Edward Snowden Calls Amazon “Morally Irresponsible” For Not Encrypting User Data

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden continued his anti-snooping crusade on Friday at the Cato Institute Surveillance Conference. As reported by the Washington Post, Snowden–who appeared at the event via livestream–lambasted major online retailer Amazon for neglecting to encrypt user browsing habits.

Also read: The Snowden Effect Continues

Amazon “Morally Irresponsible,” Says Snowden

Many companies began increasing user data encryption after Edward Snowden revealed how extensive government surveillance initiatives are in the United States and other democratic countries. Google and Facebook, among others, took steps to reduce the amount of information readily available to prying eyes. Additionally, many entrepreneurs turned their attention to developing services that protect user communications.

However, Amazon continues to present user-generated searches in plain text. Consequently, anyone with access to the internet traffic–not just governments, but also employers and other network hosts–can monitor what users on that network are searching for on Amazon.

“Wherever you’re at, wherever that jurisdiction is, they can see what books you’re looking at,” Snowden warned. And as people spend more time and money shopping online, those prying eyes may see things shoppers wish they hadn’t. Perhaps a parent needs to order a copy of Mein Kampf because his or her child is doing a research project on Adolf Hitler. It is easy to see why such a person would prefer neither his or her employer nor the government become privy to that information.

Snowden says Amazon has the capability to encrypt user browsing habits because they already secure user payments. Consequently, he alleges that Amazon is not just neglectful of user privacy–they are morally culpable if a third-party spies on Amazon shoppers.

This is morally irresponsible, and as a business it’s problematic to allow this to continue when we know for a fact that they have the capability to provide for secure communications because as soon as you go to purchase that book, as soon as money’s involved, they turn it over to encryption.

Do you think Amazon is “morally irresponsible” for not encrypting user product searches? Comment below!

Images from TheWikiLeaksChannel and Shutterstock.

I am a full-time high school history teacher, but I moonlight as a lifestyle tech geek. I am particularly interested in privacy-based techs.