If you’re reading this you definitely know and have heard of the mammoth company that is Amazon, but do you know how they handle their customer’s data? With Amazon’s yearly revenue reaching £290 billion it’s safe to say that most households are taking advantage of their fast paced delivery service, but is it safe to say that the majority of the 200 million people don’t know how Amazon is using their data?
In a recent article Amazon’s success has been linked to their use of customers’ data, they conduct continuous analysis of the data which helps them determine their suggested products, prices, and what own-label profitable products they plan to produce. Amazon Prime members are their most valuable customers and are their biggest source of user data.
Believe it or not but the more Amazon services you use the more their algorithm can make out what type of person you are and what product you are most likely to purchase next. Their algorithm is so well made and successful that third party companies can hire it under a service called ‘Amazon Forecast’.
Of course it has to be said, not everyone is happy about the level of surveillance that is conducted. Those who have requested their data from the company have been shocked by the amount of information they receive. The information that they store also includes audio files from whenever you talk to your Alexa device, quite jarring isn't it? Knowing Big Brother has been watching you this entire time! They have come under back-fire from regulators due to their practices, as have Facebook and Google for their data-grabbing strategies. Just last year Amazon was charged with a £636 million fine for the act of processing personal data. Which went against the EU (European Union) data protection rules, to which they have filed an appeal against. Furthermore, in a recent Wired investigation there were privacy and security failings which is rather concerning.
What data does Amazon collect and share?
The tech giant undoubtedly takes a lot of information in order for their algorithm to work but what data are they actually taking and sharing? Well in a recent article it was stated what they take and this includes; your address, name, recordings and also your searches when you speak to your Alexa device. Continuing; they know what you order, what you watch on Prime Video, and they can even get your contacts if you upload them and can use these via email. Furthermore, when you use the Amazon website they use cookie trackers to “enhance your shopping experience” apparently it improves their services. It is alarming though when you get an advert on Facebook for example, for a product you have looked at once on Amazon. Even more alarming in a way is that technology is so ingrained into our lives now that if for example the website isn't working the way it normally does people would definitely kick up a fuss.
The EU regulation in the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is very strict and the UK equivalent Data Protection Act limits ways personal data can be used, these rules differ from Europe and the US. Amazon still continues to collect very large amounts of data. They focus on three areas which include; automatically collected data, the information you give Amazon, and further information from different sources such as delivery data from carriers.
It is said that some of the data is only used for “personalisation” to improve the online experience but the information taken can end up revealing quite a bit about yourself. For example, if you use Amazon’s retail site they will collect your payment and delivery information, and also the dates of your purchases. Recently, Rowenna Fielding, the director of data protection consultancy ‘Miss IG Geek’ said:
“From this information, Amazon can work out where you work, where you live, how you spend your leisure time and who your family and friends are”.
Also, the information taken from what you watch and listen to on Prime Video and Fire TV can actually end up revealing your religious beliefs, economic status, and political stance, says Fielding.
What can you do to protect yourself?
It is worrying to think about how your online presence can be tracked so easily and how so much information is given without most people giving a second thought about clicking accept on the T’s and C’s. The only way to completely protect yourself from Amazon’s vast data collection is to stop using their services completely. There are other ways to protect yourself too and these include; asking Amazon for a data request by applying for a “data subject access request”. To protect yourself with Alexa and also the Ring doorbell you can go into their privacy hubs and change your privacy settings and you can delete the recordings. You can also say “Alexa, delete everything I said today” and “Alexa delete what I just said.” The prospect of protecting yourself digitally doesn’t seem as daunting now, right? And if it is, there are friendly experts on the Business Butler website that can assist with cyber-security, simply click <HelpButton />
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