Amazon revealed in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing Wednesday that former National Security Agency (NSA) director Gen. Keith Alexander had been added to the company’s board of directors.
The investor filing released Wednesday detailed that Alexander was elected a company director and appointed to the board’s audit committee. Alexander is also listed on Amazon’s website as a board member and chief executive of IronNet Cybersecurity, a company he founded in 2014.
Alexander served as NSA director and chief of the agency’s Central Security Service from Aug. 2005 to March 2014. He was also the first commander of the U.S. Cyber Command and served from May 2010 to March 2014.
— Amazon News (@amazonnews) September 9, 2020
Amazon told CNBC in a statement that Alexander was selected for his qualifications and public policy experience, adding that his role would not overlap with cloud computing and data projects like Amazon Web Services. He was also awarded 288 shares of Amazon stock which will be acquired in three annual installments beginning Nov. 2021, CNBC reported.
Alexander became the public face of the NSA’s domestic and international surveillance program in 2013 after former CIA sub-contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden leaked thousands of classified documents revealing the agency’s mass surveillance programs, Business Insider reported.
The Snowden leaks also revealed the connection between U.S. intelligence agencies and major technology companies as the PRISM surveillance program allowed the NSA to collect private electronic data belonging to American and international users, according to The Verge.
Snowden responded to Alexander’s appointment, blaming him for the “unlawful mass surveillance programs” in a tweet Wednesday. “It turns out ‘Hey Alexa’ is short for ‘Hey Keith Alexander’,” Snowden tweeted. (RELATED: Amazon Removes Job Postings Seeking Analysts To ‘Monitor Labor Organizing Threats’)
???????? It turns out “Hey Alexa” is short for “Hey Keith Alexander.” 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. ????????https://t.co/6hkzsHjxh9
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) September 9, 2020
Alexander had accused Snowden of being a Russian operative during a March 2014 interview with Australia-based Financial Review. “I think he is now being manipulated by Russian intelligence,” Alexander said. Snowden’s passport was revoked following the leaks, and he consequently sought asylum in Moscow, The Hill reported.
Alexander once suggested that reporters should not be allowed to access or cover the documents Snowden leaked during an Oct. 2013 interview with the Department of Defense. “I think it’s wrong that newspaper reporters have all these documents, the 50,000-whatever they have and are selling them and giving them out as if these — you know it just doesn’t make sense.” he said.
His appointment to Amazon’s board of directors comes at an important time for the tech giant as it remains locked in a legal battle with Microsoft over a $10 billion cloud computing contract with the Pentagon as part of a deal with the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) program, CNBC reported.
Amazon has also come under fire for its data collection practices despite the company stating that it “never participated” in the NSA’s PRISM program, Forbes reported. (RELATED: Ex-NSA Head Keith Alexander Defends Million-Dollar Cyber-Security Consulting)
A report in 2019 revealed that Amazon Echo products were storing data using voice-recognition software, according to The Washington Post.
‘Alexa, are you controlled by Chinese hackers?’
— Big Think (@bigthink) August 13, 2018
Amazon said the company was not abusing data collection in an April 2019 statement, the Independent reported. “We have strict technical and operational safeguards, and have a zero tolerance policy for the abuse of our system. Employees do not have direct access to information that can identify the person or account as part of this workflow.”
When asked about data collection practices, a company spokesman told the Independent: “We take the security and privacy of our customers’ personal information seriously.”