Congressman Asks Amazon To Address Silk Privacy Concerns
October 16, 2011

Congressman Asks Amazon To Address Silk Privacy Concerns

Amazon's forthcoming Kindle Fire hasn't even been released yet, but the web browser software used by the tablet computer has already caught the attention and raised the concerns of Congressional officials on both sides of the isle.

On Friday, Rep. Ed Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, wrote a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos regarding Silk, the browser that will be used to surf the Internet on the device.

According to Rachel King of CNET, Silk has "been a hot topic" online over the past few weeks, partially because it will be the only browser supported by the Kindle Fire, but mainly because it "can track everything a user does on the Web and keeps a permanent record."

In his letter, Markey asked Bezos to explain how Amazon intended to use the information gathered by Silk, whether or not they planned to make the information available to other companies, whether or not the company would convey their privacy policy to users of the tablet computer and/or the web browser, and whether or not users would be able to opt in or out of the data sharing program.

“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,” Markey said in a statement, quoted in an October 14 article written by Nate Anderson of Ars Technica.

“As the use of mobile devices, especially tablets, becomes ubiquitous, we must ensure that user privacy is protected and proper safeguards are in place so that consumers know if and when their personal information is being used and for what purpose," the Congressman added.

Markey asked Bezos to respond by November 4.

King writes that Amazon "has attempted to sway concerns already on its FAQ section, arguing that Silk 'does not diminish your ability to control your browsing choices. For example, you will be able to clear your browsing cache/history and cookies.'"

"That's a start, but I think we'd all like to hear Bezos respond to Markey with clearer answers," she added, noting that Amazon reminded them that it was possible to "turn off" Silk's "split-browsing mode" and use it "like a conventional Web browser."

Anderson reports that Markey is the second Congressman to raise questions regarding Silk's design, which can "funnel all user browsing data through Amazon's backend servers."

On Wednesday, during a privacy hearing, Rep. Joe Barton, a Republican from Texas, raised similar concerns, stating, "My staff yesterday told me that one of our leading Internet companies, Amazon, is going to create their own server and their own system and they'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. Enough is enough."


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