Amazon is offering $10 to US-based shoppers using Prime Day – the two-day marketing scheme which began at the start of the week.
Participants in the deal agree to install Amazon Assistant, a price-comparison function that hooks onto to web browsers, enabling Amazon to track the websites that the customers visit, as well as elements of page content that they view.
With a consumer’s approval, the retail giant can then harvest data to improve marketing, products and services.
The arrangement illustrates just how much information customers hand over to big tech firms on a daily basis, in return for “free” use of services.
Bennett Cyphers, a technologist at non-profit Electroni Frontier Foundation said:
“This data is often used for training machine learning models to do better ad targeting. But in the U.S., there aren’t really restrictions on what you can do with this kind of data.”
Over 7 million of the company’s users currently have Assistant downloaded onto their Chrome or Mozilla Firefox browsers.
According to Cyphers, Amazon Assistant allows the giant to track smaller sets of users across web pages, as opposed to ‘tracking pixels’, which provides 15% of the top 10,000 websites with data. But the practices do not compare to the data-harvesting of Alphabet’s Google, which puts tracking pixels on the majority of websites.
While Amazon did not say how it uses the gathered data through the Assistant, Browser Integration Technologies group said that Amazon’s influence “spans across advertising and marketing, pricing and selection.”
An Amazon spokeswoman said:
“Customer trust is paramount to Amazon, and we take customer privacy very seriously.”
Politicians in the US have recently turned up the heat on the data collection habits of Silicon Valley’s big names. The Senate introduced a bill in June calling on the data handling giants to explain what information they take from users and what the value of that data is.
Republican Senator, Josh Hawley, said:
“When a big tech company says its product is free, consumers are the ones being sold. These ‘free’ products track everything we do.”
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