Would you sell all your online activity for $10?
As part of 2019 Prime Day activities, Amazon offered a promotion for users to download its Amazon Assistant, and receive a $10 coupon to use on Amazon. Amazon Assistant operates as a browser extension, which when installed in your browser, allows Amazon to collect unprecedented amounts of information about your online activity.
Assistant allows Amazon to collect elements of your browsing history previously uncollected – including URL, page metadata and snippets of content on sites you visit. It allows Amazon more visibility into what users are doing both within, and outside of Amazon.
Amazon claims the extension’s purpose will help them better understand e-commerce behavior. For example, having the ability to track if a user cannot find / does not purchase a product on Amazon and searches or purchases it elsewhere online. However, this extension will allow Amazon access to personal data beyond e-commerce activities.
The browser extension will live on top of the user’s web browser, allowing Amazon to see everything a user does online. Every site, every story and every interaction. This also means the extension is going to allow Amazon to see within previously “walled gardens” – places like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn – that have not allowed outside entities to see into their data, consumer behaviors, etc.
While this may seem ambiguous on the surface to some, the user is actually agreeing to sell the entirety of their online habits. All that information for the bargain price of a $10 coupon.
This move could not only better position Amazon’s e-commerce offering, but it could also bolster Amazon’s status as a data powerhouse. The data Amazon will be able to collect from their Amazon Assistant extension could be worth potentially millions, if not billions. It will provide them insights not only into e-commerce behavior, but behavior in general life – what sites users go to, how often, how much interaction users have, how many pages they read, how much time is spent with content, recurring content themes a user engages with over time. This is really an outrageous amount of personal information.
The big consumer and marketing implications – Amazon discloses in the fine print that the data can be used for marketing purposes. However, what Amazon means by marketing purposes is yet to be seen. Will it be advertising Amazon products and used by Amazon specifically, or is Amazon going to offer the consumer data through their outside Ad Sales arm which can be used by any ad provider who pays for access? This is still unknown but what we do know is that Amazon will have more data to monetize.
Data security and insights into online behavior are important to me from both a marketer and consumer perspective. As a marketer, while I love access to data to inform strategy and to measure success; I also recognize consumer data (and whatever that data entails) is property that merits our safeguarding and respect.
While Amazon says a user can opt out or remove the Assistant at any time, the data connection will already be there despite any actions a user takes to remove it.
Is that one-time $10 payment worth providing Amazon with data that will generate millions over the course of time? That’s up to the user to decide.