False products are not a new headache for Amazon, but the technology retailer is now changing its strategy to fix it. In a blog Thursday, Amazon announced that it would allow individual brands to directly eliminate counterfeit products.
This move is part of what Amazon calls "Project Zero". As part of this program, Amazon plans to use machine learning, product serialization, and a self-service removal tool to help protect the brands and consumers of scammers. In short, brands provide logos, trademarks and other types of Amazon data. This is then analyzed against the 5 billion product updates received each day by Amazon. In addition, Amazon will let brands assign a unique code for each product, which can then be printed on a sticker or packaging. So when ordering products, Amazon can easily scan an item when it enters a warehouse and check it's genuine.
But the game changer here is that Amazon puts the power to remove fake product lists directly from the hands of the brands themselves. Previously, a company had to report fake ads and wait for Amazon's in-house team to look at the products in question and decide to remove them. But the self-service tool will let brands do it themselves, avoiding the need to report dubious listings to Amazon.
Overall, Amazon is taking action to combat counterfeit products, it's a good thing. But the self-service tool is potentially worrisome because it removes a surveillance layer that could lead to pricing and brand surveillance by legitimate resellers. According to the FAQ Project Zero website, Amazon "provides brands with unprecedented levels of accountability, and [is] ready to do it because [it] believe[s] that the combined forces of Amazon and brands can completely eliminate counterfeits. But so far, the details of the protections that Amazon intends to put in place to ensure that brands do not use these tools to eliminate legitimate competition. The FAQ refers to a "number of processes" to promote the accuracy, training and "continuous monitoring" of Amazon.
Currently, Project Zero is an invitation-only program and Amazon currently has about 15 registered brands.[The Wall Street Journal]