Amazon.com was the leading online retailer and on August 20, 1999 Amazon.com introduced Purchase Circles, a new features that leverages the power of the internet and Amazon’s customer base to create a new generation of fun and unique bestseller lists. Working with a customer base of 10.7 million, Amazon.com's Purchase Circles feature analyzes zip codes and domain names from book, music, and video purchases and then, it combines this anonymous sales data and applies an algorithm that constructs bestseller lists of items that are more popular with each specific group than with the population at large. The results in thousands of Purchase Circles, listed the top 10 videos, music, and books bought online by groups organized as companies, education, geography, government, and organizations. While many customers will likely zoom in on their hometown Purchase Circles, or check in on a list that applies to a friend or relative, others will enjoy comparing lists and discovering the uniquely top-selling books to gain insight into diverse and competitive Purchase Circle member groups. An example that goes more in dept would be an example from the Nytimes where Levi Strauss & Co., which has been trying to make its classic jeans brand hip again. Amazon's purchase circle listing for Levi says that employees at the company have been busily ordering the books "Strategic Brand Management," "Building Strong Brands" and "Street Trends: How Today's Alternative Youth Cultures Are Creating Tomorrow's Mainstream Markets." The Levi book purchases simply confirmed what outsiders already knew about the company's hot buttons. But critics wondered what clues outsiders might glean about the internal issues of a company if its book list revealed heavy purchases of titles about international expansion, say, or finding a new job.
Amazon.com's Purchase Circles feature is designed to be a convenient and informative resource for customers to learn about what other people are buying and to make more informed purchasing decisions. They are also a great resource for authors, musicians, and video producers to track the popularity of their works across groups of people in a way that has never before been available. According to internetnews.com “Amazon initially said customer privacy is not violated since data is aggregated anonymously and none of the information gathered is associated with an individual. The information is updated weekly for larger groups of purchase circles and monthly for smaller groups. Before reversing the policy, Amazon defended the feature, saying it's a "fun way for people to find out what others are buying yet still maintain individual confidentiality."
I believe that Amazon.com did not mean any harm, but without doubt did not think about the consequences that would unfold with Purchase Circles. Even though Amazon did not mean any harm I agree with Solove 2011 Why Privacy Matters Even if You Have 'Nothing to Hide" and in this case Amazon’s 10.7 million customers wanted nothing more than to use this new innovative online marketing tool that creates a new generates fun and unique bestseller lists. Amazon’s 10.7 million customers have nothing to hide but, values their personal information. I believe Amazon’s mistake here was not combing anonymous sales data but that they did not inform the users that their personal opinions and personal information will be applied to an algorithm that constructs bestseller lists of items that are more popular with each specific group than with the population at large. As stated in Solove 2011 "My life's an open book," people might say. "I've got nothing to hide." But now the government has large dossiers of everyone's activities, interests, reading habits, finances, and health. What if the government leaks the information to the public? What if the government mistakenly determines that based on your pattern of activities, you're likely to engage in a criminal act? What if it denies you the right to fly? What if the government thinks your financial transactions look odd—even if you've done nothing wrong—and freezes your accounts? What if the government doesn't protect your information with adequate security, and an identity thief obtains it and uses it to defraud you? Even if you have nothing to hide, the government can cause you a lot of harm.” I agree with this completely. I myself say I have nothing to hide but my personal information is my personal information, I should have the right to my own personal information. It’s one thing knowing and being given the option to allow my personal information to be made public but not knowing at all is a different story.
Amazon’s Purchase Circle was designed to be a convenient and informative resource for customers to learn about what other people are buying and to make more informed purchasing decisions, even though Amazon did not intend to share it’s customers personal information their personal information is out there and could be used against them. The government has many ways to gain access to our personal information once it has been made public.
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