The FTC accuses Amazon of using Signal’s auto-deleting messages to erase evidence

The FTC accuses Amazon of using Signal’s auto-deleting messages to erase evidence

The agency asked a federal judge to force the company to turn over new documents.

The FTC accuses Amazon of using Signal’s auto-deleting messages to erase evidence |

According to a court document viewed by Engadget, the Federal Trade Commission accused Amazon of using Signal’s disappearing messages feature to conceal communications as part of its antitrust suit against the company. The FTC says the retailer continued to auto-delete its communications even after the agency notified it that it was under investigation and asked it to preserve them. Founder and former CEO Jeff Bezos and current CEO Andy Jassy are among the accused.

“For years, Amazon’s top executives, including founder and former CEO Jeff Bezos, discuss[ed] sensitive business matters, including antitrust, over the Signal encrypted-messaging app instead of email,” the FTC wrote in the full document, acquired by (Bezos-owned) The Washington Post. “These executives turned on Signal’s ‘disappearing message’ feature, which irrevocably destroys messages, even after Amazon was on notice that Plaintiffs were investigating its conduct.”

The FTC wants a federal judge to compel Amazon to provide documents related to its data handling. The government agency says the retailer didn’t disclose its Signal use until March 2022, ahead of a Wall Street Journal article highlighting the covert practice.

“Although the contents of deleted messages are impossible to recover, the app shows when a user turns the disappearing message feature on, off, or changes the timer for deletions, leaving breadcrumbs showing that Amazon executives’ deletions were widespread,” the document reads. “From the messages that were not deleted, it is apparent that Amazon executives used Signal to talk about competition-related business issues.”

The issue appears to be an increasingly common business practice in Silicon Valley. Last year, the DOJ accused Google of routinely destroying its internal chat histories, which it was required to preserve under federal law. In addition, before Elon Musk bought Twitter and changed its name to X, the company asked a judge to sanction the Tesla founder for using Signal’s auto-deletion to withhold messages sent through the app.

In addition to Bezos and Jassy, The Washington Post reports that the full document names General Counsel David Zapolsky, former CEO of Worldwide Consumer Jeff Wilke and former CEO of Worldwide Operations Dave Clark as participating in the practice.

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