See update below. Rumors that Amazon has been videotaping some sellers' faces (with notice) as part of its account verification process was confirmed by Buzzfeed. We had asked Amazon about such reports days ago but received no response. Today, Buzzfeed reported, "An Amazon seller based in Vietnam told BuzzFeed News that he was prompted to take a five-second video of his face using his computer's webcam in January as he signed up for a seller profile."
In a private group where sellers were discussing the practice, we saw little concern expressed about privacy - instead, some sellers applauded it as a way to crack down on bad sellers, such as those who operate ghost accounts.
To understand their reaction, just watch the Wall Street Journal video from December
that shows how some international sellers in China play by different rules, stacking the decks against US and European sellers.
But as BuzzFeed pointed out
, Amazon has been criticized for various issues involving its facial recognition technology. And with many websites struggling to adhere to Europe's GDPR privacy restrictions, it's unclear how Amazon's video-vetting of sellers fits into privacy regulations.
We sent a follow-up inquiry to Amazon asking again for information about its practices and whether it was part of a program that would roll out widely to all sellers everywhere in all categories.
Advocates may say sellers have a choice about submitting to video-vetting, but if it were to become a requirement before continuing to sell on Amazon, then it's not really optional.
How do you feel about submitting to Amazon ID verification through video as a seller, or as a buyer? Would you feel differently if other marketplaces, payment services, and vendors enacted such policies?
And how long before we'll be seeing anti facial-detection masks for sale on Amazon?
Update 2/7/2019: Amazon provided us with the following statement: "We always experiment with new ways to verify the information sellers provide us in order to protect our store from bad actors. Seller identification information is securely stored and used only for identify verification."