There’s a lot of excitement about the Kindle Fire tablet. But there should be a lot of worry. The Fire uses a clever way of feeding web content to the browser on the device that effectively makes it the ultimate market research tool — and with that personal privacy goes out the window. Chris Espinosa explains the technicals here:
The “split browser” notion is that Amazon will use its EC2 back end to pre-cache user web browsing, using its fat back-end pipes to grab all the web content at once so the lightweight Fire-based browser has to only download one simple stream from Amazon’s servers. But what this means is that Amazon will capture and control every Web transaction performed by Fire users. Every page they see, every link they follow, every click they make, every ad they see is going to be intermediated by one of the largest server farms on the planet. People who cringe at the data-mining implications of the Facebook Timeline ought to be just floored by the magnitude of Amazon’s opportunity here. Amazon now has what every storefront lusts for: the knowledge of what other stores your customers are shopping in and what prices they’re being offered there. What’s more, Amazon is getting this not by expensive, proactive scraping the Web, like Google has to do; they’re getting it passively by offering a simple caching service, and letting Fire users do the hard work of crawling the Web. In essence the Fire user base is Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, scraping the Web for free and providing Amazon with the most valuable cache of user behavior in existence.
If privacy matters to you – don’t buy the Fire. This is precisely the kind of Orwellian device that should scare the living shit out of everyone and their mother. Oh sure its just giving people what they want – fast(er) data – but the ability to track usage in that detail is not only creepy, its dangerous. State governments think nothing of snooping the internet use of their subject populations already – they still have to do the decryption work and they do not always see the content of the activity. Amazon just unzipped everyone’s fly. One subpeona from one jurisdiction in which Amazon operates and its all done. I wouldn’t rely on Amazon to fight the subpeona, would you?
It seems Amazon intends to roll this out for PCs. No thank you. No thank you.