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Amazon data breach reveals private details of customers ahead of Black Friday

Hannah Boland
Amazon declined to give any details about how many users were affected - AP

Amazon has suffered a data breach, disclosing the names and email addresses of a number of its users, in a blow ahead of its busiest time of year. 

The retail giant confirmed it had "informed customers" who may have been affected by the disclosure, which happened due to a technical error on Amazon's website and not because of a security breach of its website or any of its systems.

Writing to customers, Amazon had said: "We’re contacting you to let you know that our website inadvertently disclosed your name and email address due to a technical error.

"The issue has been fixed. This is not a result of anything you have done, and there is no need for you to change your password or take any other action."

When approached about the disclosure, Amazon declined to give any further details about how many users may have been affected, although the email is thought to have been sent to customers across the world, as well as members of the Amazon Vine review program. 

It is thought it must have been found relatively recently though as, under GDPR, introduced across Europe earlier this year, companies must inform users data breaches within 72 hours of discovery.

Under the rules, Amazon also "must assess if a breach should be reported to the ICO, or to the equivalent supervisory body if they are not based in the UK", the UK watchdog, the Information Commissioner's Office, said.

“It is always the company’s responsibility to identify when UK citizens have been affected as part of a data breach and take steps to reduce any harm to consumers.

“The ICO will however continue to monitor the situation and cooperate with other supervisory authorities where required.” 

News of the breach comes just over a day before Amazon's Black Friday begins in earnest, although sales have already begun on the website. It started offering discounts on products as early as last Friday.

The event is a major one for Amazon, which brought the concept of Black Friday over from America, and last year the amount spent on UK online retail sites came in at around £1.39bn. 

Amazon did, however, indicate sales growth this year may not be as solid as in prior years and, for its final quarter through to the end of December, the company is expecting sales to be between $66.5bn and $72.5bn, a much slower growth level than previously seen.