Why does it matter?
It’s easy to dismiss worries over Amazon’s data-gathering practices as irrelevant to individual users, but there are good reasons to be concerned.
For one thing, Amazon and the companies it owns have suffered data breaches in the past. Last year saw multiple incidents (including a massive data leak from Amazon-owned website Twitch), and in July 2021 the company was fined more than 700 million euros for violating the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Then there’s the issue of privacy, on a personal level. Even if Amazon is able to protect your data from the many hackers and cybercriminals who target them on a daily basis, do you really want a massive tech giant building a detailed profile about you and your online habits?
The answer to that question will probably depend on how much data Amazon actually has about you, so how can you find that out?
How to request data from Amazon
Requesting your Amazon data is actually a simple process. Just follow these steps.
- Log in to your Amazon account.
- Click the All button in the upper left corner, then scroll down and click Customer Service.
- In the Help Library search bar, type request your personal information or request my Amazon data.
- Click the top search result, which should be Request Your Personal Information.
- Click Request My Data.
- Select the information category that you want to view and click Submit Request.
What kind of information does Amazon collect?
Amazon collects a huge variety of data from a range of different sources. The first thing you might think of is information about your shopping habits; for many, the Amazon brand is still an online storefront first and foremost. As the company expands to cover groceries and household basics, the capacity to monitor Amazon customer data will only increase.
Amazon’s monitoring goes much deeper than that, however. Amazon has expanded its focus far beyond the basic marketplace function, and all of its many enterprises can generate user data.
For example, the company has made successful inroads into the IoT market, developing a home-monitoring automaton called Astro Robot, as well as the massively popular Alexa system. Having a small Amazon speaker in your home that also doubles as a virtual assistant is useful, but did you know that all of the voice commands you give it are recorded and stored by Amazon as audio files? You can opt to delete your Alexa history, but many people don’t even realize they’re being recorded.
Likewise, Amazon’s various entertainment platforms can monitor and log user behavior. Watch time on Prime, reading speed on Kindle — it all adds to the profile the company is building on you as an individual consumer. And this could just be the beginning.
PRO TIP: If you’re worried about how much data companies collect about you, remember to adjust your privacy settings regularly, and especially after app updates. Your default privacy preferences will usually favor the company and their interests, rather than yours.
Medical data and big tech
Amazon HealthLake is a system the company launched in 2022 to help medical organizations centralize and standardize data. This service has some obvious benefits, but it also shows a willingness for the company to explore healthcare and medical data as a potentially profitable investment.
The intersection of data-driven tech companies and healthcare is an area in which we must tread very carefully. Medical data and information about your health and wellbeing is valuable and should not be given away lightly.
Other companies are already moving in this direction, with Apple developing systems to identify and track mental health issues and Meta’s Facebook launching a wearable fitbit to monitor exercise and physical wellbeing.
It seems likely that Amazon will also continue down this road, finding new ways to gather data about users’ health and medical conditions. That information could be used for targeted advertising or, worse still, could fall into the hands of hackers and criminals following a data breach.
Taking control of your data
This is why it’s important to be able to make an Amazon data request. The more you know about how much Amazon is tracking you, the more informed a decision you can make about what Amazon services you feel comfortable using. Even if you’re not ready to delete Amazon entirely, it’s worth keeping an eye on what data they’re actually storing.
It’s easy to downplay the risks of Amazon’s data-gathering practices, but we’ve seen time and time again that big tech companies can’t always be trusted to protect the private information of their users.
If you’re concerned about data tracking beyond just Amazon, it might be worth investing in software to limit how much you can be tracked online. For example, NordVPN comes with a built-in NordVPN’s tracker blocker to limit how much websites and data brokers can follow your movements online.
But the first step to taking control of your data and protecting your privacy is finding out how much data you’re currently exposing. After all, you have a right to know.
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