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Amazon Silk Amazon Silk

Amazon Silk is just another invasion of privacy

Amazon Silk

Amazon is getting a lot of attention based upon the Amazon Fire tablet, but now that buzz around the initial launch announcement has subsided a bit, it’s time to take a look at real differentiator: Silk.

When Amazon first introduced Silk, they didn’t wait beyond the 2nd sentence of the post before asking the question that they knew would be asked by dozens of tech bloggers: “A browser?  Do we really need another one?”

Their response to those and other questions is in this video:

What they didn’t address was the inherent problem with their browser: privacy. To solve the concern that tablet hardware is underpowered, Amazon wants to do much of the heavy lifting from the cloud. To do this, they will be learning about us; our ongoing web activity must be accumulated and analyzed to give Silk the ability to anticipate our next clicks and prepare to serve pages that we click on regularly as well as pages that they think we’re going to click on shortly.

This should give us pause.

Privacy concerns have popped up around Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and others for the last few years, particularly on mobile devices. Amazon wants to take it to another level by using the data for more than just proper ad serving or public internet protection. They want to understand our browsing habits to allow for a faster browsing experience on tablets.

To do this, Amazon will have to become the ultimate middleman. In essence, the purpose of Silk is to allow Amazon to do the browsing for us, then serve it to the Fire tablet as quickly as possible. This is a plus for most – to some, anything that makes browsing on a tablet faster is a bonus – but it represents a necessary breach of privacy.

Two tidbits of fine print should scare us:

“Personally identifiable information collected through Amazon Silk is subject to the Privacy Notice.”

That doesn’t say much and is standard language in most terms of service. However, according to Stephen Shankland at CNET, here is what we agree to when we accept these terms:

“We receive and store any information you enter on our Web site or give us in any other way…We use the information that you provide for such purposes as responding to your requests, customizing future shopping for you, improving our stores, and communicating with you.”

Why this should worry us

Cloud Computing Security

Much of western society is willingly abandoning online privacy. Both governments and corporations are getting personal and browsing-habit data from us at levels that would have alarmed us a few years ago but that have become commonplace today. Silk is a further step in that direction by its very nature.

Every website we visit, every button that we click, every form that we fill out on an Amazon Fire will be logged. By becoming the ultimate middleman, Amazon and Silk are going to improve the speeds at which we browse, but at what cost? What happens when the first subpoenaed history of someone’s web browsing is used in court? Since no system is completely secure from hackers, how will we react when the first batch of personal data is accessed through an AWS exploit and used against us?

Is Amazon Silk the next major step towards a world without online anonymity and browsing privacy?


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