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What Amazon Thinks You’re Worth

IT theatlantic.com

Shoppers were offered a $10 credit in exchange for handing over their browser data. It’s an investment that pays dividends for Amazon.
'The owner of a coffee shop approaches you with a $10 bill in hand. It’s yours if you submit to a battery of questions: How did you hear about the shop? How did you get here? Did you walk or take an Uber? They’re simple-enough questions with simple-enough answers. Of course you take the money. Repeat this same thought experiment again, online: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos approaches you while you browse, offering you $10 for access to your search history so that the company can find out more about how you shop. In that case, you might have a different reaction. Amazon’s Prime Day bonanza came with an interesting deal: If users downloaded the Amazon Assistant app to their browser, they would receive a $10 credit. The Amazon Assistant is a browser extension, shopping assistant, and recommendation tool, all rolled into one. Hover over an item while you’re shopping on another site, and the assistant will compare the item you’re looking at with a similar one available on Amazon. Of course, when Amazon has the cheaper deal, users will likely choose that one instead. But the assistant also allows Amazon access to users’ browser data: the URLs of the pages they visit, the search terms that brought them there, search results and metadata about those pages. Amazon offered the exchange last year as well, for a $5 credit. In a statement to The Atlantic , a spokesperson for Amazon said that the company values consumer privacy and that the assistant is completely optional. “The use of Amazon Assistant will always comply with our Privacy Policy and About Amazon Assistant Privacy notice. Amazon only collects information from websites customers view where we may have relevant product or service recommendations. We do not connect this information to a customer’s Amazon account, except when they interact with Amazon Assistant,” the spokesperson said. When people talk about “buying” and “selling” data, they’re usually using a shorthand for any number of convoluted algorithmic processes by which big companies profit from user behavior. This is an imprecise metaphor, and companies tend to chafe at it: Amazon’s privacy notice claims that the company is “ not in the business of selling ” user data, and Mark Zuckerberg says the same of Facebook so often that it’s become something of a running joke. Both corporations are technically correct. They do not sell user information to third parties—they just generate large chunks of their revenue by using that information to sell targeted advertising. Data and money exchange hands, though not directly, and with many more actors involved than just the user and the company. They don’t have to actually buy or sell user data to profit from it. And besides, these data were never really yours, not exclusively. Google (or Bing or Yahoo) knows the search terms and keystrokes that led to any specific purchase. Amazon isn’t really “buying” data that you “own,” but paying for access to a data vein that other companies are already tapping. The data exchange isn’t a typical marketplace, and it can’t be understood as such. People don’t “own” their data. Nor does Facebook or Amazon exactly “buy” or “sell” it. They gather as much as they can as an indirect but potent revenue-generating strategy. For Amazon, the assistant credit isn’t a purchase; it’s an investment. The company is giving you a small amount of money now because in the future, it will make much more from you. Amazon will use your purchasing data to improve its targeting, slicing its enormous user base into ever more refined categories that can then be targeted ever more specifically. That’s what Amazon is actually “buying” here: the raw materials to supercharge its targeting. Long term, it’s likely to pay dividends: Imagine logging on to Amazon and immediately being served suggestions for products in your precise size, price range, and favorite style. Now imagine that at the scale Amazon is collecting these extra data. It’s a one-sided deal. Investing in better ad targeting doesn’t come with a concurrent investment in strengthening privacy, or the ability to shop anonymously or be free from enhanced predictive recommendation algorithms. In fact, investing in one means losing the other. The right to privacy can’t be bought back, but it can be sold.'

Why Companies Should Not Attack Back At Hackers—Data Sheet

IT Fortune

This is your Data Sheet for Thursday, July 18, 2019
'Live events, when they succeed, deliver epiphanies. Here are some I enjoyed on the last day of Brainstorm Tech in Aspen, Colo., Wednesday: Steven Mollenkopf, CEO of mobile-phone chip designer Qualcomm , gave an impressive, confident, and authoritative interview to Aaron. Consider, he urged the audience, the innovations like Uber that came from relatively simple technological advancements in the current generation of mobile phones (adding location tracking, for Uber). The tech upgrades in super-fast 5G phones, said Mollenkopf, will be far larger. “There will be tremendous winners and losers globally as a result of 5G,” he added, with leading supplier Qualcomm being one of the winners, naturally. (Later, the company was hit by another antitrust authority, as the EU imposed a $272 million fine.) Amy Hess, a top Federal Bureau of Investigations official overseeing cybercrime, urged corporations not to take matters into their own hands. “I have real concerns about private industry taking offensive actions,” she said. “It could lead to dangerous places.” Bastian Lehmann, CEO of food-delivery company Postmates, showed a long-awaited delivery robot . He jokingly dismissed my question about what Postmates will do with all the data that the robot’s cameras collect. “We’ll do what everyone does: sell the data to the highest bidder.” Joseph Van Valen, a White House official working on transportation policy— mostly around drones —thinks supersonic planes will fly again commercially in the United States before fully autonomous vehicles will drive on its roads. Before I go, a plug: If you want to hear more from a star of the conference, University of Chicago professor Luigi Zingales, listen to his podcast , Capitalisnt. I’ll take tomorrow to refresh and reflect. See you Monday. Adam Lashinsky On Twitter: @adamlashinsky Email: adam_lashinsky@fortune.com'

Slack resets user passwords after 2015 data breach

IT TechCrunch

Slack will reset the passwords of users it believes are affected by a historical data breach that affected the company more than four years ago. In 2015, the company said it was hit by hackers who gained access to its user profile database,
'Slack will reset the passwords of users it believes are affected by a historical data breach that affected the company more than four years ago. In 2015, the company said it was hit by hackers who gained access to its user profile database, including their scrambled passwords. But the hackers inserted code that scraped the user’s plaintext password as it was entered by users at the time. Slack said it was recently contacted through its bug bounty about a list of allegedly compromised Slack account passwords. The company believes the case may relate to the 2015 data breach incident. Slack said the security incident does not apply to “the approximately 99% who joined Slack after March 2015” or those who changed their password since. Accounts that require single sign-on through a company’s network are not affected. The company also said it has no reason to believe accounts were compromised but provided no evidence for its claim. Slack said 1% of accounts in 2015 were affected by the breach. An earlier report suggested that the figure may amount to 65,000 accounts. When reached, a Slack spokesperson would not comment further nor confirm the figure. Slack recently debuted on the New York Stock Exchange, valuing the company at about $15.7 billion. Slack prices IPO at $26 per share'