launched its Kindle Fire tablet last month, it sparked discussions among most tech enthusiasts and bloggers over things like whether or not they'd buy one and whether the new device should be seen as a competitor to Apple's tirelessly dominant iPad. One detail about what Amazon unveiled was cause for concern for some.When Amazon
Silk, the Web browser that will ship with the new tablet, utilizes Amazon's powerful cloud computing infrastructure to help serve up Web pages faster and even predict your browsing habits. Naturally, this split architecture and its potential to capture private user data caught the attention of organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who inquired with Amazon about the privacy implications Silk presents.
The EFF got some answers late last week, and the organization was largely reassured by what it heard. Perhaps most importantly, Amazon noted that Silk's cloud acceleration feature is optional. Users can easily turn it off in their settings if they would prefer that Silk load pages like a standard Web browser.
Amazon also said that even when it's turned on, Silk's cloud acceleration would not affect pages secured with SSL. Thus any requests for any URL prefixed with HTTPS would not be passed through Amazon's servers.
Finally, Amazon assures privacy advocates that the data it does capture is completely anonymized and that it cannot be linked to an individual or Amazon user account.
Some Privacy Concerns Persist
Still, the EFF is not 100% satisified with Amazon's approach, although they said they are "generally satisfied with the privacy design of Silk." They note that some URLs contain identifying information, and that some content cached on Amazon's servers could as well. Even the aggregate, presumably anonymous browsing data Amazon will collect concerns the EFF, who says it could make "an attractive target for law enforcement."
Members of the U.S. Congress have also started asking questions about Silk. Last week, lawmakers from both political parties pressed Amazon about the browser's ability to track user behavior and what the company plans to do with the data it collects. Democratic Congressman Ed Markey gave Jeff Bezos three weeks to answer a letter containing a series of questions about the issue, while others pondered the necessity for legislation to protect consumers.
Either way, Amazon is set to start shipping the Kindle Fire on November 15. Any early adopters who are not convinced that their privacy is secured while using the device's Web browser can turn the controversial setting off.