When the National Enquirer published alleged text message exchanges between Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and media personality Lauren Sánchez in January, many people immediately began cooking up a conspiracy theory that Donald Trump was involved with the leak. According to a new report, Bezos’ investigators actually think that might be the case and they’re looking into it.
The Daily Beast cites “three people familiar with the probe” in its report on Bezos’ efforts to find out who leaked the text messages. The National Enquirer published two bombshell reports on the Amazon founder’s apparent affair with Sánchez in the days that followed Bezos’ announcement that he and his wife, Mackenzie, are divorcing. It’s well-known that the National Enquirer has worked, in the past, to kill stories that would be embarrassing for Trump. And according to the Daily Beast’s sources, Bezos’ personal security team is increasingly convinced that the leaks were politically motivated.
Bezos is reportedly paying his team privately and the investigation does not involve Amazon. They’ve reportedly ruled out the possibility that Bezos was hacked following the results of digital forensic analysis and found no evidence that Sanchez leaked the messages. It’s unclear if Bezos had his people go through Sanchez’s devices, but imagine that awkward conversation. Here, I’ll help. It would probably go something like: “I love you, alive girl. And I need you to hand over all your devices to that big gentleman standing by the door.”
Having ruled out the two people involved in the text exchange, the Bezos’ Hack Attack Squad has reportedly turned its attention to investigating “individuals with ties to various figures in the president’s orbit.” Trump routinely criticizes Bezos. He’s accused Amazon of failing to pay “internet tax,” even though that tax doesn’t exist and failing to pay it is not a crime. The president mostly seems to dislike the coverage he gets in the Washington Post. Bezos, the richest man in the world, owns the Washington Post and likely only remembers that fact when Trump tweets about it. In January, Trump fired off some presidential tweets that mocked his rival’s predicament saying, “So sorry to hear the news about Jeff Bozo being taken down by a competitor whose reporting, I understand, is far more accurate than the reporting in his lobbyist newspaper, the Amazon Washington Post.”
According to the Daily Beast’s sources, Bezos’ investigators are intrigued by the obvious connection that the Enquirer’s chief executive David Pecker has been a long-time friend of Trump’s. But they also are suspicious of the time and resources that the Enquirer devoted to uncovering Bezos’ alleged affair. From one perspective, that’s about as big as tabloid stories get, so of course, the Enquirer would want it. But from a different perspective, tabloids don’t regularly spend months plowing money into stalking a subject for a single scoop.
The episode demonstrates how technology has left our privacy more vulnerable than ever. Amazon itself can be seen as an enormous violator of privacy, for example Gizmodo’s Kashmir Hill recently went to extraordinary lengths to block Amazon from her digital life and found it absolutely impossible. The retail giant tracks us everywhere we go online and provides a ton of the server infrastructure for the web. That’s not enough for Amazon. It also wants every home to contain one of its insecure smart speakers, it wants a key to your house, and it provides facial recognition technology to the government.
We asked Amazon for comment on this story but did not receive a reply. Specifically, we asked if Bezos is using any of Amazon’s resources in his hunt for the leakers. Surely, this is a situation in which Bezos would want to use every tool at his disposal, and maybe even bend his ethical boundaries a bit. At the same time, it’s also terrifying that the richest man on the planet is just as screwed as all of us when it comes to protecting his privacy.