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Where the money is really made at Amazon



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Andy Jassy heads up Amazon’s most profitable division

Andy Jassy may not be famous like his boss Jeff Bezos, but he runs Amazon Web Services (AWS), perhaps the most important part of the Amazon empire.

AWS sells data storage and processing for companies that don’t want the headache of running their own IT infrastructure. It’s a business known as cloud computing and it has only been around 10 or 15 years.

Its rapid expansion means AWS supplied 70% of Amazon’s profits in its most recent quarter.

In an interview with the BBC, Mr Jassy explained that the division began with start-ups such as Airbnb, Deliveroo and Pinterest, who built their businesses from scratch on top of AWS, but that in recent years more established firms have joined them.

Despite that success, the business is facing some real tests – not least fierce competition from Microsoft.

Tensions with US government

A big blow hit in October, when the US government awarded a juicy $10bn (£7.6bn) contract from the Department of Defense (DoD) to Microsoft.

Amazon’s AWS had been expected to win the Joint Enterprise Infrastructure (Jedi) project. It is challenging the decision, saying there had been interference from the White House.

In a document made public in December, AWS explained why it was protesting against the Jedi contract award. “The question is whether the president of the United States should be allowed to use the budget of DoD to pursue his own personal and political ends,” the filing stated.

“DoD’s substantial and pervasive errors are hard to understand, and impossible to assess separate and apart from the president’s repeatedly expressed determination to, in the words of the president himself, ‘screw Amazon’.

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Relations between the White House and Amazon boss Jeff Bezos (right) are bumpy

Speaking to the BBC at the annual AWS event in Las Vegas, Mr Jassy said the decision was dangerous, as Amazon had “the best possible technology infrastructure platform”.

Mr Jassy also said it was a “very dangerous” precedent if government was not going to base decisions on “objective valuations”.

When asked whether the Jedi debacle would change the way AWS would deal with the government in the future – Mr Jassy said it would not.

Will that relationship improve? It seems unlikely as President Trump has made his dislike of Amazon clear. In part that’s because Amazon founder Jeff Bezos also controls the Washington Post newspaper, which the president considers hostile towards him.

More Technology of Business

In fact Amazon could be facing further battles with government agencies.

It is also the subject of a number of investigations into whether it has been acting in an anti-competitive way.

In early December, a Bloomberg report suggested that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) had broadened its scrutiny of Amazon beyond its e-commerce operations to include AWS.

The report suggested that the FTC was investigating whether AWS was discriminating against companies that also work with other cloud providers, and prioritising those that work with AWS exclusively.

Mr Jassy, however, would not be drawn on this.

Facial recognition

There has been much scrutiny over Amazon’s sale of facial recognition technology, which it calls Rekognition.

Civil rights campaigners have suggested it was “perhaps the most dangerous surveillance technology ever developed”.

Rival Google has limited its use of facial recognition to celebrity face matching, and the chief executive of its cloud business, Thomas Kurian, told the BBC that it had not offered more powerful services like Rekognition because in some countries it is not legally allowed.

Mr Jassy said that there is confusion because of the lack of regulation at a federal government level.

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Amazon has promoted its tech as a tool to fight crime

“If you don’t have a federal government actually regulating something that people are debating, then you end up with 50 different rules in 50 different states and even more potentially in municipalities,” he said.

Mr Jassy suggested that facial recognition had been used for a lot of good.

“It has reunited missing kids with their parents, it’s found human trafficking, it’s improved security and identity, there are all kinds of ways that it is adding real value to society,” Mr Jassy said.

The AWS chief executive also said that in the nearly three years it has had facial recognition technology, it has had zero reports of misuse by law enforcement agencies.

Mr Jassy said AWS has provided very firm guidance to law enforcement agencies that if they’re going to use facial recognition, they should only use predictions that come back with a 99% confidence level or higher, and even then only as one piece of evidence in a human-driven investigation.

“We provide free training for law enforcement on how to use facial recognition technology, and if we find we have any kind of reported misuse, which we haven’t had yet, we would suspend their ability not just to use the service but also the platform,” said Mr Jassy.

“But I can understand why people may want stronger assurances that it can’t happen. I think that government should regulate it and give more guidance.”

Climate change – is cloud helping or hindering?

Cloud companies store data in their own data centres, and Amazon is no different; the issue is that these data centres are energy hungry, consuming about 2% of electricity worldwide, and contributing to 0.3% of global carbon emissions, according to Nature.

Amazon’s climate pledge includes a promise that its entire business will run on 80% renewable energy by 2024, and 100% renewable energy by 2030, with it pledging to become net carbon neutral by 2040.

“The environment is an obviously critical issue for the future of our planet, and to make it inhabitable for our grandkids, and Amazon has made a very aggressive set of goals that I’m not sure you’ve seen others take,” Mr Jassy claimed.

Last week, BP announced that it would supply renewable energy to AWS’s European data centres that drive its cloud platform.

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Mr Jassy rejects claims that working with oil companies is wrong

But BP and Shell are customer of AWS, which has attracted criticism, even from some of Amazon’s own employees.

In April thousands of Amazon employees signed a letter saying the company should not work with the oil industry.

But Mr Jassy argues that cloud computing is not an enabler of activities that contribute to global warming.

“If cloud providers don’t serve the energy companies, it’s not like they’re suddenly going to stop doing infrastructure like they already do today”.

Mr Jassy claimed that cloud computing is more energy efficient than the IT infrastructure energy companies would be using otherwise.

“We’d rather be part of solving the problem, and helping the energy companies themselves be more energy efficient, and environmentally friendly. And then also be able to invest very substantially in renewable energy and other inventions in those areas at a faster rate,” Mr Jassy said.

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Deadly Coronavirus Outbreak Poses a Test to China’s Leadership



The delay in reporting the spread of the disease was attributed to technological challenges, but also bureaucratic ones.

Some hospitals lacked testing kits, according to remarks on Monday by Dr. Zhong Nanshan, a prominent scientist who is leading a government-appointed panel of experts helping control the outbreak. The process was also slowed down, he said, because local hospitals were required to submit cases to the central health commission in Beijing for review before going public.

For weeks, the authorities in Wuhan seemed to play down the threat posed by the virus. The health department said that it had been found only in people who visited a local market that sold live fish, birds and other animals, and that workers had disinfected and shut down the site.

Questions have emerged on Chinese social media about whether the Chinese government has been forthcoming. Many articles and posts, including some using the hashtag #WuhanSARS, were censored.

After his stepmother died of viral pneumonia last week, Kyle Hui, 32, an architect from Shanghai, turned to Weibo, a Twitterlike site, to report her case. Mr. Hui’s stepmother was never formally tested for the virus, and he was concerned that the Wuhan government was underreporting cases of the illness. But his post soon disappeared from the internet.

“People accuse me of spreading rumors, but I’m just trying to tell my stepmother’s story,” he said in an interview at a cafe in Wuhan.

It was not until Monday that the government changed course, after news outlets in Hong Kong reported over the weekend that there were several potential cases of the illness in Shanghai and Shenzhen, a southern city. The central government dispatched Dr. Zhong, a renowned expert with a reputation for bluntness, to Wuhan.

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Report: Bezos phone uploaded GBs of personal data after getting Saudi prince’s WhatsApp message



It’s like a plot from a bad thriller: a forensic analysis paid for by Jeff Bezos found that his cell phone coughed up massive amounts of personal information within hours of receiving a WhatsApp-attached video file sent by the future king of Saudi Arabia, the Guardian, and the Financial Times reported on Tuesday.

The text—the analysis is reported to say—comes on May 1, 2018. That’s when Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sent Bezos a text over WhatsApp weeks after the two had exchanged numbers. Their relationship started out cordially but became strained as The Washington Post reported that the Saudi government was behind the gruesome killing and subsequent dismemberment of veteran Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. He used to contribute a regular column in the Bezos-owned Washington Post criticizing Prince Mohammed’s autocratic leadership. The FT report is here, and the report from the Guardian is here.

Massive and unauthorized exfiltration

Within hours of Bezos’ receipt of the video, the analysis found, “a massive and unauthorized exfiltration of data from Bezos’s phone began, continuing and escalating for months,” the FT reported. That amount of data surreptitiously exfiltrated from the device “was in the dozens of gigabytes, compared to the few hundred kilobytes daily afterage in the months before the video file was sent.

The extraordinary conclusion—which depending on the publications was reached with either “medium to high confidence” or found to be “highly probable”—comes nine months after a security consultant hired by the Amazon founder and owner of The Washington Post, said the government of Saudi Arabia gained access to the private contents of Jeff Bezos’ phone. The consultant, Gavin De Becker, made no explicit allegation at the time that Bezos’ phone had been hacked.

A Saudi official denied the country’s government was behind a hack on Bezos’ phone. “Saudi Arabia does not conduct illicit activities of this nature, nor does it condone them,” the official told the FT. “We request the presentation of any supposed evidence and the disclosure of any company that examined any forensic evidence so that we can show it is demonstrably false.

The analysis was led by Anthony J. Ferrante, a security expert at the business advisory firm FTI Consulting. It doesn’t claim to have conclusive evidence, and its findings have yet to be independently confirmed by the FT, Guardian, or any other known news publication.

Representatives for Bezos and FTI consulting declined to comment.

Allegations that Saudi Arabia obtained access to data on Bezos’s phone came a few months after the National Enquirer tabloid reported that Bezos’s was having an extramarital affair with broadcaster Lauren Sanchez. The publication published texts and pictures from the phone that appeared to show the two had an ongoing relationship.

Nude photos

A few weeks later, Bezos published emails he received from officials at National Inquirer’s parent company. The company allegedly threatened to publish nude photos from Bezos’ phone unless he ended an investigation into the security breaching involving his phone and backed away from public allegations the breach was motivated by political leanings by the National Inquirer. National Inquirer has maintained the phone data came from Sanchez’s brother and was not the result of a hack.

In May, WhatsApp owner Facebook said it fixed a critical vulnerability in the messenger app that had been under active exploit. According to an FT report published the same day the exploit was developed by Israeli developer NSO Group and worked by sending a WhatsApp call to targets. By exploiting a buffer overflow vulnerability in the WhatsApp VoIP stack, the calls could remotely install surveillance malware on both iPhones and Android devices. Targets need not have answered the call to be infected.

It’s not clear if the WhatsApp exploit was the same one allegedly used against Bezos. Based on the limited descriptions of the vulnerabilities, they appear to be different, other than they both gave remote attackers full control over devices running vulnerable devices.

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Tracking Privacy: State Developments to Keep an Eye On | Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP



Updated: May 25, 2018:

JD Supra is a legal publishing service that connects experts and their content with broader audiences of professionals, journalists and associations.

This Privacy Policy describes how JD Supra, LLC (“JD Supra” or “we,” “us,” or “our“) collects, uses and shares personal data collected from visitors to our website (located at (our “Website“) who view only publicly-available content as well as subscribers to our services (such as our email digests or author tools)(our “Services“). By using our Website and registering for one of our Services, you are agreeing to the terms of this Privacy Policy.

Please note that if you subscribe to one of our Services, you can make choices about how we collect, use and share your information through our Privacy Center under the “My Account” dashboard (available if you are logged into your JD Supra account).

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We use the information and data we collect principally in order to provide our Website and Services. More specifically, we may use your personal information to:

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JD Supra takes reasonable and appropriate precautions to insure that user information is protected from loss, misuse and unauthorized access, disclosure, alteration and destruction. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. You should keep in mind that no Internet transmission is ever 100% secure or error-free. Where you use log-in credentials (usernames, passwords) on our Website, please remember that it is your responsibility to safeguard them. If you believe that your log-in credentials have been compromised, please contact us at

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Our Website and Services may contain links to other websites. The operators of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using our Website or Services and click a link to another site, you will leave our Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We are not responsible for the data collection and use practices of such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of our Website and Services and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

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JD Supra’s principal place of business is in the United States. By subscribing to our website, you expressly consent to your information being processed in the United States.

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Privacy Officer

JD Supra, LLC

10 Liberty Ship Way, Suite 300

Sausalito, California 94965

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Pursuant to Section 1798.83 of the California Civil Code, our customers who are California residents have the right to request certain information regarding our disclosure of personal information to third parties for their direct marketing purposes.

You can make a request for this information by emailing us at or by writing to us at:

Privacy Officer

JD Supra, LLC

10 Liberty Ship Way, Suite 300

Sausalito, California 94965

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There are different types of cookies and other technologies used our Website, notably:

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We may update this cookie policy and our Privacy Policy from time-to-time, particularly as technology changes. You can always check this page for the latest version. We may also notify you of changes to our privacy policy by email.

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