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Buyer Beware If You Opt-In To Use Amazon Silk

Use Amazon Silk known as Dynamic Split Browsing is the web browser for the new Kindle Fire tablet. It is designed for speed to enhance users’ web browsing experience. One half of Silk is described as being nestled inside the Kindle Color and the other half is on Amazon’s EC2 (Elastic Cloud Computing) server, the muscle that makes Silk work.

When a user clicks on a webpage, the request is routed through the Amazon Cloud servers and then Amazon’s EC2 furnishes the speed to optimize the loading time for web pages. The web content is reportedly delivered in milliseconds instead of what we’ve all grown accustomed to websites loading in just seconds.

On the surface, it sounds great but when you look closer, there are some privacy and security concerns expressed about Amazon’s Silk that may cause some consumers to pause before jumping with both feet onto the Silk bandwagon. This article will discuss the privacy concerns being expressed with the Silk web browser.

Users are not going directly to a website. When a website visitor navigates to a webpage, Silk gives a portion of the work load to the EC2 to speed up load time, which means the user is connecting to Amazon instead of the actual website. Under full disclosure, Amazon admits in the Amazon Silk’s Terms and Conditions, “Therefore, like most Internet service providers and similar services that enable you to access the Web, the content of web pages you visit using Amazon Silk passes through our servers and may be cached to improve performance on subsequent page loads. ” If you use the Silk browser (default mode for the Kindle Fire), all web surfing will go through the Amazon servers before the website is viewed by the user.

Your information is stored on Amazon’s server. Amazon will have a record of everything you do on the web. The Amazon Silk’s Terms and Conditions reveals that web addresses for web pages, users IP and MAC addresses that enter Amazon’s servers are temporarily logged and can be kept no more than 30 days on the servers. Amazon’s explanation is that this is done to troubleshoot and diagnose Amazon Silk technical issues.

The Patriot Act, plus privacy concerns for Silk users. Because Amazon has a cache of user information on their servers, the government could request the data if the user is under investigation. However, rumor has it the government is at odds on how they would even begin to secure a warrant for user data stored online. Further, under The Patriot Act, the government can prevent Amazon from notifying targeted individuals that their data is being turned over to them. And, because Amazon possess user information, it too can be used however they wish.

HTTPS connections, are they still safe? If you use your Kindle Fire to view an online financial account using the secure HTTPS connection, Amazon acts as the “middleman” between the user and your secured connection. Amazon, in their defense states that Silk will facilitate a direct connection from the Cloud server with the secure connection and device user.

Any security provided to the user will still exist when going to the secure website. This means that Amazon will install a trusted certificate in the Silk browser that will allow a “middle man” SSL proxy that will accelerate SSL browsing. It also means that Amazon will have a record of the communication, but not the content since it will be encrypted.

Search engines and Amazon Silk. All text you enter into Silk’s address bar is sent to a default search engine on Amazon’s Cloud. The initial default search engine is selected by Amazon, but it can be changed without notice to you. Users have the option of changing their search engine, but Amazon’s privacy policy will still apply, which means they can still collect information from you based on the information you search.

Users have a choice. Users of the Kindle Fire can choose to operate Silk in Basic or Off-Cloud mode. Off-cloud mode allows web pages to go directly to the device rather than passing through Amazon’s Cloud servers. However, the consequence is that you won’t be able to capitalize on the fast web page delivery the Cloud’s computing services offer.

Many websites and ISPs are hosted on EC2. Because of this relationship with other Internet providers and websites, a large amount of web requests won’t leave the extended infrastructure of the AWS (Amazon Web Services) which provides faster web page loading.

Why Amazon Silk? It’s very simple. If Amazon can deliver content to users in milliseconds, the more content users will want. The ultimate goal is to provide better consumer access to Amazon’s selection of content services which includes: Amazon Instant Video streaming movies and TV shows, Amazon Cloud Player streaming music service, Amazon’s Kindle bookstore and applications served from Amazon’s Android App Store.

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Amazon is betting on this and even uses something they call “collaborative filtering” and “machine learning algorithms” that helps with consumer product recommendations something that is already practiced on their website. For example, when users are browsing the Amazon site or even making a purchase, on the same page they are met with a section that states, “Customers who bought this, also bought… ” in an effort to get you to purchase more stuff.

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