Amazon and Facebook

July 12, 2012 at 9:30 am | Posted in Privacy | 1 Comment
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Recent unilateral changes by both Amazon and Facebook are dangerous for consumers.

Consider Facebook first.

Like a slaughterhouse, Facebook seeks to sell every piece of every cow and pig that enters its doors.  It even wants to sell the moo and the oink.  It does so by aggregating all the information about you on Facebook, and using it to enable advertisements to be targeted to you.

Recently Facebook unilaterally decided to post only your Facebook email address in your profile, instead of the email address that you prefer to post.  Emails that use the Facebook address necessarily have to be processed by Facebook.  That gives Facebook official access to what the email says.  Facebook can scrape sellable information about you from those emails.

(A counter measure, if you wish to use it, is to tell all your Facebook contacts to use only your non-Facebook email addresses.  Also, think about what personal information you want to post on Facebook, especially for information about your personal interests and activities.)

Now consider how Facebook’s trawling for your information, and its public display of almost everything on your Facebook pages, interacts with a recent unilateral action by Amazon.

Recently Amazon arranged with Facebook to post to your Facebook page, or to your Facebook friends, information about every item that you buy from Amazon.  When I first encountered this, there didn’t seem to be a way of opting out of this rather major invasion of privacy.

I immediately stopped buying from Amazon – electronics, books, everything.

This was a huge step for me.  For years I had bought many types of items from Amazon.  For non-food items it was often the first place I looked.  But Amazon’s no-user-choice linkage to Facebook now made me willing to accept the higher prices and slower delivery that might result from using other sellers.

Surprisingly, I haven’t noticed a cost penalty from the switch, and in many cases delivery is as quick as it had been from Amazon.  Competition with Amazon has caused other sellers to trim prices, and to often offer free shipping.  I’ve used Barnes & Noble, Alibris, and Abebooks, plus sellers of of other types of items who were found by using search engines.

The one thing to watch out for is that Alibris and Abebooks are based in Canada, so even for items that are priced in dollars, the card company imposes a small foreign transaction fee.  The foreign transaction fee is a fixed percentage of your purchase price.  It is twice as large for one of my cards as for the other.  So call each of your card issuers to find out their foreign transaction fees.

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