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Amazon’s secret operation to spy on rivals: an investigation by the WSJ

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Amazon’s secret operation to spy on rivals: an investigation by the WSJ

For ten years, Amazon allegedly secretly used a related company to gather information on how its competitors worked to hinder competition. This is what an investigation by the Wall Street Journal revealed, which allegedly came into possession of some documents that describe the operation in detail. The company is called Big River. On its website it presents itself as a company of “entrepreneurs, thinkers, commercial agents and creators” and, according to the American newspaper, it has sold around a million products a year on sites competing with Amazon: including Ebay, Shopify, Walmart .

Stolen data, confidential information collected for Amazon

“We have a passion for customers and are not afraid to experiment,” it says on their site. But what the site doesn’t say, says the newspaper, is that Big River is an arm of Amazon. Born from a 2015 plan with Code-named “Project Curiosity,” Big River uses its sales in multiple countries to obtain pricing data, logistics information and other details about rival e-commerce marketplaces, logistics operations and payment services. some people from Big River revealed to the WSJ – he would then share all the information collected with Amazon for years, helping the e-commerce giant to develop suitable strategies to bend the competition in terms of delivery times and customer satisfaction.

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Amazon is the largest e-commerce company in the United States. The largest also at European level. It represents nearly 40% of all online goods sold in the United States. It is currently facing antitrust charges filed last year by the US Federal Trade Commission and 17 states, which have accused Amazon of a series of behaviors that harm sellers, including the use of anti-discounting measures that they punished traders for offering lower prices elsewhere. But the company has also been investigated in Europe, where it now has to comply with the stringent rules set by the Digital Markets Act, which imposes more transparency on the use of recommendation algorithms and the prohibition of anti-competitive practices.

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The meetings with retailers, without ever saying that he works for Amazon

The Wall Street Journal’s investigation highlights practices that would seem to confirm some of the accusations that Amazon’s rivals have always made against the Seattle giant. To become and remain the main e-commerce hub, it acted incorrectly. Among these, some anecdotes told by the newspaper: Big River team members allegedly attended their rivals’ vendor conferences and met with competitors identifying themselves only as Big River Services employees, instead of disclosing that they worked for Amazon.

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In short, Amazon is accused by the Journal’s journalistic work of having used Big River to collect information on its competitors in a deceptive and unethical way. Big River operated as a seller on various online marketplaces, including eBay, Walmart and Flipkart, collecting data on pricing, logistics and seller tools. This information was used by Amazon to improve its services and gain a potential competitive advantage. The move raises ethical concerns about the operation, as Big River used deceptive methods and Amazon tried to hide its involvement.


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