Amazon Says Its Use of Signal Was Legal

Amazon has fired back at prosecutors, saying its use of the Signal messaging app was legal and not intended to hide privileged communication....
Amazon Says Its Use of Signal Was Legal
Written by Matt Milano
  • Amazon has fired back at prosecutors, saying its use of the Signal messaging app was legal and not intended to hide privileged communication.

    Amazon is fending off an antitrust lawsuit brought by the FTC and 17 states, alleging the company “used a set of punitive and coercive tactics to unlawfully maintain its monopolies.” In a motion filed on May 10, prosecutors accused Amazon of using Signal to circumvent laws regarding requiring companies to save internal communications.

    For years, Amazon’s top executives, including founder and former CEO Jeff Bezos, “discuss[ed] sensitive business matters, including antitrust, over the Signal encrypted-messaging app instead of email.” These executives turned on Signal’s “disappearing message” feature, which irrevocably destroys messages, even after Amazon was on notice that Plaintiffs were investigating its conduct. Plaintiffs bring this motion to compel Amazon to produce documents related to the company’s failure to preserve Signal messages, namely Amazon’s document preservation notices and its instructions about the use of ephemeral messaging applications, including Signal.

    Amazon has filed a response, saying the FTC is painting “a misleading picture” of the company’s Signal usage.

    Plaintiffs paint a misleading picture of Signal use by Amazon personnel in an attempt to compel discovery of privileged documents. As Plaintiffs know, the Signal messaging application was not a substitute for Amazon’s detailed written communications. Rather, it was a secure and informal means of short-form messaging that certain employees began using following a broadly-publicized incident in which Jeff Bezos’s phone was hacked by agents of a foreign government. Despite the FTC’s best efforts to malign it, that use was an appropriate response to the hacking incident: Signal and similar secure messaging applications are widely used—including by numerous federal and state actors—precisely because they are more secure than ordinary text messaging applications.

    The company goes on to say that the FTC knows it has not improperly used Signal, based on its own investigation of the matter.

    There is also no evidence, despite the FTC’s best efforts to suggest otherwise, that Amazon personnel used Signal to discuss the business practices at issue in this case. The FTC knows this because they deposed Amazon’s executives about their use of Signal and, at Amazon’s invitation, inspected work-related Signal conversations from the start of Signal use following the hacking incident through May 2022. Amazon then produced the Signal messages Plaintiffs requested from those inspections and offered additional inspections and productions. As a result, Plaintiffs possess, or have been offered access to, virtually all the information Amazon has on this topic. That information reinforces the executives’ legitimate use of Signal, and provides no indication that Signal was used to conceal or spoliate evidence for this case.

    Amazon says the FTC’s motion is essentially a fishing trip, designed to gain access to privileged communication the agency would otherwise not have reason or grounds to access.

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