Limits Needed on Amazon’s Ability to Reach into our Contact Books

The Australia Institute’s Centre for Responsible Technology is calling for increased data protection for online consumers, with concerns about the vast amount of information routinely being harvested from user accounts.

The Centre singles out Amazon’s privacy terms, which in full are over 3,000 words long with many ambiguous terms and multiple links for further definitions, stating the expansive privacy terms capture unnecessary information including: email addresses from a users’ contact list, device location, content playlists and Wi-Fi credentials.

“The scope of Amazon’s data collection demands greater scrutiny,” said Peter Lewis, director of The Australia Institute’s Centre for Responsible Technology.

In its submission to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s Digital Platform Services Inquiry on Online Retail Marketplaces, the Centre for Responsible Technology explains how Amazon’s privacy notice exploits ‘consent fatigue’ for consumers, and calls for the ACCC to consider:

  • Creating ‘purpose limitations’ on data collection, ensuring data is collected only for reasons that are clear and transparent to consumers, and only for what they have consented to
  • Placing restrictions on data sharing between Amazon services, its many subsidiaries and third-party partners
  • Developing human rights principles ahead of any deployment of advanced data collection through biometrics (like voice, fingerprinting and facial recognition)

“Amazon has built its data strategy on the recognition that most people will click a consent button in the rush to complete a sale or access a service.

“If people were to spend the time to look closely into the terms of their usage, they would be horrified to learn how much information is being collected.

“We argue there should be safeguards around these harvesting practices—including the banning of matching data from different services and subsidiaries, even where these are owned by the one company.”

The full submission “Defining limits and purpose – why purpose limitations are needed to ensure fair and reasonable data collection” by Jordan Guiao can be downloaded here.