- Amazon announced Thursday it has elected former National Security Agency (NSA) chief Keith Alexander to its board.
- Alexander presided over the NSA when the Edward Snowden scandal broke.
- Snowden reacted to the new of Alexander’s hiring to Amazon, saying: “It turns out ‘Hey Alexa’ is short for ‘Hey Keith Alexander.'”
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Amazon has appointed the NSA chief who oversaw the Edward Snowden mass-surveillance scandal to its board.
The online retail giant announced the appointment on Wednesday.
General Keith Alexander presided as director of the National Security Agency (NSA) from 2005 to 2014, after which he founded his own cybersecurity company IronNet Security. According to Amazon’s site, Alexander now sits on Amazon’s audit committee.
Alexander was in the spotlight in 2013 when Edward Snowden, a former CIA sub-contractor, leaked thousands of NSA documents and blew the whistle on the agency’s mass surveillance programmes, triggering global outrage. Alexander accused Snowden at the time of being a Russian operative.
Snowden on Wednesday expressed his dismay at Alexander’s appointment.
“It turns out ‘Hey Alexa’ is short for ‘Hey Keith Alexander,’ Snowden tweeted. “Yes, the Keith Alexander personally responsible for the unlawful mass surveillance programs that caused a global scandal. And Amazon Web Services (AWS) host ~6% of all websites,” he added, citing tech survey site w3techs.
—Edward Snowden (@Snowden) September 9, 2020
Although Amazon has not suffered massive privacy scandals similar to those of social media companies such as Facebook, it has been the subject of some unflattering news stories about its privacy practices. In August last year it emerged that Amazon’s Alexa (along with many other tech companies’ smart voice assistants) had been sending voice recordings to human contractors for review. Amazon subsequently made it possible to opt-out of human review. And earlier this month Vice reported the company had been using a social media monitoring tool to spy on private Amazon driver Facebook groups.
A federal court ruled this month that the sweeping surveillance of US citizens’ phone records revealed in the Snowden leak was illegal and possibly unconstitutional. The court also dismissed the NSA’s case that the surveillance was necessary to prevent terrorist attacks, finding it hadn’t helped to prevent even a single attack.