If you want to pay less for your Amazon Prime subscription, the company offers a controversial solution. You can get back $24 per year – but only after enabling ad verification, which allows Amazon to see what ads are served to your phone.
It’s a sort of a “pay to pry” feature currently available to Amazon users who have the Amazon Shopper Panel app installed on their phone.
The Shopper Panel asks users to send receipts from other retailers, as well as file out various surveys, in exchange for up to $10 a month.
The new ad verification feature adds an extra option on top of it for users in the United States and the United Kingdom – but the condition, as mentioned, is that they share what ads they see on their smartphone.
Those with the Amazon Shopper Panel app see a setting to opt-in to the ad verification service. The users are informed that the company will “collect and use information about where and when you see ads from Amazon, for example, the app or website where you viewed the ad and the time of day you viewed it.”
Members can also elect to stop ad verification later. But users who disable ad verification for longer than 48 cumulative hours won’t qualify for that month’s reward.
Privacy experts are worried, though. The reason is the fact that the feature isn’t limited to Amazon ads and will also snoop on the ads you are seeing from other retailers and third-party companies which advertise through Amazon Ads.
Amazon says that it uses personal information for interest-based advertising, as well as making recommendations for certain features for shoppers to use. The company also claims it will not share the personal data it gathers with anyone else.
“Your participation will help brands offer better products and make ads from Amazon more relevant,” Amazon says in its Shopper Panel FAQ.
However, Amazon’s history with transparency regarding personal user data has been less than stellar, so all these assertions probably need to be taken with a pinch of salt.
In July 2021, the e-commerce giant was hit with a record fine of $888 million from the Luxembourg Data Protection Authority for violating the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
And in August, a report by The Intercept, a news organization, found that Amazon gift registries are a treasure trove of personally identifiable information – so open that it offered thieves an almost one-stop-shop to get all they needed to steal an identity.
There’s also interest from the US Federal Trade Commission to look more closely into Amazon’s proposed acquisition of iRobot, maker of the Roomba robot vacuum cleaner. Campaigners are concerned about just how much information this will give Amazon.
Other tech giants are no saints, though – time and time again, they try to increase their data-harvesting operations. In 2012, Google Screenwise offered Amazon gift cards to those willing to have their network traffic monitored, and in 2016, Facebook offered gift cards to 13-25-year-olds for installing a VPN that allowed the company to view web usage habits.
In a way, this is not surprising at all, as most major websites and services are built off the profits they gather from optimized and tailored ads – they do as much as they can to squeeze money out of our precious data.
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