Online retailer may know a lot more about you, your friends, family and even passing acquaintances than you think they do. According to writer/blogger Imy Santiago, Amazon has begun blocking the friends and family members of authors from writing reviews of their books, raising questions about just how deep and personal the company’s database on its customers goes.
Recently, Santiago attempted to post a review on Amazon of an e-book she had purchased through the company. Her review was rejected twice, however – once on Amazon, and again on the company’s sister site Goodreads. Only after Santiago escalated the issue did she find out the real reason her review was rejected: Her account activity indicated that she knows the author.
“We removed your Customer Reviews because you know the author personally,” reads a response from an Amazon review moderator. “Due to the nature of our business, we do not provide detailed information on how we determine that accounts are related.”
That response enraged Santiago, who says emphatically that she does not personally know the author of the book. She suggests that the censoring may have happened because she follows a number of authors on social networks like Twitter and Facebook, interacts with authors during promotional events or because she is an indie author herself. Other authors have noted having similar issues with Amazon.
Understandably, Amazon is trying to protect the integrity of its review system – as we’ve recently discussed, the company takes customer ratings incredibly seriously. But to Santiago (and plenty others), the fact that Amazon is so intensely mining social media and web history data to make these connections brings up eerie shades of Big Brother.
If you’d like to stem the flow of personal information to the Amazon marketing department, the best thing you can do is to employ some basic privacy techniques when surfing the Internet. Using an anonymizing browser like Tor and a privacy-protected search engine like Duck Duck Go are good ideas in general. You might also want to tell these third-party data-tracking firms to stop collecting data on you to sell to others.
[Image credit: Amazon]