Amazon Silk browser raises privacy concerns

Privacy policy is sketchy regarding user data collected in the cloud
Kerry Butters

September 29, 2011
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As we reported earlier, the much anticipated tablet device from Amazon has been unveiled and is soon to arrive, at least in the US anyway.

However, whilst many are fascinated by a potential rival to the market-dominating iPad, others have already raised concerns about the way the Kindle Fire’s browser handles data.

The Fire has its own browser which is called Silk. Amazon says that it is designed to “overcome the limitations of typical mobile browsers” and it does so by performing some functions in the cloud.

Amazon Silk uses a split-architecture, which means that whilst all of the “browser subsystems are present on [the] Kindle Fire” when you load a page, Silk can dynamically execute some subsystems remotely in the cloud. By spreading the workload between cloud computing and the device itself, browsing can be sped up considerably.

The problem with this is that it has the potential to create a large amount of user data on the cloud system, which can be accessed and collected by Amazon.

As ZDnet point out, this means that “if Amazon wanted to, it could possess the complete online life of all of its Fire users.”

Considering the ongoing concerns surrounding privacy, it is interesting to note in the Silk privacy policy that Amazon says little about how it will deal with the data it collects.

Whilst a Fire user is surfing, they don’t connect directly to a web page, but rather are passed through the Amazon Cloud in order to deliver that fast browsing experience.

This means that not only does Amazon intercept your direct connection with a site, but they also are the ‘middle-man’ when it comes to secure connections.

Further to this, their privacy policy states that they will collect information from websites whilst a user is connected such as URLs or an IP address in order to troubleshoot technical issues with Silk.

However, have no fear as they also point out that they “generally do not keep this information for longer than 30 days.”

Generally?

Whilst Amazon more than likely have no intention of monitoring its users every move, the danger for them is that it appears they can do so, and they haven’t really addressed this clearly in their privacy policy.

The good news is Amazon Fire users can choose not to use the speed benefits of the cloud, as Silk also has an off-cloud option that enables users to be able to connect to websites directly.

This option would seem like an eminently sensible choice if you have concerns about your privacy and how your data is collected and stored.






 

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