosted on its platform" nor "customer list of those hosted products" are typically public information. They are information to which a trusted vendor might have access. There seems to be a fine line between trusting Amazon to sell and ship one's products and services without using its position to sell competing products and services, and trusting AWS to host one's confidential data without reading that data...


For web and mobile app stuff this type of competitive intelligence is very available (builtwith, datanyze, etc). Also, startups never shut up about who their clients are, social proof to land more deals.

*typo


> startups never shut up about who their clients are, social proof to land more deals.

I read it as they scraped user databases to get email addresses and the like.


You're right - but this isn't the first time we've heard about this exact practice. It's been reported on extensively, so if anyone was going to investigate something illegal, it would have happened.

It is however, good ground for an Anti-Trust case. Using your position as a market maker to push your own products is literally illegal anti-competitive behavior and can trigger a court order to break up the company.


That argument seems to prove too much? It's sort of an Efficient Market Hypothesis for government regulation, and it would apply just as much to e.g. FTC and DoJ with respect to anti-trust violations as to Congress (as thread parent would like) or DoJ or whomever with respect to fraud or illegal wiretapping. Maybe it would be better investigated by a class-action plaintiffs' attorney, but even the mightiest firms might hesitate to wage the discovery battle that would be required against such deep pockets.


I believe anti trust is triggered when it negatively affects consumers, with Amazon’s aggressive competition consumers usually win. At least short term...


Antitrust isn't about stealing business from your competitors, it is about colluding with them to rip off consumers by fixing prices.


Ah, sorry, "customer list of those hosted products" I had missed somehow, that in particular definitely sounds proprietary.


>It definitely feels scummy, but it didn't sound like GP had access to evidence of a crime.

Violating Anti-trust statues isn't criminal...but it is still illegal. Anti-trust violations also aren't the only potential laws this would violate. It sounds like it would violate unfair trade practices as well (most states has statues/laws/codes on point).


I'm not super familiar with antitrust laws, but it feels like they might apply here.


It's not just anti-trust, it's also trade secret laws. A customer of AWS has a reasonable expectation that the information it keeps on AWS's VMs are confidential.


Is that comparable to the owner of a mall watching who goes in and out of which shops to decide what stores to add to the mall?


Isn't it more like the mall owner opening a clone of your store right next to yours while charging themselves no rent in order to gain an advantage, all the while promoting their own store they opened to steal your business on the ad boards situated around the mall?


Is that illegal?


> A customer of AWS has a reasonable expectation that the information it keeps on AWS's VMs are confidential.

This is where End User Agreements may be worth checking. There may be a specific clause AWS customers agree to.


Is AWS a monopoly?


One can violate antitrust laws without being a monopoly. Certain parts of the law (regarding collusion on price setting, for example) can be broken by very small businesses.

See this helpful FTC page: https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/competition-guidance/guide-a...


This is true, but those are all cases in which putative competitors collude to essentially form a cartel. Which is a distinct category of antitrust offenses from anti-competitive behavior.


As others note you don't need to be a monopoly to violate anti-trust laws. However, as it relates to being defined as a monopoly this ability to leverage your market position to stifle competition is the exact type of behavior that would support a finding of monopoly...most non-monopolies can't leverage their market position to unfairly compete


Isn't the important factor whether it's trying to become one? Windows and IE were never the only possible options.


A de facto monopoly doesn't mean that other options don't exist. Microsoft had a monopoly on the PC operating system market, despite other options existing.


When I was at Google, we were encouraged by our lawyers not to worry about patents or unique parts of any product. If there ever will be a claim, they will drown the company in legal fees, so nobody is going to dare to sue us.

Patents were used, in many cases, as a form of research into a new area.


Not my google experience. They do say not worrying about patents, but that's because searching for patents could indeed make you liable as you were influenced by prior art.

Nobody at google even remotely mentioned "we will drown them in legal fees".

If anything, I have a huge respect for google legal.

Disclaimer: former googler.


Lots of anon accounts (reasonably) in this thread, so I want to back up as a non-anon former Googler that your experience matches mine. It wasn't "ignore patents", it was "don't look up patents so you aren't influenced by them".


I worked at Medtronic and currently work at Qualcomm. Both companies had policies matching this. Don't search patents so you are not influenced by them.


Since when did that matter in patent law? Patents are public domain, and ignorance of a patent is not a defense against having infringed. Since at least 2012, the US has had a first-to-file policy instead of first-to-invent.

There's no legal reason to worry about being influenced by a patent. The only concern might be boxing your creativity where you can't think of alternative solutions to a problem once you've seen one solution. That doesn't seem like a strong enough reason for a blanket policy.

IANAL but this confuses me.


What I was told is that if you research the patent and aware of its existence then you may be guilty of willful enfringement with treble the normal penalties:

https://www.jonesday.com/en/insights/2016/06/supreme-court-u...

https://www.ip-watch.org/2016/07/26/us-high-court-restores-t...


More precisely, a standing policy that researching patents is forbidden is prima facie evidence that your employees couldn't have possibly known about an existing patent. That means that a plaintiff suing for willful infringement will need to find evidence that someone went out of their way to ignore the policy. That might be quite difficult.

(Of course: not a lawyer, this is not legal advice)


Wow, I'm amazed that this would hold up. That's like saying that if I drive with a blindfold on, I couldn't possibly have willfully caused an accident because, as a matter of policy, I couldn't have been aware of the other cars on the road.


A more accurate analogy is a company policy that strictly prohibits driving.


you're right, its the creativity and alternative solutions.


Another anon Googler here (with a slightly older account).

Your experience matches mine. I think it might even be somewhere in the mandatory periodic training.

Doing a patent search as a software engineer can only hurt you. Better just to route any questions to product counsel.


Xoogler and current AWS and both companies have a "do not open or read patents" policy.


My previous company was acquired by Google and I totally agree with assessment. Immense respect for Google's investing, corp dev and legal arms in as much as I interacted with them. They always treated us fairly and were ethical in their interactions.


> They do say not worrying about patents, but that's because searching for patents could indeed make you liable as you were influenced by prior art.

I've heard the same thing in startups and other companies. This is not something unique to Google.


That is actually patents working as intended.

Unfortunately the way patent law works now, make patents usually not work unless someone is ignoring the law.

Patents were created to give a reason for people to publish their "secret sauce" in a public manner, so anyone could read and copy them or create new products based on the patent.

If you DON'T want your product copied, the correct course of action instead is make it secret, for example this is what Coca-Cola does (they rarely, if ever, patent their products, and they hide the best they can their recipes and processes)


Those are then described as trade secrets and have their own protections as well.


Trade secret protections can be quite strong as well. In 2006, 3 people were arrested by the FBI for trying to sell Coke formulas to Pepsi.

Contemporary article: https://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/06/business/06coke.html

More dramatized version with info from court proceedings: https://thehustle.co/coca-cola-stolen-recipe



Amazon does it also with popular independent sellers. I know a motorcycle shop that was selling top quality products. Amazon representative contacted him if he would like to sell on Amazon, showed him offers how to stock and sell items. Amazon started a brand with the same name and their products were higher in search, were poor quality China made, jackets that were falling apart within a year. For the same price! Angry consumers targeted their anger to the real website leaving negative comments, not on Amazon! Shop owner had to change his brand after 18 years of being in business, as legal battle against Amazon would cost him more than the business had in stock.


This reminded me of the time Amazon started selling diapers at a loss to price-battle diapers.com. They won and ended up buying the parent company.

https://www.vox.com/2017/3/29/15112314/amazon-shutting-down-...


This is so wildly anti-competitive. I cant believe how many stories there are like this in this thread alone.


There's a House of Reps. hearing on Online Platforms and Market Power next Monday with Bezos attending. If anyone has some staffer friends, could be a good line of questioning to poke them about.


Please do this. The only way people like Bezos are held accountable are from people speaking up.


Not trying to come across as judgemental. But if I may ask, did you at the time feel like that was an ethical thing to do?


I joined after the team had gotten traction already. Both the GM and senior most product person on the team told me about their tactics independently.

To be honest, I didn't think of it as anything sinister at that time. AWS had such high octane culture to move fast and innovate that I actually felt what they had done was quite smart. It was a super competitive culture and people did whatever was needed to build new things. On a day to day basis the only pressure was to build... I don't remember instances where ethical guidelines were brought up. So, in a way, the outcomes were a result of what people were rewarded on.

Only after I left AWS I started thinking it was ethically iffy. I still believe Amazon is an amazing company and my time at AWS was one of the best learning experiences.


"It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it." - Upton Sinclair.

I wish we went into this in much more detail in high school when covering economics and ethics (if the school even bothers to teach ethics). It should be a prerequisite in any capitalistic economy (but not only those, it can easily be extended to other things).

I've also worked in industries that I think don't operate very ethically. It's amazing what you can ignore as an outlier because the alternative is uncomfortable or means you have to make a large personal change.


A large personal change like going hungry? Not feeding your family?


Well, yeah. Or just having to look for a new job that may or may not pay as much. But I wasn't really going that far as saying people (myself, at one point, if you notice what I wrote) staying at a company they feel is acting unethically, but actually just noticing and accepting the company as doing unethical things instead of attributing it to an outlying situation that isn't indicative of how things are normally done.

Companies and people sometimes do shitty things. It isn't always on purpose (misunderstandings, one bad person, etc), and there isn't always a good way to fix it afterwards. I don't condemn people and companies because of this, and there's a tendency to assume this when you see something and work at the company. It can take a while before you start seeing a pattern and accept that it might just be how things are done sometimes and the management is fine with it. If you don't have a lot of options, I think there's a tendency for people to not look closer either on purpose or subconsciously because they might not like what they find, and then they've put themselves in a harder situation, where they must choose between what they believe is right and a hardship.

Sometimes ignorance is bliss, and the human mind is very complex. That's all I'm saying.


Interesting

Previous discussion of Amazon releasing a Basics version of an item at half the price:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11533973


> "An Amazon spokesman said the company doesn’t use confidential information that companies share with it to build competing products"

The above statement may be "true" if you redefine what is confidential. The Amazon MNDA in past years basically said that they could use any information they remembered from the meeting. I read non-disclosures carefully. I've never seen anything like it.


This is called a residuals clause, and it’s increasingly common. Be really careful looking for these - I won’t sign a vague/broad one, unless I am out of options. (e.g., acquisition or fail)


Ah, so that has a name? It was in the middle of the document in a fat paragraph. I was delighted to find it--kind of like picking up a big seashell on a crowded beach.


https://www.everynda.com/blog/beware-residuals-clauses-nda/

We ended up signing it, but I went back and forth with their counsel to neuter this clause so that it was significantly safer:

Notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in this Agreement, Recipient may use Residual Knowledge, subject to Provider’s valid patents, copyrights[, trade secrets], and mask work rights. [For the avoidance of doubt, no license is granted to the Recipient for any of Provider’s Confidential Information, patents, copyrights, trade secrets, or mask work rights.] "Residual Knowledge" means any information that is retained in the unaided memories of Recipient's Representatives who have had access to Confidential Information of Provider[, without specific or intentional memorization or reference to any written or electronic information or documentation. Notwithstanding the foregoing, Residual Knowledge may only be used for internal purposes by Recipient, and Recipient may not disclose Provider’s Confidential Information to third parties under any circumstance except as outlined elsewhere in this Agreement.]

The parts in [ ] were added by me. We tried to neuter the clause as best we could; they really wanted to have one in there, for whatever reason, so my focus was on neutering it rather than arguing to remove it. There are always other concessions in a negotiation from the other side. :)


Thanks that's exactly the text. It was so egregious that I later thought I had imagined it.


Just ... wow. This is an egregious abuse of monopoly power and is exactly the kind of thing that antitrust laws are supposed to address.

I was certainly naive when I heard about other big retailers who would refuse to allow any subcontractors to use AWS. "Surely Amazon has a Chinese wall" to prevent that kind of data sharing, I thought. Never underestimate the lack of morals in business is the right answer I guess.


> "Surely Amazon has a Chinese wall" to prevent that kind of data sharing, I thought. Never underestimate the lack of morals in business is the right answer I guess.

It’s remarkable to me how many competent programmers with years or decades experience in this industry don’t understand —- If you’re using AWS, Amazon has access to ALL of the data you put on AWS.

Not that they 'can' or 'want to', given the current state of technology they absolutely have to have access to all your data for AWS to function.

There isn’t currently a feasible technical way to work around this. And to head off all the ‘but FHE’ comments, see the ‘currently feasible’ above.


I'm not talking about not having any access in the technical sense. I'm talking about a "Chinese wall" whereby people who work for AWS supporting customers should absolutely not be able to inform any of the teams that build new Amazon services. These types of Chinese walls exist in many different industries, perhaps most famously finance, and when these walls have been "breached" in the past it has resulted in huge scandals.


I think your understanding is true, unless the claimant elaborate what those data is and how his team got it, I do not understand how it would have worked.

Access records for public services have a very detailed iam audit trail that logs people who accessed what at what time, and service teams don't get to just jump around that. Maybe they can see some metadata but certainly not actual data in an S3 bucket somewhere.


I think enclaves are a more practical near-term solution for data privacy, but they don't prevent Amazon from identifying successful businesses based on e.g. resource usage growth.


I don’t think the ‘enclaves’ concept addresses the root of the issue I was getting at, which is for there to be useful computation done on the data it must be unencrypted.

Even with ‘enclaves’, from what admittedly little I know about them, you still have to have the key to decrypt things on the machine somewhere, which means whoever is running that machine for you has access to your unencrypted data, and we’re back where we started.


Amazon does not access private S3/Ec3 data for retail competitive purposes.

The comments above indicating 'well someone has access' - yea, obviously, it's data hosting. Someone has access.

But the amount of conspiracy here is frustrating.

Amazon will play very aggressively within the bounds of the law, meaning, if they can glean public info about something, or look at their own sales data for a product, they will do that.

But to look at s3 data would risk the entire empire.

It's rational for people to be a bit skeptical, and so Walmart can say 'no data on AWS' but it's also an easy thing to do.

Now - is it possible that new retail PM, who used to be an AWS PM, and who for some reason still had access to things he shouldn't - went ahead and did that? That could happen. And maybe his boss finds out and looks the other way but calls IT and tries to have the loophole closed quietly. Etc.

As a policy are they trying to copy your product and even ask you for information and aggressively pursue customer data? Yes.

As a policy are they looking at your S3/ec2 data - no.


I dont think its just about playing by the book of law. I'm sure they also consider optics and trust in the brand.


As a company they do, and that's how policy is set.

But individual actors are individual actors, in a company of 100 000 people, some will go astray.

They are pushing their 'white label' stuff agressively, I have no doubt the PM's have zero qualms about using Amazon.com sales data to their advantage.

But I also submit that retail PM's actually getting access to private S3/EC2 is totally rubbish, at least by any policy or scale.

They could be sued for billions in each case of that breach, and the resulting PR fallout would be impossible.

Imagine you are the VP of AWS - you make all the profit for Amazon.

Are you going to somehow allow some dirty Retail PM access to your customers data?

When your customer finds out, and tells the world, and it gets in the press, what happens?

If your ABC startup had evidence that Amazon was creeping on your data as policy, you'd have to dump them instantly.

They could say goodbye to every government contract.

If you are Bezos - would you risk the entire Brand and the cash-cow to move some low-margin pair of shoes and USB hub?

So no, I think the firewall between AWS and Retail is systematically legit.


I was on a business call with someone from AWS on a different topic, and it was pretty darn clear they opened up some sort of Account page that discussed our (limited) AWS usage, and were trying to infer a bunch about our business from that. It doesn't even really matter how deep that data goes - even just month-over-month billing #'s or something like compute/bandwidth consumption is super telling.

We mostly only do CI type stuff there, so that didn't work so well for them, but if most of our revenue & operational use was through AWS, you bet I'd be worried about what they could infer.


This echoes the distrust felt by many Amazon Marketplace sellers that drives them to seek alternatives like Shopify.


Shopify is way way worse than Amazon. If you think Amazon is evil, Shopify is 10 steps ahead.

It's not just my experience. Talking to startups and warehouses in Canada, the stories are all about how Shopify invites for friendly talks and then stonewalls you once they have got the required information


Wow. I understand you do this as a throwaway but if true this is very bad stuff and it would be nice to have a lot more substantiation so that it could be verified.


I wish I could reveal team and product name... but that would be a career suicide. I'm not asking you to believe what I'm saying... but I truly am sharing my experience. I'd encourage you to talk to folks you know from AWS who were there for last 8-10 years.


Are you still with Amazon?


If you're building a competing product and using a monopoly in order to price gouge - nothing is throwaway.


The HN account is a throwaway, that's what they're talking about.


A clarification: I'm talking about tactics from 2010-2014. I left in 2015.


What I did not find from your post is in what manner are the data accessed. Is it at all publicly available? Is it metadata e.g. usage/billing? or is it production content like S3/lambda code/EC2 storage? It would be very helpful if you can clarify what kind of access it is.


Funny... I have software that combines well with something that has an online app store. They've been begging me to put my stuff in there. Nothing doing, I seen how you guys have embraced and extinguished others. They just took out their biggest app on the app store with their own version.


I’ve heard credible rumors of AWS teams using customer billing data to unpack what they’re doing in their accounts to inform competitive products.


> confidential information

aka, we did not sign an NDA with the party across the table


This doesn't matter if you don't have the millions set aside to defend yourself in court against a giant conglomerate. Giant companies breaking NDAs with scrappy startups is a story I have heard often.


This generally is not the case.

If you blatantly ignore and NDA, and then make a lot of money from it, then the 'small startup' will have a ton of money because the prize is huge, i.e. a % cut to lawyers who can work pro-bono.

Imagine you have a $10B company and some bonehead PM steals info from some small startup, for some stupid small project - it puts everything at risk.

In most case, I think you have boneheaded actors, usually not acting in the best interest of the company.


This is likely disingenuous. Large corporations like Amazon systematically refuse to sign NDAs with small players, hence none of the info is “confidential”. The rationale is that large companies might have people working on the idea already and they meet so many people/companies it would be restrictive for them to agree to any confidentiality.


It is a reasonable expectation that your data is kept confidential. If my hosting provider were to so much as look at my data without my explicit permission I'd sue.


Hi throwaway_aws: I'm one of the reporters and would like to hear more about your experience. Mind sending me an email at cara.lombardo@wsj.com so we can connect?


How is that not a form of corporate espionage?


Just a word of caution regarding the throwaways in this thread. Take them for what they are, anecdotal claims


A single comment from a throwaway account with no evidence but confirms my personal bias that Amazon is evil? I'm fully bought in before I catch myself.

The economic and reputation cost Amazon would take in ever accessing customer data to come up with some competing B-list product (say ElasticSearch as a managed service) is astronomical compared to potential profits. One thing I know about that company... they care about optimizing profit and are long term focused.

Please provide evidence for your extraordinary claim.

wolco 3 months ago [flagged]

Whenever anyone asks for evidence I start to wonder why they need the proof. Why did you need this link? Do you have a business relationship with Amazon?

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.wsj.com/amp/articles/amazon...


That's talking about Amazon Retail, not AWS

The customer data on Amazon Retail is Amazon's, not the seller's , just like the customer data when you buy shampoo from Walmart is Walmart's, not Procter&Gamble's


> Whenever anyone asks for evidence I start to wonder why they need the proof.

1. This article is behind paywall, but thanks for posting.

2. EVERYONE should ask for evidence for any/all unsubstantiated claims, no matter where on the opinion spectrum they sit.


I'd like to ask for evidence for statement 2. This sounds more like your opinion than a substantiated claim.

1. Someone needs to pay the people who write stories. If proof is important you should not object to contributing to the people who work on your behalf.


Amazon and arguably google are in desperate need of a good anti-trust investigation.


Would Amazon be more, less, or equally liable if you used a cloud provider that then relied upon AWS for its hosting.

How would a startup that was concerned of Amazon copying it be certain to avoid such surveillance other than running its own data center?


if you are ever of the mind to share, i am of the mind to listen. my email is dai.wakabayashi@nytimes.com


Do you want to write an opinion piece on Shopify? I can get some minds to share


> AWS proactively looked at traction of products hosted on its platform

How is that confidential information if it's hosted on their own servers?


That is straight up some Darth Vader shit.


And that's why existing businesses joining the cloud pick azure.


What makes you think Microsoft would behave differently?


I presume it would be a lack of history doing the exact thing amazon are accused of doing here? That and the fact that they aren’t doing an e-commerce business in the way Amazon is.


Since Microsoft has always known to threat their business partners fair.


They are not as competent at sherlocking as Amazon.


What a wonderful verb; thanks for relieving my ignorance. ISTM Amazon misses out on some aspects of the idiomatic definition, since they failed to popularize their own brand of client machines with an OS they control.

I think the original Netscape folks would disagree with your assessment of M$ sherlocking competence.




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