Amazon lays out positions on privacy, immigration, climate, and other issues on new policy page

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Amazon designer and activist Emily Cunningham speaks at a rally organized by Amazon Employees for Climate Justice outside of the company’s shareholding meeting in May 2019. (GeekWire Photo / Monica Nickelsburg)

Amazon laid out its positions on a wide range of issues in a new web page that surfaced Thursday, bringing new clarity to the tech company’s public policy agenda.

The page, titled “Our Positions,” highlights eleven issues that Amazon is lobbying the government on or promoting through internal policies. Those issues include LBGT and workers’ rights, environmental sustainability, and federal regulation of data privacy and facial recognition. Amazon hasn’t presented a unified view of its positions in this way previously.

“We created this page to provide customers, investors, policymakers, employees, and others our views on certain issues,” the company says on the page. “While our positions are carefully considered and deeply held, there is much room for healthy debate and differing opinions. We hope being clear about our positions is helpful.”

Amazon declined to comment in response to GeekWire’s inquiry.

The agenda is part of Amazon’s broader push into policy and politics, a departure from early years at the company when the focus was quietly building the business. Faced with employee activism, antitrust investigations, and political pressure from Washington D.C., Amazon has increased its lobbying budget and become more vocal in public discourse.

These are the issues Amazon is taking a position on:

  • Amazon is lobbying the federal government to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour. The company established that minimum wage for its own employees in 2018.
  • Amazon is calling for the public and private sectors to act on climate change by reducing carbon emissions and shifting to renewable power.
  • Amazon will continue to provide technology to energy companies to “make their legacy businesses less carbon-intensive and help them accelerate the development of renewable energy businesses.”
  • Amazon wants to be a model for diversity and inclusion which it says “are good for business — and more fundamentally — simply right.”
  • Amazon supports LGBTQ rights and marriage equality.
  • Amazon is calling for immigration reform, including a path to citizenship for Dreamers and changes to U.S. green card and work visa programs.
  • Amazon will continue to sell products to government and law enforcement, including its facial recognition software, because “governments at all levels — federal, state, and local — should have access to the best technology.”
  • Amazon is calling for regulation of facial recognition technology and consumer data privacy at the federal level.
  • Amazon wants the federal government to police counterfeiting more aggressively.
  • Amazon supports tax codes that “incentivize investment in the economy and job creation” and wants nations to coordinate their tax laws to create an international consensus.

There are not many surprises in the positions Amazon takes on the page; the company has spoken up about each of the issues highlighted in the past. But the page does clarify Amazon’s agenda and appears to address some of the concerns its employees have been raising over the past year.

In early 2019, a group of workers formed the Amazon Employees for Climate Justice advocacy group to pressure their employer to act faster to reduce its carbon footprint. Thousands of employees signed an open letter asking Amazon to adopt a climate action plan that includes “ending all custom solutions specifically designed for oil and gas extraction and exploration.”

In the position page published Thursday, Amazon explained why it won’t ditch energy companies as customers.

“We will continue to provide cloud services to companies in the energy industry to make their legacy businesses less carbon intensive and help them accelerate development of renewable energy businesses,” the page says. “We support sustainability programs for our own business, and work with partners to reduce their demand for carbon fuel sources.”

In September, Amazon released its carbon footprint for the first time and pledged to reach carbon neutrality by 2040.

Amazon employees and civil rights groups have also criticized Amazon for selling facial recognition technology to law enforcement agencies and other technology to immigration officials. A number of technology companies have come under fire for their partnerships with government agencies because of some of the administration’s controversial policies.

La Resistencia activists Peter Strand, Miranda Klinck and Katy Sanlis protest outside of Amazon’s annual shareholder meeting in May 2019. (GeekWire Photo / Monica Nickelsburg)

“Harnessing the capabilities of advanced technology such as the cloud and machine learning are important to the ongoing safety and security of the country, its citizens, our communities, and the world,” Amazon said on the web page. “We will continue to provide U.S. government and law enforcement agencies access to the most advanced technology.”

In the past, Amazon has addressed political issues in statements and comments on a case-by-case basis. But the policies articulated Thursday show Amazon is evolving into a company with a clear political and policy agenda.

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