The tech world and tech billionaires have actively advocated in favor of climate change mitigation. One of the leading players is Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who has donated millions of dollars to climate change advocacy groups. However, his company rather sees such climate change groups as a threat.
According to reports, Amazon's Global Security Operations Center actively monitors climate change groups including Greta Thunberg's Fridays for Future, Greenpeace and Extinction Rebellion among others.
The internal reports that were written in 2019 by Amazon intelligence analysts were obtained by Vice. As per the reports, Amazon closely tracks social justice groups, labor organizing activities and environmentalists in Europe and on social media platforms. The company has even hired the Pinkerton detective agency to spy on union activities among its employees.
An Amazon spokesperson told Vice that the monitoring was aimed at safeguarding the company assets, operations and employees from potential risks or hazards so it could "meet customer expectation." "Like any other responsible business, we maintain a level of security within our operations to help keep our employees, buildings, and inventory safe," Lisa Levandowski, an Amazon spokesperson told Vice.
Threat of Climate Change Groups
While Amazon says that highlighting such monitoring activity would be "irresponsible and incorrect," in its internal reports, the company sees such groups as threats. As such, climate change groups have been "increasing their influence especially on young people and students." The groups have also been attracting major public support all over the world and "growing and attracting more and more people rapidly."
It was after hundreds of Amazon employees staged a walkout protest in 2019 following Thunberg's call for Global Climate Strike. Those Amazon employees believed the company policies were not in line with climate change mitigation. Fridays for Future said it was flattered that Amazon considered the group a threat and said that it meant what it was doing was working.
"We are flattered that Amazon considers us a threat great enough to justify employing questionable practices like this. The fact that the youth protesting around the world is something that a multinational corporation feels the need to be surveilling—that means what we're doing is working," the group said.
Strict Surveillance on Union Activities
However, Amazon's strict surveillance of union-related activities was more damning. The company hired Pinkerton detectives — now under Swedish firm Securitas AB — to track its own employees and prevent them from being an organized group or form a union.
The company even went to the lengths of creating fake accounts on social media platforms to track the activities of its workers who might lead organizing efforts. That's not it though. The company also keeps track of every detail about meetings of its workers including date, time, place, speakers, topics among others.
"When that team stalked people, they'd use fake accounts on social media. They'd use a fake name and a profile with no photo. The worst part is that they read tons of conversations and messages, and knew everything about the private lives of these people. They knew if they had a bad day with their family," a source told Vice. While Amazon has confirmed hiring Pinkertons, it denied tracking its employees, saying it was against its policies.