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Congress questions Amazon on the privacy of the Silk browser

Amazon Kindle Fire - hand modeled

Earlier this week, both Democrat and Republican members of Congress expressed concern over privacy of users that browse the Web through the Amazon Silk browser on the currently unreleased Kindle Fire. Since the Kindle Fire uses less expensive hardware than a typical tablet, the split version of Silk sends all Web activity through the cloud-based Amazon Web Services and speeds up the process considerably. Page rendering and general processing of a Web page occurs in the cloud, thus the Kindle Fire doesn’t need to process the data. Officials in Congress are concerned about what data Amazon will retain about a user’s activities as well as how that data will be used in the future.

Amazon-silk-browserRep. Ed Markey of Massachusetts is the co-Chair of the Congressional Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus and sent off a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos regarding privacy concerns. Markey wants to know what Amazon plans to do with the data and if the company plans to sell or rent the data to third-party companies such as advertisers seeking to place ads on the Kindle Fire. Markey is also concerned about Amazon’s plans to convey the privacy policy to Kindle Fire users as well as the ability for new customers to opt into the data sharing program. Amazon claims that all data collected through the split version of the Kindle Fire browser will be anonymous and only available in a bundled, collective form.

Users do have the ability to turn off the split version of the Silk browser and run the program as a traditional browser. However, running Silk as a traditional browser will significantly slow down the speed of leading Web pages. Since the split version of the browser is turned on by default when a consumer purchases the Kindle Fire, it’s highly unlikely that new users will opt for the slower version of the Silk browser.

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