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article imageOp-Ed: Amazon offers $10 for Prime Day customer data? Ahem.

By Paul Wallis     Jul 16, 2019 in Internet
Seattle - Amazon has offered Amazon Prime Day customers $10 for the right to track them online and see which websites they visit. This isn’t exactly generosity. It’s a commercial product being provided at bargain rates. There may also be security issues, or not
The offer does at least acknowledge user rights, and is more open than the usual stealthy gathering of data with or without the user’s knowledge. The question is whether this information is being properly valued, and whether risks to users are being properly evaluated.
To be fair:
• This isn’t necessarily just collection of data for the sake of collecting it. Amazon could learn a lot about Prime customer shopping preferences, useful info for them.
Ad targeting on most commercial sites is sloppy and primitive at best, (thanks for the decades of non-specific searches, guys) and infuriating most of the time. Tracking could lead to more efficiencies on Amazon for users.
• Amazon isn’t one of the bad guys in terms of user support, most of the time. They’re pretty good for user services, deliveries, and other core business.
• I volunteered for a tracking exercise with Roy Morgan, real market researchers, and had no issues at all. The service was un-intrusive and caused no problems. Check out how the high-end pros work. Very different.
Risks for customers? Maybe.
The risks for users cover a lot of very clear issues and many not so clear:
• Amazon is a prime target for hackers. Information is money, and collections of information are big money.
• A lot of user info would make good “bot food” for hackers. If you’ve ever had bot problems, and I have, no amount of money could compensate for the sheer frustration of the experience.
• Sales of commercial information like user data include some of the most bizarre types of outcomes for users. I spent years being called by insurance companies for a “car accident’ I never had, for example.
• Unwanted notifications, spam, and other useless garbage are the natural products of user tracking. That’s more nuisance than risk, but the chances of bumping in to something nasty are always there.
Functional tracking values options
It’s questionable whether this "snapshot" type of tracking is required at all. Tracking onsite with cookies is probably better than this rather nebulous, open-ended idea applied for one day. Amazon is a huge site, and user behaviours on a shopping site are pretty reliable and indicative.
Maybe it would be better to use dedicated market researchers and market analytics? Sales, hits and misses only go so far. This is a vast amount of new data, analytics need to be set up, parameters considered, etc. I’d leave it to the experts, rather than a membership-based option, which only includes X number of users, anyway.
The good news
The good news is that a big site like Amazon has finally put a value on user data. They may have undervalued it spectacularly, but the idea is there. I won’t knock the basic principle, but I think more, and better, could be done with it.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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