Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Is Amazon scraping Kindle Fire HD user's email?

gishzida (591028) writes | about a year and a half ago

Privacy 0

I had a rather untoward Amazon experience today. I was browsing the Kindle store on my Kindle Fire HD 7 this afternoon. I had done a search in the Kindle store for "Guitar Design" and as I was skimming through the results I was surprised to see "How to write a Eulogy" as a recommendation. Now to you that might not seem strange but for me it was outrageous. Why? My father passed away a little over two weeks ago.

I had a rather untoward Amazon experience today. I was browsing the Kindle store on my Kindle Fire HD 7 this afternoon. I had done a search in the Kindle store for "Guitar Design" and as I was skimming through the results I was surprised to see "How to write a Eulogy" as a recommendation. Now to you that might not seem strange but for me it was outrageous. Why? My father passed away a little over two weeks ago.

Now we all know that Amazon and other large on-line firms do everything they can to get a sales edge. Amazon is proud of its recommendation system which allegedly only scans your purchases and your searches in their quest to eek out every dollar they can. There is just one thing wrong here. I made no purchase nor did any searches regarding "death" on Amazon. The only way Amazon might have discovered their was a death in the family was by scraping one of my Gmail email accounts.

So I went looking at the Amazon privacy policy. There is nothing in the policy that allows them to scrape email. So I sent kindle support the following note:

****
You know your "recommendation system" is broken when you recommend a book on how to write a eulogy to a customer who has just lost his father. How could you?

But what I find really upsetting is that the only way you could discover this is that you are scraping my Google email with out specific permission to do so and without there being any indication in your "privacy policy" that you are permitted do such a thing...

While you might think it might sell products all it does for me is mean I will use some other application for email on this device... I have also turned off all of your product advertising... You have shown me how truly low you will go to make a buck....

that's sad.

****

So after a short while , not satisfied with rubbing salt in a fresh wound, they replied:

***
I'm really sorry for any frustration this may have caused. This is definitely not what we want our customers to experience.

We display recommendations in several areas throughout our store. To make these suggestions, we determine your interests by examining the items you've purchased, items you've told us you own, items you've liked, items you've rated and items you've browsed recently on Amazon.com. We then compare your activity on our website with that of other customers to recommend items that may interest you.

Since our system is highly automated, it saves all these details and provide these recommendations.

Your recommendations will change regularly based on a number of factors, including new orders or ratings that you submit and changes in the interests of other customers like you.

To turn off these recommendations :

Simply move your cursor to the Your Account drop-down menu at the top of the homepage and select "Sign Out" from the list of options. Then, leave the e-mail and password spaces blank and click the "Amazon.com" icon in the upper-left corner of the page that appears. This will remove our recommendations for you until you sign in again.

To clear your recent history, visit Your Browsing History and click the "Delete this item" link located next to each item. To remove all items, click the "Delete All" button in the left column.

To learn more about rating items you own, excluding purchases or gifts from affecting your recommendations, and improving your personalized recommendations, please our Help pages:

http://www.amazon.com/help/recommendations

Please know that this situation was the result of technical calculations, and that in no way did we intend for this to happen. I hope you'll consider this an isolated incident and give us another chance in the future.

I appreciate the admirable restraint you exercised in your message. My sincere apologies for the time you have spent dealing with this issue.

We value your business and hope to serve you better in the future.

We look forward to seeing you again soon.

Thanks for using Kindle and have a pleasant day ahead.

***
"We hope to do better in the future"???? Ya gotta be kiding!

Yes I realize that I am tilting at a Corporate windmill here but I needed to reply:

***
Unfortunately you did not address the fact the only way your system could know about a death in my family was by your system scraping my private email -- without permission -- since the only place that information was available was in my google email. I see nothing in your privacy policy that allows you to scrape my email and I do not recall their being a notification by the kindle email app notifying me that it was reading my email for marketing purposes-- unlike Google and Google Play where they are very above board. Funny thing that-- I have not had one "targeted ad" from Google that reminded me about the passing of a loved one. Why would Amazon care so little about it customers? What were your programmers thinking other than the marketing department thought it was a good idea?

I find the "recommendaation system" intrusive and I should not have to 'sign out" to "opt out" especially when I paid for the privileged of not having advertising on my kindle. If I wanted a recommendation I'd ask for it... What can I expect next from your system? An offering of a subscription of Yarhzeit Candles?

Why don't you ask Mr. Bezos if he'd like his email scraped so you can sell him items related to *his* personal life? Somehow I don't think he'd like it. Do you?

Yes I realize there is nothing you can do since you are only a cog in the "Soothe the Stupid / Ignorant Customer" group -- your job is to make customers forget the error of their / your ways... but a "cut-and-paste" from the Kindle FAQ does not resolve an issue created by Amazon's unauthorized use of my email... nor does it make Amazon appear that it is even understanding that this kind of thing is hurtful to its relationship with its customers. Even if there was some kind of "click through" authorization your reminding someone about a death which only occurred two weeks ago is tasteless and crude.

How can customers trust your products and services if you are so untrustworthy with a customer's feelings just to make a buck?

Yes I do realize I am jousting at a windmill here as I don't believe Amazon is actually willing to change its behavior... and that is sad too...

But after all large corporations such as Amazon are only made of "automated systems" and tiny, underpaid cogs such as yourself... with no control and/or no soul.. I'm sure your boss will enjoy hearing about the idiot that whined that your wonderful recommendation system reminded him is father is dead and that Amazon thinks death is just another marketing opportunity. *That* is so very sad.

I hope your day is better than Amazon has made mine.

*****

Of course there was a cookie cutter reply:

***
Hello,

I'm sorry for the problem that you had with the recommendation that we had for you.

I'd like to inform you that we don't have any power or whatsoever to browse on your email account.

We display recommendations in several areas throughout our store. To make these suggestions, we determine your interests by examining the items you've purchased, items you've told us you own, items you've liked, items you've rated and items you've browsed recently on Amazon.com. We then compare your activity on our website with that of other customers to recommend items that may interest you.

Your recommendations will change regularly based on a number of factors, including new orders or ratings that you submit and changes in the interests of other customers like you. Because your recommendations will change, we suggest you add items that interest you to your Wish List or Shopping Cart.

I really sorry if the recommendation somewhat offended you. We didn't intend to cause you this.

We always try our best to meet your expectations but unfortunately, despite all our efforts, unforeseen circumstances sometimes occur that would prevent us in providing a satisfactory experience.

I apologize for any trouble or frustration you experienced in this case. We did not intend, in any way, to cause you disappointment. Furthermore, in order to rectify this situation, I'm reporting this concern regarding the incident to the Technical department in our company--I know they'll want to hear more about your experience. We will make sure that we'll take note of this so in the future, we may prevent problems like this from happening and we will take this into account as we plan for further developments within our services.

Please remember that it is always important for us to hear how you react to all aspects of our service. Strong customer feedback like yours helps us make important decisions about how our service can be improved over the course of time, and we appreciate the time you took to write to us so we can better address this concern.

I hope you'll understand that we do our best to ensure that all of our customer needs will be met perfectly. Clearly, we have not met those standards in this case. I understand that this hasn't been as positive as you'd hoped, but I hope you'll consider this and give us another chance to serve you better in the future.

**********

So there you have it Amazon claims it does not scrape user e-mail which still does not explain how they could offer that "recommendation". I made no searches related to death or writing a eulogy so there was no way Amazon could offer that result unless their Customer Support is unaware [plausable denial] that Amazon's crafty big data scraping system is sniffing email traffic.

But let's say that someone else in my family were to have made such a query without my knowledge, how tacky is it that Amazon thinks there's money to be made by making recommendations to a mourner...

It seems to me that there has to be a line drawn somewhere when it comes to how up close and personal we should allow our online vendors and social media become.

Regardless what the actual reason for the recommendation I received, the fact that I received such a recommendation in the first place it indicates that Amazon has hit another low in the race to the bottom for market share.

cancel ×

0 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Check for New Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>