A database containing more than 200,000 fake Amazon reviews has been published online after the trove of data was misconfigured and made accessible to anyone online.
News of the database containing more than 200,000 fake Amazon reviews has called into question the accuracy of Amazon’s review platform, as well as showing signs of a coordinated effort from retailers to secure fraudulent, yet positive reviews for their products.
The database coming into view of the public is extremely significant, considering the violations of not only Amazon’s terms of service in terms of genuine and incentivised reviews, as well as clear violations of consumer laws around the globe.
Those laws have been created to ensure that a product remains subject to both praise and criticism, depending on its effectiveness or quality, so the public can make an informed purchase with the confidence of crowd-sourced information.
Instead, the researchers at SafetyDetectives who discovered the database, say they’ve uncovered evidence of a coordinated effort that rewards fraudulent reviews with either cash bonuses or free products.
Database of 200,000 Fake Amazon Reviews Published Online
In total, more than 13 million records were included in the 7-gigabyte database. Information collected included email addresses and phone numbers of vendors, surnames, Amazon account profile information as well as their Paypal account information.
The team at SafetyDetectives says that they believe that the database was contacted when a new product was listed on Amazon, and the vendor was willing to pay for positive reviews to promote their product.
After a positive review was left, the reviewer would provide evidence of their post, where they would be paid via Paypal.
SafetyDetectives says it believes more than 200,000 individuals have been a part of the wide-sprawling fraudulent Amazon review program. The team attempted to find out who the owner of the database was, but said they were unable to determine where it originated.
“Given the extent of the records and vendors included in the database, it’s possible that the server is not owned by the Amazon vendors running the scam,” says the team responsible for discovering the database of more than 200,000 fake Amazon reviews.
“The server could be owned by a third party that reaches out to potential reviewers on behalf of the vendors.”
The team continued to explain that “third parties might post a picture of the product in a Facebook or WeChat group, asking for reviews in return for free products. The server could also be owned by a large company with several subsidiaries, which would explain the presence of multiple vendors.”
“What’s clear is that whoever owns the server could be subject to punishments from consumer protection laws, and whoever is paying for these fake reviews may face sanctions for breaking Amazon’s terms of service.”