Amazon Silk Comes Under Congressional Fire

Amazon's new web browser lets Amazon's cloud servers do the heavy web processing so the Kindle Fire doesn't have to. Now some legislators are concerned about the personal data Amazon will be able to collect in the process.

Amazon Silk is very intelligently designed—not only does it lower the price of the Kindle Fire by minimizing its hardware requirements, it also speeds up page load times, and even learns your behavior and pre-loads the pages you visit the most when you're connected to the internet. It sounds fantastic.

Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle are demanding answers about what Amazon will be doing with the user data passing through its servers—even if it is in the name of improving user experience on the Kindle FIre. In a letter to Jeff Bezos, Representative Ed Markey from Massachusetts asks a set of fairly reasonable questions about what he calls "Big Browser." Is Amazon collecting data? What do they intend to do with all that data? How will Amazon inform customers it is collecting data? Do customers have a choice? These are all questions that customers deserve very clear and explicit answers to.

It's not necessarily a given, but it's almost certain that Amazon will be collecting information about your behavior while you are on their servers if it intends to pre-load your webpages—not to mention that Amazon has always been in the business of personalizing the products it shows you based on what you view and what you purchase while on Amazon servers. It's reasonable to wonder if your browsing history will then become the basis of recommendations like these or if Amazon will be selling the information. Ars Technica reports that the data will be anonymized and bundled before it's sent to Amazon, but as we've learned in the past, users and companies often have a very different understanding of what "anonymized" means. One thing we do know, is that users will be able to opt out of using Amazon's cloud servers altogether. Still, Amazon Silk will default to split browsing because without it, well, web browsing on the Kindle might suck. [Ars Technica]