Amazon is investigating allegations that some employees in India and the US are sharing internal company data with merchants, reports Wall Street Journal (paywall). The company has dismissed several employees in both countries for accessing internal data that was being misused by disreputable merchants. The report said that India was a major source of the data misuse by Amazon employees, and the company’s investigation focuses on India ops. It is unclear how many sellers were affected, what the extent of the damage is, or how many India employees were involved in the misuse of data.

Amazon has also deleted suspect reviews, restricted seller access to customer data, and brought down techniques which trick the site into displaying products higher in search. It is unclear which of these steps Amazon has taken in India yet.

In India and China, Amazon has restricted employees’ ability to search an internal database for data such as product performance or trending keywords. Some employees in India are no longer able to use their USB drives to download such data, reports the publication.

MediaNama has reached out to Amazon for further details and will update this when we hear from them.

What sellers did against rivals

  • Sellers have been sabotaging their counterparts by flagging the others’ product as counterfeit or infringing trademarks, which Amazon has had to remove from sale while evaluating whether they are actually fake.
  • Sellers are also misusing accounts on Amazon’s Vendor Central system to change rival sellers’ product pages, by changing product photographs to those of unrelated products. Sellers flooded rival sellers’ listings with positive or negative reviews, clicking repeatedly on products they want to boost, among others.

Amazon user data also exposed previously

  • Last month, Amazon again notified customers that their email addresses were disclosed, though the company called it a technical error and not a breach. Amazon India said at the time that the company “has fixed and issue and informed customers who may have been impacted” without providing any other details.
  • In October, Amazon had notified some users that their email addresses were shared with an outside seller, and said it had fired the responsible employee for it.

Snapdeal Brand Shield

Last month, Snapdeal launched ‘Brand Shield’ where companies could report counterfeit products being sold on its platform. Snapdeal claimed that it would take down any “listing that infringes third party IP rights within 1 working day after being assured that – 
– Ownership of the intellectual Property has been established.
– The infringer has been identified through proof of purchase or any other document.
– The claim of infringement is based on objective and reasonable basis.”

Also read: Delhi High Court judgment sheds light on when an ecommerce platform loses safe harbor