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Amazon CEO: Data security issues won’t go away

Companies should plan to deal with data security issues for the long haul, said Jeff Bezos, chairman, president and CEO of Amazon.com on May 11 at ShopSmart magazine’s Summit on Tips, Scams & Deals. He added that companies need to be “straightforward” with consumers when collecting data for making product recommendations. 

“Data security is one of these dynamic situations where the bad guys get better and the good guys have to keep getting better, too,” said Bezos, during the event’s keynote address. “This situation is not static. People want to steal data for profit. They are sophisticated gangs of criminals…It won’t ever go away. That would be like saying crime will go away.”

To protect themselves, Bezos said consumers should choose more intricate passwords, avoid using the same password for multiple logins, and change their passwords frequently. 

“Change your passwords every three months,” he said. “Use capital letters and pound signs.” 

Regarding data collection, Bezos said consumers never resisted Amazon’s efforts because “we try to be straightforward with people.” The way his company designed its website, claimed Bezos, informs consumers about how data is being collected and how it is being used. 

“Some companies who’ve had the biggest [struggles] with privacy [struggled because their] website wasn’t making it clear what they were doing, and it felt creepy,” he said. “If I were giving advice to companies recording and using data, I’d try to make what customers do everyday self-showing.”

Bezos offered the following Amazon example: “If you go to a detail page on Amazon.com, it will tell you that you bought [a specific product] on December 20, 1998.”

Discussing Amazon’s history, Bezos revealed early discontent among book publishers about negative customer reviews. One publisher wrote Bezos a letter that read, “You don’t understand your business. You make money when you sell things. Remove the customer reviews.” 

“We don’t only sell things,” said Bezos, on his reaction to the letter. “We help customers make purchases. If you’re focused on the long-term, you’ll help customers make purchase decisions and people will find your site helpful.” 

Bezos also said he was surprised to find “some customers don’t know we sell more than books.” He said this misconception is a reminder that “people are busy and they’re on a mission.”

“People type in a search term, they see what they want, they buy it, and they go back to their family,” said Bezos. “We’re not that important.”

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