Amazon and Feds Team Up to Sniff Out Counterfeiters

Illustration for article titled Amazon and Feds Team Up to Sniff Out Counterfeiters
Photo: Denis Charlet (Getty Images)

In the latest example of Amazon buddying up with federal forces, the ecommerce giant announced a new partnership with the Department of Homeland and security and DHL dubbed “Operation Fulfilled Action,” aimed at cracking down on counterfeit products.

The deal will see Amazon share data from its sprawling marketplace with the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination (IPR) Center—a division of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which is itself a division of DHS—responsible for, among other things, keeping counterfeit consumer goods and phony pharmaceuticals from reaching U.S. soil. While the data being shared here is somewhat undefined, the company stated that any pertinent evidence gleaned there or from any “targeted inspections” will be tacked onto any ongoing federal investigations into these shady supply chains.

With the obscene amount of online shopping that folks have been doing during the current pandemic, it makes sense that this branch of the DHS has been cozying up to Amazon more and more in recent months. Back in May, ICE announced it would be partnering with Amazon and fellow ecommerce giant Alibaba as a part of “Operation Stolen Promise,” in an attempt to crack down on off-label coronavirus cures and other scammy medical sundry being sold across the platform. A month later, Amazon rolled out an internal counterfeit crimes division that was explicitly created to support these sorts of federal investigations.

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Aside from the market-busting partnerships, Amazon’s literally spent years cementing contracts with ICE. Back in 2018, employees and advocates alike protested the company’s ongoing attempts to pawn off its facial recognition software to immigration authorities. And from the hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars that agencies like ICE and Customs and Border Protection pay the company in order to house their databases on Amazon Web Services, it seems like both agencies are reliant on Amazon for more than just the occasional counterfeit case.

While Amazon prides itself on its response to counterfeits—saying that it spent over $500 million dollars in 2019 “to protect customers from counterfeits and other forms of fraud”—anyone who shops on Amazon can tell you that it’s not enough. The platform is still riddled with fakes that sometimes come packaged with dangerous defects. It’s unclear whether getting more federal backing than the company already has will make any dent in the problem.

I cover the business of data for Gizmodo. Send your worst tips to swodinsky@gizmodo.com.

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