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Amazon offers Prime Day shoppers $10 to track their web data

Amazon Alexa holding your data?
  • Amazon is offering a $10 credit for consumers who sign up for its Amazon Assistant shopping tool. 
  • The service has a catch: Consumers agree to allow Amazon to track the websites they visit. 
  • It's another example of how free services are used by tech giants to gather data about consumer behavior.

Amazon has an offer for customers who sign up for its Amazon Assistant shopping tool: Install the service, and we'll give you $10 -- for the right to your browsing data. 

The Amazon Assistant is a comparison-shopping tool that sits on your browser, alerting consumers to deals at the site or telling them if Amazon has a better price than a competing retailer. But to provide that information, Amazon said it "processes your personal information" such as information on websites that you visit. 

The issue may raise concerns with consumers who are wary of sharing their data, especially at a time when tech giants such as Google and Facebook are earning billions by slicing and dicing the personal information of its customers. Sometimes those services have accessed data in ways that have surprised -- and dismayed -- consumers, such as the revelations that human contractors listen to recordings made by Google and Amazon's voice assistants.

For many consumers, the tradeoff might be worth giving up some data to Amazon, of course. But it comes as some lawmakers are proposing that tech giants either pay consumers for the value of their data or publicly report the value of the information they've collected. 

The digital rights advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation argues that such schemes distract from the bigger issue of data collection by tech giants. Providing a value of, say, $10 for your web browsing data may give a consumer the impression that their data isn't worth all that much, it noted in a Monday blog post about the various proposals.

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"But a specific piece of information can be priceless in a particular context," EFF legislative activist Hayley Tsukayama wrote in the post. "Your location data may cost a company less than a penny to buy, yet cost you your physical safety if it falls into the wrong hands."

Consumers can opt to disable the comparison shopping tool in Amazon Assistant, which limits the data collection, according to the company's privacy policy. 

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