The cleaners had barely finished sweeping up after Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ announcement of the Kindle Fire tablet, and some clever clogs have spotted a minor niggle with the new device.
The clever clogs in question are serial Internet entrepreneur and blogger type Jason Calacanis, and senior security advisor Chester Wisniewski. The latter title gives you a clue as to the nature of the issue. Yep, it’s everyone’s favourite web-centric scare story - privacy.
According to Wisniewski, the Fire’s super speedy webpage retrieval (which lies somewhere in the realms of five microseconds, as supposed to 100 on your top-of-the-range PC) is due to its use of Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) network. This means the Fire’s purpose-built browser, Silk, can grab a big handful of your average consumer’s browsing habits.
Wisniewski says “all web connections from your tablet will connect directly to Amazon, rather than the destination web page… All of your web surfing habits will transit Amazon’s cloud. If you think that Google AdWords and Facebook are watching you, this service is guaranteed to have a record of everything you do on the web.”
Scary stuff eh? Calacanis makes an even more salient point, stating “These kind of caching services have a ton of privacy implications, as they are now sitting between you and your favourite p0rN site… I mean political activism site! Not only do they have an entire history of which URLs folks are downloading, they have the actual download.”
Will this make a difference to consumer interest in the product? I doubt it. First up, the Fire’s T&Cs indicate most information is not kept for longer than 30 days. Secondly, there’s a good few months for Amazon to come up with some clever technical gubbins to remove the issue (and that’s only for the US release). More than anything, the target consumer for the Fire is not that interested in the security of their browsing habits. The Fire’s (most likely) loss leading price point will put a digital content consumption device in the hand’s of a mass audience. Such an audience will be far more interested in relative cheapness of the latest digital music and film downloads than Amazon knowing which bank they deal with, where they shop online or their political preferences.