Amazon Assistant is a service by Amazon that is offered as a browser extension or mobile application designed to improve the Internet shopping experience.
Its main features are product comparison, access to Amazon's wishlist from any website, the highlighting of daily deals on Amazon, and a search.
Amazon Assistant is a controversial product. First, it replaces the much simpler Amazon Wishlist browser extension which concentrated solely on adding products to the wishlist but shipped without other features and was not nearly as invasive to privacy as the product.
What may weight more is that it is bundled with Java meaning that it may land on a user's computer unexpectedly.
The Java offer will not only install Amazon Assistant by default, it will also change the homepage and default search to Amazon Smart Search.
If you read the conditions of use of Amazon Assistant on the Amazon website, you will immediately realize that the service monitors what you do even if you are not using it or interacting with Amazon services.
Under Automatic Information, Amazon states:
The Amazon Assistant may also collect information about the websites you view when you are not interacting with the Amazon Assistant, but we do not associate that information with your Amazon account or identify it with you except as required by law.
Examples of the information we collect and analyze include a subset of your IP address; a domain name or full URL of the Web page you are visiting and any referring URL’s to the visited web page; general information about the visited web page, such as product search query or specifications; general information about your browser; general information about your computer's operating system; other identifying alphanumerical information enabling Amazon to identify your computer; and the date and time the above information is logged.
Amazon won't link the information it collects while you are using the browser or application with the Amazon account directly, but it will associated the information with the computer by using identifying information.
Amazon may make information available to third-party applications or services, and information that is collected may be sent to these services and applications.
If you break it down: Amazon Assistant records your Internet history while it is installed and will provide Amazon with the information. While Amazon won't associate the information with your Amazon account directly, it collects information that provides the company with enough information to identify the computer used.
Furthermore, it would be trivial to link use of the extension or app to an Amazon account, if users sign-in to their Amazon account while using the application.
One way around this would be to use a browser profile or separate browser exclusively for use with the browser extension.
In the end, it comes down to weighting the positive and negative impact of Amazon Assistant on your life.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.