Archive of UserLand's first discussion group, started October 5, 1998.

Re: Summary of recent XML-RPC developments

Author:Bryant Durrell
Posted:9/7/1999; 1:05:37 PM
Topic:Summary of recent XML-RPC developments
Msg #:10692 (In response to 10691)
Prev/Next:10691 / 10693

OK, I see what you're getting at, yeah. I've been assuming it's the case that Amazon wanted Alexa for the vast store of information. I believe that this is used only in the aggregate, however, and that user information is stripped -- sure, Amazon could change this, but note that the Alexa privacy policy says:

When using the service, we collect information on Web usage which remains anonymous.

We also use our data, in aggregate, to create reports and summaries for internal use and external sale. We do not include our users' email addresses in these reports.

I have no reason to doubt this, although I am curious as to what TRUSTe does to validate the privacy policies it certifies. Is it reasonable to think that TRUSTe isn't trustworthy? I have no idea. :)

Note that the click trails are hugely valuable even without usernames attached; it is to Amazon's benefit to know, say, what paths people take through Barnes and Noble's Web site. It doesn't matter so much who the people are; it's like getting copies of their Webserver logs. Wow. So Amazon has a motive to buy Alexa even without assuming that there's lying going on.

And as Dave says -- I'm not really sure where to be tense about these issues. I mean, it's not as if they're following me, but it's sure true that they care about the demographics. I personally wouldn't be inclined to give Alexa my zip code. It's this weird situation where Alexa intrudes just a little bit on each person's privacy but the total intrusion is... large?

Data warehousing of this nature raises immense privacy issues that, to my knowledge, nobody has addressed yet. David Brin wrote an interesting book called The Transparent Society that comes at this issue from the other side, claiming that privacy is an obsolete concept. I disagreed but it was useful for focussing my thoughts; I always like reading good arguments on the other side of any such matters.

(Edit This Page is an amazingly useful service, Dave. I love being able to refine and reconsider my thoughts. Thanks!)

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