It’s the second half of Amazon Prime Day, when the company runs somewhat of a Black Friday type of sale for a few days in July. Part of the blitz is meant to drive sales, but part of it is meant to increase the number of Amazon Prime members.
The huge event has now spread across other retailers who are trying to retain market share, and all of them have the same questions. What are shoppers looking for, and how do they make buying decisions?
To find the answers takes data. Amazon wants more of yours, and is willing to pay… 10 bucks.
The deal is for new installations of the Amazon Assistant, a comparison-shopping tool that customers can add to their web browsers. It fetches Amazon’s price for products that users see on Walmart.com, Target.com and elsewhere.
In order to work, the assistant needs access to users’ web activity, including the links and some page content they view. The catch, as Amazon explains in the fine print, is the company can use this data to improve its general marketing, products and services, unrelated to the shopping assistant.
The more Amazon learns, the better it can advertise to its customers and steer them away from competitors. But they will also have a treasure trove of information about you that they can use for any purpose they want.
Bennett Cyphers, a technologist at the nonprofit Electronic 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.”
But don’t be fooled by the offer. Amazon already collects mountains of data on its users, especially the 7 million people who use its assistant through Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox.
The company also uses tracking pixels to gather information from visitors to roughly 15 percent of the top 10,000 websites.
While that might sound like a lot, Amazon is a small-time player compared to Google, which uses tracking pixels on almost all web pages.
When asked about the tracking, an Amazon spokeswoman said:
“Customer trust is paramount to Amazon, and we take customer privacy very seriously.”
Perhaps that’s true, as long as it means privacy from other companies, but not from Amazon. They want to know everything about you, down to the smallest detail.
At least in this instance Amazon is coughing up a little cash. Typically web companies such as Google pay nothing to consumers, allowing them to use their site for “free.” Of course, the “free” exchange means that Google gets to track everything you do and sell that information to advertisers or anyone else who wants it.
As with most things, if it’s touted as “free,” it means you are the product being sold.