Amazon's online data use has been 'less dangerous' than Facebook's, says tech investor Roger McNamee

Key Points
  • "That's not to say we can count on that going forward," says Elevation Partners' McNamee, an early investor in Facebook and Google.
  • "I can respect the people without respecting all the things that they do in the business," says McNamee.
  • With Amazon entering health care, McNamee argues it's important that the company is upfront with how it's going to treat patient data.
Why tech investor Roger McNamee is not as worried about Amazon's data privacy, for now

Amazon needs to articulate its policy around health data — but on the whole so far, the e-commerce giant has done a better job around online privacy than Facebook has, tech investor and activist Roger McNamee told CNBC on Monday.

"I would say ... that the impact of [Amazon's] behavior has been less dangerous to this point. But that's not to say we can count on that going forward," said McNamee, co-founder of the Elevation Partners private equity firm and co-founder of the Center for Humane Technology.

McNamee was an early Facebook investor and an early advisor to co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. But since the fallout from Russia's activities on the platform aimed at influencing the 2016 presidential election and last year's Cambridge Analytica scandal, McNamee has really been a critic. (McNamee was also an early investor in Google, the search giant that's now part of Alphabet.)

McNamee said in his new book, "Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe," that the social network "remains a threat to democracy" and continues to "prioritize its business model over its responsibilities." For its part, on McNamee's book, Facebook said, "We've fundamentally changed how we operate to better protect the safety and security of people using Facebook."

"I can respect the people without respecting all the things that they do in the business," McNamee said of Zuckerberg in a "Squawk Alley" interview. And he said the same can be said for Amazon founder and chief Jeff Bezos. "In fact, I'm very, very worried about many of the things that Amazon is doing with data. I do think we need to hold them to exactly the same standard."

With Amazon entering the health-care industry, in part through a venture with Berkshire Hathaway and J.P. Morgan, McNamee said it's important that Bezos and company are upfront with how they're going to treat patient data. The Amazon-Berkshire-J.P. Morgan venture is aimed at figuring out ways to reduce health-care costs for their employees and how that may possibly help cut health-care costs in the United States.

McNamee offered an Amazon hypothetical to underscore his point.

"They're going to know from your mouse movements if you have a neurological problem before you do. If all of sudden the mouse movements when you're on Amazon are slowing down or getting more erratic, they are going to know that. Who is their customer in that? Are they going to call you, and say, 'Hey, we think you need to go see your doctor?' Or are they going to go to their insurance side and raise your rates or terminate your insurance? I don't know, but I think we ought to know the answer, and soon."

Amazon was not immediately available to respond to CNBC's request for comments on McNamee's interview.

Earlier Monday, Evercore ISI analyst Anthony DiClemente said Amazon shares still look undervalued. DiClemente said investors should rely less on Amazon's revenue projections and more on its gross profits going forward. Evercore ISI, with an outperform rating, bumped up by 9 percent its 12-month price target on Amazon to $1,965 per share. The stock was higher at midday, trading around $1,700.

Since Amazon's 52-week per-share low of $1,307 on Christmas Eve, the stock gained about 28 percent as of Friday's close.

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