Amazon Silk Goes to Washington

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Amazon.com's (NAS: AMZN) smooth Silk mobile browser hasn't even made its way out of the gate yet, but that hasn't stopped Congress from raining on the parade.

Lawmakers are at arms about the split nature of the browser and the way it transmits user data back to the Amazon mothership in the name of improving its ability to predict what users will do. This has raised security and privacy concerns about the information that Amazon will inevitably collect.

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) displayed his anger by saying, "[T]hey're going to force everybody that uses Amazon to go through their server and they're going to collect all this information on each person who does that without that person's knowledge." Shortly after, Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) similarly expressed his disapproval by adding, "Consumers may buy the new Kindle Fire to read 1984, but they may not realize that the tablet's 'Big Browser' may be watching their every keystroke when they are online."

Rep. Markey also sent Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos a letter with these four questions:

  • "What information does Amazon plan to collect about users of the Kindle Fire?"
  • "How does Amazon intend to use this information? Does Amazon plan to sell, rent, or otherwise make available this customer information to outside companies? If yes, to which firms?"
  • "How will Amazon convey its privacy policy to the Fire and Silk users? Please provide Amazon's privacy policy covering the Kindle Fire, if available."
  • "If Amazon plans to collect information about its users' Internet browsing habits, will customers be able to affirmatively opt in to participate in the data sharing program?"

I'm in the camp who thinks these privacy concerns, although somewhat legitimate, are being overblown. Slews of companies already have loads of personal information about you, including but not limited to notable household names such as Google (NAS: GOOG) , which receives privacy scrutiny like clockwork, and Facebook, to which you regularly volunteer your most intimate of data. Your friendly neighborhood Internet service provider is also privy to all sorts of your browsing data. Amazon is just another name to add to the list.

Privacy is a heated issue with no clearly right or wrong answers, and this is just my Foolish opinion. Share your thoughts in the comments box below on whether you think Silk poses credible privacy concerns.

Add Amazon to your Watchlist to keep up with launch of the Kindle Fire. Get access to this free report on how Amazon is changing retail.

At the time this article was published Fool contributorEvan Niuowns shares of Amazon.com, but he holds no other position in any company mentioned. Check out hisholdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Google.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Amazon.com and Google. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.

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