Bezos and top Amazon execs accused of using disappearing messaging app Signal by federal regulators

Amazon executives allegedly used Signal, an encrypted messaging app, to communicate even after the FTC notified them to preserve documents  (Getty Images)
Amazon executives allegedly used Signal, an encrypted messaging app, to communicate even after the FTC notified them to preserve documents (Getty Images)

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is accusing Amazon executives, including founder Jeff Bezos, of using encrypted messaging apps that automatically delete messages to communicate, even after they were notified they were under investigation.

In a motion to compel, filed on Thursday, the FTC is asking a judge to force Amazon to “produce documents related to the company’s failure to preserve Signal messages” the company’s document preservation notices and it’s instructions about using disappearing messaging applications.

That includes Signal, an encrypted messaging service with a feature allowing users to make messages disappear automatically when toggled.

The FTC alleges that executives did this while discussing “sensitive business matters, including antitrust” instead of using email to destroy potential evidence.

Amazon is currently involved in a massive antitrust lawsuit, brought by the FTC and 17 state attorney general. They’re accusing Amazon of unlawfully exploiting its monopoly to jack up prices and stifle competition

The Washington Post first reported this.

The FTC contends that Amazon employees began using Signal in 2019 – the federal agency sent a letter to Amazon asking it to preserve all of its documents due to its investigation in June 2019.

Companies have a legal obligation to preserve documents and communications that could be used as relevant evidence in cases and trials.

In their filing, the FTC says Amazon did not notify Mr Bezos until April 2020 but that several executives continued using Signal’s disappearing message feature.

Signal (Getty Images)
Signal (Getty Images)

Amazon spokesperson Tim Doyle said in a statement obtained by The Post, “The FTC’s contentions are baseless.”

“Amazon voluntarily disclosed employees’ limited Signal use to the FTC years ago, thoroughly collected Signal conversations from its employees’ phones, and allowed agency staff to inspect those conversations even when they had nothing to do with the FTC’s investigations.”

He added: “The FTC has a complete picture of Amazon’s decision-making in this case, including 1.7 million documents from sources like email, internal messaging applications, and laptops (among other sources), and over 100 terabytes of data.”

The FTC is asking a judge to compel the company to provide its preservation notices and instructions to determine “Whether, when and how Amazon employees were instructed to preserve Signal messages” related to work – if they were instructed at all.

“Plaintiffs need these documents to assess whether Amazon failed to take reasonable steps to preserve documents and to map out what information has been destroyed,” the FTC wrote.