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My Love/Hate Relationship with Amazon: Digital Privacy Concerns Raised by the Power and Products of the Big “A”

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By: Olivia

January 2, 2017

How many times have you opened the Amazon app to buy a book and ended up with a slew of products you never intended to purchase in the first place? If you just nodded in agreement, then you, like me, have a love/hate relationship with the ‘magic’ that is Amazon. amazon_packagesLet’s face it, their site seems to know what we need or want before we even know ourselves. It’s a awesome source to find reviews, comparison shop and the user interface is just great. Then, there’s the wide list of features and products they offer outside of the retail realm.On note-worthy product is the Amazon Echo. In a recent UNM4SK3D edition, I reported on one Echo in particular, belonging to murder suspect James Andrew Bates, as being cited in a warrant. In this case, police are hoping that a voice recording from the attack was captured by the device and stored in an Amazon data center.Although Amazon refused requests for that data from law enforcement twice already, it can raise a critical debate about the use of smart devices against us.But if you think it’s only the Echo, or Amazon’s presence in cloud space (which is another article entirely), that is cause for worry over your digital privacy, think again.Before we get too ahead of ourselves, let’s first explore what exactly digital privacy is.The formal definition names it as “a trending social concern with the privacy of digital information in general; In many contexts it specifically references information concerning personal identity shared over public networks.”
Just saying privacy is about control assumes that we all actually have the ability to affect that control. I think that’s where we’re having breakdowns now, especially with technology. We don’t necessarily have the tools for meaningful control,” suggests Lorrie Faith Cranor, director of Carnegie Mellon’s CyLab Usable Privacy and Security Laboratory, “It would take users 76 workdays to read all of the privacy policies they encounter in a year. The problem has only gotten worse.
In the same interview, Cranor points the blame at ‘data-hoarding’ companies. This leads us to a crossroads where we either accept the usage of our personal information for a better ‘experience’ or fight to have our information kept totally secure and stunt the expansion of ‘smart’ products and sites.  amazon_echoFrom my perspective, Millennials are eager to provide any information they can in order to get what they want with minimal effort. We’ll call this the Amazon attitude.But what are the consequences, if any?There’s been a laundry list of standout incidences where sharing location has led to a person being attacked, social media information used for identity theft, and ‘private’ messages becoming public. It goes on and on.And while one part of the problem lies in what we choose to share, the other stems from the fact that we often share some of our information without even realizing.Amazon’s latest venture, Amazon Go, is a grocery store with absolutely no checkout lines. Like any other of the Big A’s endeavors, it sounds great.As of now, there’s one Seattle location open to only Amazon employees, and all you need to enter is the Amazon Go app.In a recent article by Wired on the subject, they say “As for how its ‘Just Walk Out Shopping’ experience works, Amazon seems emphatically not to want to share details. It steeps its description of how the system works in buzzwords: computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning. It uses sensors throughout the store and artificial intelligence to tell which direction customers are looking, even in a crowd, and can identify partially blocked labels.”Deep learning and artificial intelligence are at it again.According to Amazon’s FAQs, “Our checkout-free shopping experience is made possible by the same types of technologies used in self-driving cars: computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning. Our Just Walk Out technology automatically detects when products are taken from or returned to the shelves and keeps track of them in a virtual cart. When you’re done shopping, you can just leave the store. Shortly after, we’ll charge your Amazon account and send you a receipt.”The most worrisome part in this case, is that the app links products to people, which gives stores the ability to track customers using their mobile Wi-Fi address.While many speculate that initial problems of less than 100% accuracy with the purchasing process, such as mischarging for an item are what's at issue, to me, it seems much bigger than that.grocery_storeCould someone be the first to say they’ve hacked a grocery store? In a sense, quite possibly.Nick Manzo, of 1WorldSync, sums it up perfectly.
Because the company would know exactly what consumers picked up and put back, or even the walking patterns of customers in store, Amazon would have a whole new set of consumer data to add to targeted promotions and ads,” Manzo said. “For some consumers, this may be a layer of intrusion that sparks a conversation on privacy issues, but for many, the difference in convenience may be worth it.
If you’re concerned about your digital privacy, and what these advancements could mean for your personal data, it’s best to tackle these fears head on by educating yourself. There’s a variety of skill certifications pertaining to data security available for study. Of those on Cybrary, they include: Mobile Device Security Fundamentals, PCI/DSS, and Fundamental Endpoint Security.For those of you concerned about the safety of your health information, consider the HIPAA Skill Certification.Regardless of which step you take in making your data more secure, use code OBLOG50 for half off your next test. Amazon isn’t the only one will great deals.oliviaOlivia Lynch is the Marketing Manager at Cybrary. Like many of you, she is just getting her toes wet in the field of cyber security. A firm believer that the pen is mightier than the sword, Olivia considers corny puns and an honest voice essential to any worthwhile blog. 
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