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Why Amazon knows so much about you

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Interesting piece from the BBC, though most of us here shouldn't be surprised by this.

Why Amazon knows so much about you

 

By Leo Kelion

 

You might call me an Amazon super-user.

I’ve been a customer since 1999, and rely on it for everything from grass seed to birthday gifts.

There are Echo speakers dotted throughout my home, Ring cameras inside and out, a Fire TV set-top box in the living room and an ageing Kindle e-reader by my bedside.

I submitted a data subject access request, asking Amazon to disclose everything it knows about me

Scanning through the hundreds of files I received in response, the level of detail is, in some cases, mind-bending.

One database contains transcriptions of all 31,082 interactions my family has had with the virtual assistant Alexa. Audio clips of the recordings are also provided.

The 48 requests to play Let It Go, flag my daughter’s infatuation with Disney’s Frozen.

Other late-night music requests to the bedroom Echo, might provide a clue to a more adult activity.

Clicking on another file reveals 2,670 product searches I had carried out within its store since 2017. There are more than 60 supplementary columns for each one, containing information such as what device I’d been using, how many items I subsequently clicked on, and a string of numbers that hint at my location.

One spreadsheet actually triggers a warning message saying it is too big for my software to handle. It contains details of the 83,657 Kindle interactions I’ve had since 2018, including the exact time of day for each tap. An associated document divides up my reading sessions for each e-book, timing each to the millisecond.

And on it goes.

The endeavour was timed to coincide with a BBC Panorama documentary I’ve been involved with, which tracks Amazon’s rise through the prism of it being a data-collector.

“They happen to sell products, but they are a data company,” says James Thomson, one of the former executives interviewed.

“Each opportunity to interact with a customer is another opportunity to collect data.”

Founder Jeff Bezos frames it in terms of being a “customer obsession”, saying the firm’s first priority is to “figure out what they want, what's important to them”.

And he qualifies this by saying Amazon mustn’t violate people’s trust in the process.

Yet as the company continues to grow, and expand into new activities, there are calls from both inside and outside Amazon to keep its data-feasting obsession in check.

 

Read full article here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/extra/CLQYZENMBI/amazon-data

 

Amazon is probably one of the largest data-harvesting companies in the world, and it is remarkable how so many people are blindly unaware of this, and continue to shop with Amazon and use its Alexa devices without realising just how much data they are handing over.

"But its so convenient!"

The company I work for sells on Amazon as a third-party 'merchant', and I've heard numerous horror stories from our own suppliers who've had direct dealings with Amazon.

Us merchants are also data collectors for Amazon. If we have products that sell well on the Amazon marketplace, that Amazon neither stock or offer themselves, Amazon have all the sales data they need to then go and approach our suppliers/manufacturers directly.

Amazon wins either way, us merchants have to pay a 15% 'commission' fee to Amazon for every sale we get, so if we're competing against Amazon for the same product and we somehow get the 'buy box' and get the sale ahead of Amazon, Amazon STILL takes a cut of the proceeds.

And in order to compete against Amazon, and factor in the fees we get charged, we have to sell at minimum markup. This is no lie, Amazon probably makes more on our sales through commissions than we do.

But beyond that, for the consumer, it must be great to have these devices and a website that are practically telling ("recommending") what you should buy, before you even start browsing.

"How convenient!"

 

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