Amazon Plans “World’s Biggest Personal Data Stash”

The Register warns that Amazon.com is planning to create the “world’s biggest personal data stash.” Their source is this Seattle Post Intelligencer report on the detailed patent application Amazon filed with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office:

Amazon.com is developing a system to gather and keep massive amounts of intimate information about its millions of shoppers, including their religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity and income.

The database, which would combine information disclosed voluntarily by customers with facts gleaned from public databases, conceivably would give Amazon a larger or more detailed profile of its customers than any other retailer.
…Such a database would include the gender, date of birth, interests, occupation, education, income level, residence, race and ethnicity of customers for Amazon’s “gift clustering” program.

Customers already willingly disclose some personal information on the site — to create a “wish list” of desired products, for example. The larger potential database would go beyond that.

“Even if a customer does not know demographic information or interests of a possible recipient, the system may be able to access such information from a user profile for the recipient, from past ordering patterns of the recipient, or from publicly accessible databases,” the patent application said.

According to the Register, this patent application is the latest in a long line of database mining techniques filed by Amazon. But in the aftermath of AOL’s release of search queries from over half a million users, such a database should send up a red flag for those who (only now) recognize the extent to which their online shopping and intellectual activities are being surveilled and aggregated.

[via Privacy Digest]

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