[Source: This article was published in heartland.org By Chris Talgo and Emma Kaden - Uploaded by the Association Member: Grace Irwin]

The U.S. Department of Justice announced it will launch a wide-ranging probe into possible antitrust behavior by social media and technology giants. Although no companies were specifically named, it’s not hard to guess which corporations will be in the limelight: Amazon, Facebook, and, of course, the mother of all technology titans, Google.

There is certainly a case to be made that these companies have been shady with private user data, stifled competition, and manipulated the flow of information to their benefit. But it’s worth considering whether or not a federal government investigation and possible destruction of these influential companies are really necessary.

As perhaps one of the most powerful companies in the world, Google has the most to lose if the federal government intervenes. According to research by Visual Capitalist, 90.8 percent of all internet searches are conducted via Google and its subsidiaries. For comparison’s sake, Google’s two main competitors — Bing and Yahoo! — comprise less than 3 percent of total searches.

Due to its overwhelming dominance of the search engine industry, Google has nearly complete control over the global flow of information. In other words, Google determines the results of almost all web-based inquiries.

Of course, this is a potentially dangerous situation. With this amount of control over the dispersal of information, Google has the unique ability to sway public opinion, impact economic outcomes, and influence any and all matters of public information. For instance, by altering search results, Google can bury content that it deems unworthy of the public’s view.

The truth is, not only can Google do these things, it already has done them. The tech giant has a long history of manipulating search results and promoting information based on political bias.

On its face, one can easily see how supporting the regulation and breakup of Google could serve the public good. If executed properly (unlike most government interventions), Google web searches would be free of bias and manipulation. The possible unintended consequences of such an intrusion, however, could dwarf any benefits it might bring.

The internet is the most highly innovative and adaptive medium ever developed. In less than two decades, it has brought about a revolution in most aspects of our daily lives, from how we conduct commerce and communicate to how we travel, learn, and access information. The primary reason for this breathtaking evolution is the complete lack of government regulation, intervention, and intrusion into the infrastructure of the internet.

Right now, Google serves as one of the primary pillars of the internet framework. Yes, Google is far from perfect — after all, it is run by humans — but it is an essential component to a thriving internet ecosystem. But this does not mean Google will forever serve as the foundation of the internet — 20 years ago, it didn’t even exist, and 20 years from now, something new will most likely take its place.

As tempting as it is to tinker with the internet and the companies that are currently fostering the dynamic growth and innovation that make the internet so unique, regulating such a complex and intricate system could lead to its downfall at worst and its petrification at best.

Wanting to keep Google from manipulating consumers is a noble notion, but this should happen from the bottom up, not the top down. Consumers should be the ultimate arbiters of which internet-based companies thrive.

Remember (for those who are old enough) that when the internet became mainstream, navigating it through search engines was extremely primitive and challenging. Early search engines such as AltaVista, Ask Jeeves, and Infoseek barely met consumer expectations.

Fast forward to 2019, and ponder how much more convenient Google has made everyday life. From optimized search capability to email to video sharing to navigation, Google provides an all-inclusive package of services that billions of people find useful — at this point in time. Someday, though, a company will surely produce a product superior to Google that protects user data, takes bias out of the equation, and allows for robust competition, all while maintaining and elevating the quality of service. No doubt customers will flock to it.

The awesome, rapid technology innovations of the past 20 years are due in large part to a lack of government regulation. Imagine what progress could be made in the years to come if the government refrains from overregulating and destroying internet companies. That’s not to say that the government shouldn’t take action against illegal activities, but overregulating this dynamic industry to solve trivial matters would do much more harm than good.

The government should take a laissez-faire approach to regulation, especially when it comes to the internet. Consumers should be able to shape industries according to their needs, wants, and desires without the heavy hand of government intervention.

[Originally Published at American Spectator]

Categorized in Search Engine

[Source: This article was Published in tamebay.com By Sasha Fedorenko - Uploaded by the Association Member: Issac Avila]

What social media can not do is to deliver the next day or same day and that is where Amazon excels. All young consumers want everything now, so fast shipping becomes a major factor where a person shops. This is why Amazon will continue to dominate.

It is true. Not myself but my partner and her friends not even gen z but 20s early 30s have pretty much been brought up by social media. She gets so many of her ideas from insta, Pinterest, and Facebook.

Wedding cake, singer, flowers, invitations, bridesmaid dresses even my groomsmen gifts have all come from social media for a wedding next month. We’re even picked our seats on our flight for the honeymoon because of a video someone put on youtube, saved us a few hundred quid on pointless upgrades.
You can add links to most social sites to websites or marketplaces.

Direct checkout is going to be the big game changer. Amazon will still dominate on price and be the place for big box shifters and penny chasing, but social will become so much more important for smaller traders.

Categorized in Social

[Source: This article was Published in techcrunch.com By Anthony Ha- Uploaded by the Association Member: Grace Irwin]

1. Facebook announces Libra cryptocurrency: All you need to know

Facebook has finally revealed the details of its cryptocurrency Libra, which will let you buy things or send money to people with nearly zero fees.

The company won’t fully control Libra, but instead get just a single vote in its governance like other founding members of the Libra Association, including Visa, Uber, and Andreessen Horowitz, which have invested at least $10 million each into the project’s operations.

2. Amazon’s Twitch acquired social networking platform Bebo for under $25M to bolster its esports efforts

Bebo lives!

3. The future of diversity and inclusion in tech

Silicon Valley is entering a new phase in its quest for diversity and inclusion in the technology industry. Some advocates call this part “the end of the beginning,” as Code2040 CEO Karla Monterroso put it.

Social

4. Palm’s tiny phone is available unlocked at $350

The phone’s available “at only” $350. That’s cheap compared to many full-sized, mid-tier handsets, but cheapness is a relative concept — this still seems like a high price for a second phone.

5. Carmen Sandiego returns to Google Earth with a new caper

Google Earth first made use of its rich global 3D visualization as a backdrop for a Carmen Sandiego tie-in back in March, but today there’s a new adventure to explore.

6. Google Calendar is down, it’s not just you

Maybe it’ll be back up by the time you read this newsletter.

7. How to negotiate term sheets with strategic investors

Negotiating a term sheet with a strategic investor necessitates a different set of considerations. (Extra Crunch membership required.)

Categorized in Social

 Source: This article was published crixeo.com By A.J. SØRENSEN - Contributed by Member: David J. Redcliff

UNLIKE GOOGLE, THE DUCKDUCKGO SEARCH ENGINE DOESN’T TRACK YOU.

In 2006 Gabriel Weinberg sold a company for millions. A year and a half later, he founded his next project with the money: an alternative search engine named DuckDuckGo. Initially, the goal was to make it more efficient and compelling than Google by cutting down on spam and providing instant answers, similar to a Wikipedia or IMDb. The project launched in 2008, bringing Weinberg’s brainchild into public consciousness.

But Weinberg didn’t realize at the time that the main reason people were wary of Google wasn’t the user experience but how the search engine tracked its users. Being the astute entrepreneur that Weinberg is, he instantly saw this as an area for an opportunity and a way to compete with one of the largest companies in the world. As a result, DuckDuckGo became the go-to search engine for privacy — long before the NSA leaks in 2013, when the government got “Snowdened,” and Facebook’s recent Cambridge Analytica scandal — all with a better user experience.

Here’s why you should consider making the move to the “Duck Side.”

1. THE SEARCH ENGINE THAT DOESN’T TRACK YOU

DuckDuckGo browser
DUCKDUCKGO

According to a micro-site connected to DuckDuckGo — DontTrack.us — Google tracks users on 75% of websites. The information gathered from your site visits and search terms can be used to follow you across over two million websites and applications. Oh, and all that private information is stored by Google indefinitely. (Hint: Don’t use Google for embarrassing searches that might cost you money during a divorce, for example. All that information can be subpoenaed by lawyers.)

Even Facebook tracks you across the internet. According to Weinberg, the social media company “operates a massive hidden tracker network.” He claims they’re “lurking behind about 25% of the top million sites, where consumers don’t expect to be tracked by Facebook.” And, as of now, there is no way to opt out of this so-called “experience.” (Don’t forget: Facebook owns Instagram.)

And since there are no digital privacy laws currently active in the United States, at the time of this writing anyway, consumers are forced to vote with their attention and time once again. As it stands now, companies are not required by federal law to share what information they collect, how it’s used, and whether or not it’s even been stolen. You’ve got to protect yourself by choosing your platforms and tools wisely.

As for DuckDuckGo, they do not track you or store your personal information. And while they do have some advertising on their platform for revenue purposes, you only see ads for what you search for — and those ads won’t stalk you around the web like a rabid spider.

2. DUCKDUCKGO IS A COMPANY WITH SERIOUS BALLS

DuckDuckGo browser
DUCKDUCKGO

Weinberg resembles a younger, techier version of Eric Bana, and he’s got the same gall of the actor/rally racer. Case in point: in 2011, Weinberg pulled a highly successful publicity stunt for his alternative search engine by strategically placing a billboard right in Google’s backyard that called out the company for tracking its users. It earned the scrappy start-up valuable press from the likes of USA Today, Business Insider and Wired.

For those opposed to Google’s handling of users’ data, the billboard represented a major burn. Of course, it’s just one of the many ways Weinberg helped his company gain users. I highly recommend Traction, a wildly useful book co-written by Weinberg and Justin Mares. It’s a must-read for any start-up founder or creative entrepreneur.

3. KEEP YOUR SEARCHES PRIVATE & EFFICIENT

DuckDuckGo browser

DUCKDUCKGO

As for working with search engines, think of all the “embarrassing searches” you wish to keep private, whatever they may be. Now imagine that Google has all that information stored indefinitely — plus, it can be held against you in a court of law. Scary stuff, right? Turns out that what you search for online can be far more sensitive than the things you openly share on social media platforms. So how can you keep that stuff private?

In 2017 DuckDuckGo was able to integrate with the Brave Browser to provide a potential solution. With most browsers, websites can still track and monitor your behavior, even while you’re in “private browsing mode.” However, with this new combination of Brave’s privacy protection features and DuckDuckGo’s private search capabilities, you can surf the web without having your search terms or personal information collected, sold or shared.

But that’s not the only thing DuckDuckGo has to offer for a more empowered user experience. Another feature the search engine has become known for are “bangs!” Here’s how they work.

DuckDuckGo browser
DUCKDUCKGO

Random example: Let’s say you want to find Camille Paglia books on Amazon. If you were to search via Google, you might type “site: amazon camille paglia.” Your results might look like this:

DuckDuckGo browser

GOOGLE

Now let’s say you do the same thing with DuckDuckGo’s bangs. In this case, you would type “!a Camille Paglia.” Here’s what you’d get:

DuckDuckGo browser

AMAZON

Bang! You’re right there on Amazon, redirected to their internal search page from DuckDuckGo.

Of course, you might be thinking, “Why not just search Amazon.com for the answer, to begin with?” Well, bangs aren’t just for searching Amazon. You can use bangs to search nearly 11,000 sites (as of this writing), including eBay, YouTube (owned by Google), Wikipedia, Instagram and more. You can even suggest new ones.

Plus, with DuckDuckGo, you can see social media profiles by searching the user’s handle, explore app stores and discover alternative apps, shorten and expand links/URLs, generate complex passwords, find rhymes, determine whether or not sites are down (or if it’s really just you), calculate loan payments, receive instant answers to questions and more — all without having to leave the search engine.

4. IT’S GROWING — FAST

DuckDuckGo browser

DUCKDUCKGO

In a sense, Weinberg has achieved his initial goal of creating a search engine that offers a more direct and spam-free user experience. It just also happens to be much more private and way less creepy than the buzzword alternatives. Perhaps that’s why it’s growing so damn fast — 10 years after launching, that is.

In fact, 2017 was a monumental year for DuckDuckGo, accounting for 36% of all searches ever conducted through the search engine. It was also during 2017 that the company achieved 55% growth in daily private searches, crossing the threshold of 20 million private searches a day. Sure, the experience isn’t as highly customized as Google’s — which relies on your personal data to fine-tune results — but this little search engine that could still manage to provide solid, relevant results without infringing on your personal privacy.

5. BALANCING THE SCALES OF GOOD & EVIL

DuckDuckGo browser

DUCKDUCKGO

When Google first started, it touted the mantra “Don’t be evil.” Curiously, it’s since changed to “Do the right thing.” It’s only now that most users have started to ask, “Do the right thing for whom?” And in light of the recent Facebook scandals, these same users are starting to wonder, “What the hell is my data actually being used for? Who does it benefit? And who actually has it?” Unsurprisingly, these are turning into the biggest questions of our time.

In the past, users assumed they had nothing to hide, and that it was even shameful to consider hiding their internet histories or online preferences. “Nobody cares about me. I’m nobody.” But to a major data company, one without constraints, how you spend your time and money, with whom, and on what sites can easily be sold to the highest bidder at your expense. So while Dax the Duck may not need to say, “We’re a source for good,” the brains behind DuckDuckGo seem to be balancing the scales in that direction anyway.

Through their donations to private organizations, as well as their micro-sites providing eye-opening data, various email campaigns to help internet users maintain their privacy, and plenty of generous content outlining the trouble with “informed consent” online, DuckDuckGo has become a force for good in the digital age. Of course, Google doesn’t have to become obsolete in the process — they still offer some remarkable services — but there need to be more alternatives if only to provide a choice. What do you want as a search engine user? And how do you want your information to be handled?

That’s the real service DuckDuckGo provides: it gives you the option to say no to track. And without real policies in place in the U.S. to protect internet users, your best bet for privacy and data protection may just be to #ComeToTheDuckSide. end

 

Categorized in Search Engine

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines security as measures taken to guard against espionage or sabotage, crime, attack, or escape. Those descriptive words also apply to the protections you must take when you're online to safeguard your security and privacy. We all realize by now that the Internet is full of hackers looking to steal anything of value, but worse yet, the government that has pledged to be ‘by the people, for the people’ often intrudes on our privacy in the name of national security.

This guide, however, is not for those engaged in covert activities that need would shielding from the prying eyes of the NSA. It is intended to be a basic guide for people who use the Internet on a daily basis for:

  • Work
  • Social Media Activity
  • E-commerce

Whether your online activity is largely confined to a desktop, or you're a mobile warrior on the go, implementing the proper security and privacy protocols can protect you from hackers and also prevent your ISP provider from knowing every single website you’ve ever accessed.

What follows is a basic guide that anyone can use to beef up online security and ensure as much privacy as possible, while being mindful that total anonymity on the Web is nearly impossible.

ONLINE SECURITY FOR DESKTOPS, LAPTOPS, AND MOBILE DEVICES

Install Software Updates

At the minimum, you need to make sure that you install the most recent software updates on all your desktop and mobile devices. We know that updates can be a pain, but they can ensure that your software is as secure as possible.

In fact, you will often notice that many update messages are related to some type of security glitch that could make it easier for someone to gain access to your information through the most common browsers such as Firefox, Safari and Chrome.

If you take your sweet time installing an update, it gives hackers that much more time to gain access to your system through the security flaw that the update was designed to fix.

Most of the major brands such as Apple and Samsung will send users messages on their desktops, laptops and mobile devices the moment they release a security update.

For example, Apple recently released new security updates for its iPhones, iPads and Macs for a computer chip flaw known as Spectre. This flaw affected billions of devices across all the major systems, including iOS.

Apple immediately sent a message to all its mobile users to install an update, which included security patches to block hackers from exploiting the flaw in the chip. The company also sent emails to desktop users to install Mac OS High Sierra 10.13.2, which included fixes to Safari for laptops and desktops.

The point is that you don’t need to worry that you won’t get these update prompts, because it’s in the best interests of the major brands to keep a massive hack from occurring. But if you want to ensure that you never miss an important update, there are several tools that can help you achieve this goal...

Update Tools for Mac Users

MacUpdate/MacUpdate Desktop – These two companion apps scan your desktop or mobile devices to locate software that needs updating. The desktop version has a menu bar that informs you when a software update is complete. The basic updating function is free to all users, but there are premium tiers that are ad-free, and include a credit system that rewards you for every new software you buy.

Software Update – This is a built-in app that you access through the Apple menu that opens the Mac App Store app and lets you click on the Updates tab. Software Update analyzes all the apps you’ve downloaded from the Mac App store to see if they’re updated. It does the same thing for your operating system software, which is a nice bonus.

Update Tools for PC Users

Patch My PC – If you choose the auto-update feature on this free tool, it automatically installs software patches on any application that has a security update. If you run the manual version, the program quickly scrolls through updated and non-updated applications and lets you check the ones you want to update and patch. One other useful aspect of this program is that you can run it using a flash drive.

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF ENCRYPTION

Encryption is a fancy word for a code that protects information from being accessed. There are various levels of encryption, and at the highest levels, encryption offers you the strongest protection when you are online. Encryption scrambles your online activity into what looks like a garbled, unidentifiable mess to anyone who doesn’t have the code to translate that mess back to its real content.

The reason this is important is that protecting your devices with only a password won’t do much to protect your data if a thief steals the device, accesses the drive and copies the data onto an external drive. If that device is encrypted, the data that the thief accesses and ports to another drive will still remain encrypted, and depend on the level of encryption, it will either take that thief a long time to break the code, or the thief will not be able to crack it.

Before we dive into some of the basics of encrypting desktops and mobile devices, remember that encryption has some drawbacks.

  • The main one is that if you lose the encryption key, it can be very difficult to access your data again. 
  • Second, encryption will affect the speed of your device because it saps the capacity of your processor.

This is a small price to pay, however, for all the benefits encryption offers in terms of security from intrusion and privacy from prying eyes that want to know exactly what you’re up to on the Internet.

Basic Encryption for Apple Devices

If you own an Apple mobile device such as an iPhone or iPad, these devices are sold with encryption as a standard feature, so all you need is a good passcode.

If you own a Mac desktop or laptop device, you can encrypt your device by using the FileVault disk encryption program that you access through the System Preferences menu under the ‘Security’ pull-down. Just follow the easy-to-understand directions to obtain your encryption key.

Basic Encryption for PCs and Android Devices

If you own a PC, you will need to manually encrypt your device. You can encrypt the newer PC models using BitLocker, a tool that’s built into Windows. BitLocker is only available if you buy the Professional or Enterprise versions of Windows 8 and 10, or the Ultimate version of Windows 7.

If you choose not to use BitLocker, Windows 8.1 Home and Pro versions include a device encryption feature that functions very much like BitLocker.

Newer Android phones including the Nexus 6 and Nexus 9, have default encryption. But for phones that are not encryption enabled, the process is not difficult.

For phones and tablets that run on Android 5.0 or higher, you can access the Security menu under Settings and select ‘Encrypt phone’ or ‘Encrypt tablet.’ You will have to enter your lock screen password, which is the same password necessary to access your files after encryption.

For phones and tablets that run on Android 4.4 or lower, you must create a lock screen password prior to initiating the encryption process.

PROTECT YOUR TEXT MESSAGING

Even before Edward Snowden became a household name with his explosive revelations about the extent of NSA’s wiretapping of Americans, it was obvious that text messages were vulnerable to interception by outside parties.

What’s even more insidious is that the information generated from your text messages, which is known as metadata, is extremely valuable. Metadata includes information about whom you communicate with, where that communication takes place and at what time.

Hackers and government agencies can learn a great deal about you through metadata, which is why it’s so important for you to protect the privacy of your text messages.

Fortunately, there are applications you can install to encrypt your text messages after they are sent to another person, and many don’t collect metadata.

Tools to Encrypt Your Text Messages

The signal is a free app that provides end-to-end encryption for Android and iOS, which means that only the people who are communicating on the text message can read the messages.

Any other party would need the encryption key to decrypt the conversation, and that includes the company that owns the messaging service. One of the big advantages of using Signal is that it collects very little metadata.

Another popular encrypted messaging service is WhatsApp, owned by Facebook, which works mostly on mobile devices. Remember to turn off all backups on your WhatsApp account by accessing Chats, then Chat Backup and setting Auto Backup to Off. This turns off backups on the app and the cloud.

If you don’t disable the Auto Backup feature, government and law enforcement agencies can access the backup with a search warrant. Why is that so risky? Because end-to-end encryption only covers the transmission of your messages and doesn’t protect messages that are in storage. In other words, law enforcement or government agencies could read the text messages stored in a cloud backup.

One other thing to remember is that although WhatsApp is considered one of the more secure apps for encrypting text messages, it does collect metadata.

And if a government or law enforcement agency obtained a search warrant, it could force Facebook to turn over that metadata, which would reveal things you might want kept private such as IP addresses and location data.

PROTECT YOUR BROWSING HISTORY

Whenever you’re on the Internet, there are people trying to see what you’re doing, when you’re doing it and how often you’re doing it. Not all these prying eyes have ill intent, and in many cases, they are marketers who are trying to track your online movements so they can target you for ads and offers. But enterprising hackers are also monitoring your activities, looking for weaknesses they can target to obtain your personal information. And your Internet Service Provider (ISP) gathers a ton of information based on your browsing history.

In the face of all these threats to privacy, how do you protect yourself when you’re online?

You can use a virtual private network (VPN), which acts exactly the way a standard browser does, but lets you do it anonymously. When you use a VPN, you connect to the Internet using the VPN provider’s service. All transmissions that occur when you get online with your mobile phone, tablet, desktop or laptop are encrypted. This protects all your online activity from the government as well as from your ISP, lets you access sites that would normally be restricted by your geographical location, and shields you from intrusion when you are at a public hotspot.

If someone tries to track your activity, your IP address will appear as that of the VPN server, which makes it nearly impossible for anyone to know your exact location, or your actual IP address. However, VPNs don’t provide you with total anonymity, because the VPN provider knows your real IP address as well as the sites you’ve been accessing. Some VPN providers offer a ‘no-logs’ policy, which means that they don’t keep any logs of your online activities.

This can be hugely important if you are up to something that the government takes an interest in, such as leading a protest group, and you want to make sure none of your online activities can be tracked.

But VPN providers are vulnerable to government search warrants and demands for information and must measure the possibility of going to jail by keeping your activity private, versus giving up your information and staying in business.

That’s why if you choose to go with a VPN, it’s important to do the research on a provider’s history and reputation. For example, there are 14 countries in the world that have shared agreements about spying on their citizens and sharing the information they unearth with each other. It may not surprise you to learn that the U.S,  Canada, United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Italy are all part of that alliance.

What may surprise you is that it’s best to avoid any VPNs that are based in one of these 14 countries, because of their data retention laws and gag orders which prevent VPN providers from telling their customers when a government agency has requested information on their online activities.

If you’re serious about VPNs and want to know which are trustworthy and which aren’t worth your time, we’ve done a pretty extensive review of VPN services that you can access here. Used correctly, VPNs can provide you with a high degree of privacy when you’re online, but in an era in which billions have joined social media platforms such as Facebook, and services such as Google, what are the privacy risks related to how these companies use your personal information?

HOW THE HEAVY HITTERS USE YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION

Facebook

There isn’t much privacy when you join Facebook, especially since the company’s privacy policy blatantly states that it monitors how you use the platform, the type of content you view or interact with, the number of times you’re on the site, how long you spend on the site, and all the other sites that you browse when you’re not on Facebook.

How does Facebook know that little nugget? By tracking the number of times you click ‘Like’ on any site that includes a Facebook button.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do to make Facebook more private. You can access the ‘Download Your Information’ tool to know exactly what the site has on you, and you can check your activity log to track your actions since you joined Facebook, but that’s about it.

Deleting your account will remove your personal information, but any information about you that your followers have shared in a post will remain on the site.

Google

Google stores personal information such as your name, email contact, telephone number, how you use the service, how you use sites with Ad Words, your search inquiries, and location tracking. More importantly, your name, email address, and photo are publically available unless you opt out.

To protect some of your privacy, you can edit a number of preferences, turn off location tracking, change your public profile and read what information Google has collected on you through the company’s data board.

Apple

Apple’s privacy policy states that it collects information such as your name, contacts and music library content, and relays them to its own servers using encryption. Apple’s News app analyzes your reading preferences to match them to ads targeted toward what you like.

Targeted advertising is one of Apple’s biggest con jobs, and that’s said with respect for the company’s ability to print money like no other business on earth. Apple has created ad-blocking technology in its iOS software to prevent outside companies from reaching its customers.

But it makes no bones about using personal information and personal preferences culled from its customers to supply them with an endless stream of targeted and intrusive ads.

You can opt out of what Apple calls ‘interest-based ads’, but the company pretty much lets you figure this out on your own.

Amazon

Amazon collects a ton of person information, including name, address, phone number, email, credit card information, list of items bought, Wish List items, browsing history, names, addresses and phone numbers of every person who has ever received an Amazon product or service from you, reviews you’ve posted, and requests for product availability alerts.

It isn’t much you can do to keep Amazon from being intrusive unless you’re not planning on using the site for purchases. For example, Amazon uses ‘cookies,’ which are snippets of data that attach to your browser when you visit the site.

Cookies activate convenient features such as 1-Click purchasing and generate recommendations when you revisit Amazon, but they also allow Amazon to send you ads when you’re on another website, which can feel like an invasion of privacy and are also annoying.

The problem is if you opt to turn off cookies on your Amazon account, you won’t be able to add items to your shopping cart or do anything that requires a sign-in, which pretty much eliminates all your buying options.

That gives you a general overview of how some of the big brands use your data so you’re aware of the implications of providing your personal information. Let’s wrap things up with some frequently asked questions about security and privacy.

FAQ'S ABOUT SECURITY AND PRIVACY

1. Can people really hack me at a coffee shop?

Most coffee shops offer public WiFi that has varying levels of security. In many instances, these free networks are not very secure, and even a low-level hacker could gain access to the transmissions occurring at the coffee shop by setting up a fake hotspot. If you want to get online at a coffee shop, do so through a VPN. If you don’t have a VPN, make sure you’re signing in under the name of the WiFi hotspot, and limit your activity to browsing instead of conducting financial transactions.

2. Is the NSA really watching me via my computer camera?

The NSA definitely has the technology to spy on you through your webcam. Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA has plug-in that can hack cameras and take pictures, record video and turn on the mic on a webcam to act as a listening device. One easy way to thwart this hack is to place a sticker on your webcam lens that prevents a hacker from seeing anything in your home.

3. Can Facebook see my messenger chats and change my feed based on those conversations?

Facebook’s Messenger feature uses security that it says is similar to what banks use to protect their clients’ financial information. Two years ago, Facebook added end-to-end encryption to its messenger feature, but users must activate it because it’s not a default. However, Facebook does use your profile, public photos, and public posts to better customize things such as the content of the News feed it sends to you.

4. When can - or can’t - the government get personal data from companies?

Under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act passed in 1986, government agencies can obtain subpoenas and search warrants to force technology companies like Google or Apple to provide information about a user or a group of users. Companies can refuse based on the Fourth Amendment ban against unreasonable search and seizure, but they face an uphill battle if the request is for a legitimate reason. Recently, Amazon refused an order by the state of Massachusetts to turn over data about third-party sellers. But the company relented after it was served with court order to provide the data or face legal consequences.

THE ONLY CONSTANT IS CHANGE

Privacy and security are two sides of the same coin, and while there is no way to guarantee total privacy or complete security in the digital world, the first step is to understand the tools available to you, and the ways in which your personal data is being used by big companies that want your business.

While this isn’t a comprehensive guide to every aspect of online security and privacy, it provides you with some best practices and important concepts that can help you better understand this complex and ever-changing issue. 

 Written By Alex Grant

Categorized in Internet Privacy

Search has been at the forefront of conversation for advertisers in recent months as the likes of Google, Pinterest and Asos announced their move away from the traditional search to focus on image and voice search. The step back from key words and search engine optimisation (SEO) has also brought around many questions about the use of data, machine learning and the morality of paid search.

At The Drum’s search breakfast, Daniel Wilkonson, head of paid media at Jellyfish, explained why he is worried that brands and marketers might be overlooking image search. Noting Asos’s recent image search update, which allows shoppers to snap an item they like in a shop and find similar items on Asos.com, he said: “I think, especially for fashion brands, image search is a great new way of providing an enhanced customer experience.

“But it can be used for other industries as well, and I think this ties into discovery using image search and discovery. As humans we respond better to images and videos, rather than seeing a text. The search pages, there are more images and videos now. And I think that is going to continue to grow.”

Moving on from image search

While also excited about the advancements in search, Thom Arkestal, head of insights EMEA, Microsoft Advertising, said: “image search will be one of the searches of future,” but noted that this is nothing new dubbing it “a big industry secret.”

He added: “If you look at where the industry is heading in digital advertising in general, search is becoming core to almost everything.”

However, while image search is expected to become important to brands and marketers, he also believes the future is automation and machine learning. “I wouldn’t talk about AI necessarily, but machine learning. It has automated bidding which is core as a search advertiser. I actually think in one or two years from now, it will question what I am going to do on a day to day basis.” Arkestal said.

“AI and machine learning are all about image search and voice search. Those capabilities and technologies are going to be core to search and that is where search and consumer engagement is headed.”

Due to a surge in customer data, brands and marketers alike are now able to use AI and machine learning to find a customers need and promote better results in search using these insights. This is something the likes of Amazon is already promoting with its repurchase function.

Can digital assistants provide paid search result?

A point that seems to be echoed throughout the industry however is how brands will be able to monetize voice search. While Google is the most trusted place for searches, Jon Hunter, search director at Every1, explains that this is due to their years of generating natural search results. While Google does use a user's data and machine learning capabilities to perhaps promote ads, the search results are predominantly natural.

However, when it comes to voice search, there is the problem that very few people will want to hear a list of results and will therefore result in only one response spoken back - this could be an issue which will bring to light the integrity of a digital assistant's search results if they are to promote paid search. Hunter asked: “How are search engines going to be able to deal with one value? All you’ve got to do is give one paid result that is bad and the trust is gone.

“There is a certain element where the natural search results are so important and based on trust that if we replace too much of it on advertising it will damage the overall trust values.”

Earlier this year, Amazon dipped its toe into paid voice search however as it stands nothing has come of the trial. Arkestal noted the attempt and suggested that all digital assistant companies are working to solve the problem of paid voice search. He said: “The fact is that the core of digital assistants future is consumer trust. If there is no trust, people are not going to use them and then they cannot be monetized.

“It might actually be more of what Amazon is doing with Alexa at now with a repeat purchase prospective and a chance to reengage with a customer. It is further away from discovery and current search but it is about building a loyalty with customers.

“If you already are using your voice, then the digital assistant will already be learning what your preferred brand is.”

Source: This article was published thedrum.com By Jenny Cleeton

Categorized in Search Engine

Wait, you say that Amazon is an eCommerce retailer, not a search engine. So what gives with the headline to this story?

A recent study commissioned by marketing technology company Kenshoo found some interesting results. And Google may need to pay attention as this survey was conducted in four countries and included in-store usage.

ALMOST 3/4 OF BUYERS SEARCH AMAZON FOR PRODUCT INFORMATION

72 percent of shoppers go to Amazon to learn more about a product before they make buying decision. This research includes product details, pricing, and reviews.

Over 26 percent of shoppers browsing in a retail store admit to using Amazon to learn more about a product, its features, reviews, and pricing when in a physical store.

Over half (56%) of Amazon users stated they visit Amazon first to research products.

But Google still ranks top at 85% for product research, followed by Amazon (72%), with eBay ranked third at 38%, and all other eCommerce sites at 36%. But the gap might be closing rapidly.

previous story we wrote about U.S. consumer behavior suggested a higher rate by U.S. shoppers using Amazon for product search and only included online consumer shopping.

This new study took an international approach by including three other large eCommerce markets and physical store engagement.

1,000 consumers completed the survey in the USA, and 700 in each of Germany, UK, and France and the study was conducted through Toluna QuickSurveys during August 2017.

IS RETAIL SALES CONSULTATION DEAD?

As the retail industry continues to see the erosion of their physical space, now one of its main selling points, knowledgeable sales staff, maybe the next victim of eCommerce.

Smartphones are changing the way we shop and Smart Grocery store concepts such as Alibaba’s Hema store, show that more shoppers are adapting quickly to mobile research.

In turn, this puts pressure on the need of retail salespeople as they become less a source of product information.

Consumer behavior changed to the point where a shopper is more likely to trust reviews and information found online versus sales staff.

RETAILERS NEED TO CHANGE

In the United States, Best Buy provides QR codes on most products displays in their stores.

These codes make it easy for shoppers to access the bestbuy.com product page on their smartphone quickly. And of course, by keeping them on their site, they are less likely to check Amazon or other competitors.

With Amazon becoming a “product search engine,” this type of in-store strategy may be necessary for retailers to avoid sales leakage and comparison shopping on Amazon.

Therefore, if you own an eCommerce store and a physical shop, this could be a strategy to employ as well.

Just today we posted a story on how Shopify has a new app to generate QR codes, but similar apps should be available for Magento, WooCommerce and other eCommerce Platforms.

What do you think about Amazon is now the new “search engine” for products? We love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

 

Source: This article was published esellercafe.com By Richard Meldner

 

Categorized in Search Engine

Visitors embrace the online retailer’s move into the physical world – even if the brick-and-mortar store serves in large part as an ad for Amazon Prime

Drop in for a book. Walk out with a smart watch.

Shopping in one of Amazon’s brand-new, three-dimensional bookstores affords visitors the opportunity to buy many things that aren’t books. A hands-free sous vide, for example. Or a tablet computer. Or a smart speaker equipped with Amazon’s “Alexa” virtual butler app.

At a grand opening Thursday for Amazon’s first bookstore in New York City, the mystery in the air was why a company that had changed the world by taking retail sales online would reverse direction and move into brick-and-mortar. The New York location is the seventh Amazon bookstore to open nationally since 2015, with six additional stores planned to open by the end of the year.

It’s clearly a bookstore chain. The question is: what are they selling? And what greater strategy may be afoot?

Setting aside for a moment those questions (spoiler alert: Amazondeclined to directly comment), the Guardian encountered the new retail space, inside the Time Warner Center mall at Columbus Circle, on its own terms, through customers’ eyes.

It looks like a modern bookstore, with a table of featured titles up front (The Oxford Companion to Wine, Trevor Noah: Born a Crime, etc) and ranks of shelves organized by the usual categories (fiction top sellers, travel, ages 3-7, etc).

‘I think it’s so ironic that so many wonderful bookstores were put out of business because of them, and now they’re opening up a bookstore,’ said one customer.

 ‘I think it’s so ironic that so many wonderful bookstores were put out of business because of them, and now they’re opening up a bookstore,’ said one customer. Photograph: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

There are some distinctly Amazon – and passing strange – features, such as technology stands where customers can scan books to see what kind of a discount they might get as members of Amazon Prime, the subscriptions program.

Also unique here: the section called “Page turners: books Kindle readers finish in three days or less”. Amazon can track how quickly people who purchase books on Kindle read them, a company spokesperson explained, without explaining how.

Matt Lantin, 21, an economics major shopping for self-help books, admired how every book at the store was displayed so that its full cover, and not just its spine, was visible. At Amazon Books, every title is a featured title.

“They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but in this case, not only can you see the cover, but you can also see the review below it,” Lantin said, after requesting a moment to compose his comment.

Displaying books face-out, however, eats up shelf space fast. At 4,000 square feet, the Columbus Circle store features 3,000 titles at any time, according to the company. Further gobbling shelf space: about one-quarter of the retail floor is given over to sales of non-books. That includes things like Bose speakers, French presses and instant cameras, but also a lot of Amazon hardware: Kindles, hard drives, the aforementioned smart speakers and the Amazon Fire, the company’s bestselling answer to the iPad.

Yvonne Reid, 54, who works elsewhere in the Time Warner complex and had stopped in to see whether she could pick up a copy of Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life ... And Maybe the World, judged the bookstore to be “beautiful”, but lacking in hangout space.

“I’m sorry that they don’t have more space where kids can come and sit and read,” said Reid, who reminisced about spending hours at Barnes & Noble when her kids were younger. “This does seem like more of a take-your-book-and-run kind of a thing.”

The arrival of Amazon bookstores, Reid noted, was part of a bigger picture.

“I think it’s so ironic that so many wonderful bookstores were put out of business because of them, and now they’re opening up a bookstore,” Reid said. “But I think it’s nice.”

An Amazon spokesperson declined to comment on that observation.

Dan Simon, the founder and publisher of the New York City-based Seven Stories Press, said Reid’s comment was accurate.

“They really did drive bookstores out of business,” said Simon, noting that Amazon added on to damage previously inflicted by big chains such as Borders and Barnes & Noble.

“But the upside of that was after 30 years, what we have now is a culture of bookselling that has survived all those things, and is incredibly vibrant and tough. There’s a small-business acumen among booksellers in the US today that is unmatched.”

Simon (a former colleague of this reporter, it should be disclosed) welcomed the advent of Amazon Books.

“It’s such a dynamic time now in the marketplace of books that on one side, another sort of bookstore is a good thing, plain and simply,” he said. “We want more physical bookstores.

“On the other side, it’s important to note that these stores are pretty small. Four thousand square feet – it’s not tiny, but the superstores were like 25,000, 30,000 square feet. So this is a small store. It’s not going to have a wide selection.”

About one-quarter of the retail floor is given over to sales of non-books.

 About one-quarter of the retail floor is given over to sales of non-books. Photograph: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

Official Amazon verbiage says the bookstore “is all about discovery” and offers readers a connection “to a community of millions of booklovers” whose reviews of the books on sale are displayed in the store. But like everything else in the store, you don’t have to leave home to get that: those reviews are available – and more readily – online.

Meanwhile, Amazon is in a battle of giants, vying with Google and Apple for markets such as consumer technology that dwarf the market for books. The brick-and-mortar retail experience is central to Apple’s strategy. Google has opened pop-up stores and is increasingly focused on physical stores.

It’s hard to miss how much the stores are also an advertisement for Amazon Prime, with their technology stands as unnecessarily staged revelations for consumers of how much they might be “saving” if they signed up.

“Our goal of Amazon Books is to help customers and readers discover great books,” an Amazon spokesperson said.

Among all the hundreds of millions of products Amazon sells, Simon said, there are good reasons the company would choose to sell books in physical stores. The stores strengthen the company’s hold on the growing self-publishing market, ensuring a physical retail outlet for those titles, he said. Books were Amazon’s original product. And books are unique.

“The store points up one of the great truths of this historical moment in books, which is, even though Amazon is probably selling about half the books that are being sold, the online experience is not really a good one for books,” he said. “Plenty of people buy everything online, but not books. Because you want to touch them, you want to open them up. You want to hold them in your hand. You want to discover things that you aren’t looking for.”

Reid, the drop-in customer, said there was no second-guessing Amazon’s decision.

“I love the bookstore,” she said. “You can actually touch the book.”

Source: This article was published theguardian.com By Tom

Categorized in Social

Amazon.com likes to change the rules. First it sold books online. Then it launched an online shopping revolution. When it started the subscription service Amazon Prime, customers received two-day shipments for free. Each innovation caused a paradigm shift in how we shop and entertain ourselves.

Amazon is not without competition. Walmart has definitely taken aim. Click here to learn which site offers cheaper prices, Amazon or Walmart.

More than 65 million people were actively enrolled in Amazon Prime last year, paying $10.99 per month or $99 per year. Many customers use their accounts for free shipping, but they don’t realize that there are other terrific benefits as well. Here are nine Prime perks you may not be using.

Free same-day delivery

It sounds too good to be true: You order an item, and someone hand-delivers it within a few hours. How is this possible? Amazon Prime Now usually works like this. You can order a product by noon and expect to receive it by 9 p.m., sometimes even within an hour. Click here to learn more about same-day delivery.

Share benefits with others

There you were, enjoying the rewards of an Amazon Prime membership, when you moved in with your significant other, who also orders a lot of stuff online. You can share the same Prime membership with two other adults in your household. To do this, go to Account Settings >> Manage Your Content and Devices >> Settings >> Holds and Family Library >> Invite Adult.

    Tip in a tip: Shopping on Amazon the right way is more than clicking items and loading up your cart. Once you learn a few tricks, you’ll find sales and price cuts that you never imagined possible. Click here for five insider secrets to save money on Amazon.com.

    Watch streaming video

    Amazon Studios gained global attention at the 2017 Academy Awards when Casey Affleck won Best Actor for “Manchester by the Sea.” Like Netflix and Hulu, Amazon is producing a wide range of high-quality programs, and critics are giving the retail giant a big thumb’s up.

    Amazon also offers a colossal library of movies and TV series, from HBO flagships like “The Wire” to indie films like “The Lobster.” Keep in mind that not every flick or episode is available for free, but you can easily buy or order a streaming version of almost any movie imaginable. You can also download certain titles to watch offline. Click here for the steps on how to do this.

    Download free music

    Many people enjoy their first year of Prime membership without ever knowing they can download music for free. That’s right: download. You can also stream songs, the same way you stream music on Apple Music, Spotify and Pandora, but you can also choose from more than a million mp3s to keep forever on your phone or computer.

    The Prime Music app is also a handy tool. You can upload your own music library and listen to your songs wherever you go.

    Read free books and magazines

    Amazon started as an online bookstore, so it’s no wonder the megastore would nod to its roots with free volumes on Kindle. Amazon Prime reading offers you a trove of ebooks, comics and magazines that you can download at no charge to pretty much any device.

    The selections rotate regularly, just as they do for Prime Video. So if the book you want to read isn’t there now, it may become available in a few months. Just download the Kindle app and you should be ready to read. Verbophiles can even use the built-in dictionary to look up unfamiliar words.

    Use special cloud storage

    The truth is scary: Many people still don’t back up their hard drives. These folks are always one man-made or natural disaster away from losing all their pictures, music, videos and documents. If you don’t already have a dependable storage service but you do have a Prime membership, you can use Amazon’s handy Cloud Drive, which gives members 5GB of storage for music and videos.

    Even better: You can use Amazon Prints to turn some of those stored photos into beautiful, frame-worthy images. Click here to find out how to print high-quality photos for cheap.

    Order food and domestic goods

    Imagine calling up your supermarket, ordering 45 pounds of groceries, and having them deliver it to your home for an extra $5.99. Sound fantastic? Well, that’s basically what Amazon Pantry does.

    The service is still working out its kinks, so you won’t find the same selection you’d find at your local Super Target. But the idea is catching on, and many customers appreciate its versatility. Prime membership grants you access to a wider array of products. If you like the service, you can also subscribe to Amazon Family for $99, which gets you some extra perks, such as discounts on diapers.

    Get a discount on games

    Diehard gamers love to be the first to nab a new release. Amazon Prime members get a 20 percent discount on video game pre-orders and new releases. This applies to any game that has hit the market within two weeks of ordering. Just keep in mind that it applies only to physical copies of the game, and it doesn’t include console game bundles.

    Get restaurant meals delivered to your door

    Just when you thought DoorDash was a wild innovation, Amazon created its own dining delivery service. Just visit Amazon Restaurants and order a multicourse meal. Granted, you have to live in a city where Amazon Prime Now already exists. But if you do, you’re guaranteed to receive your steaming entrée within an hour!

    What other digital life benefits are you missing out on?

    Learn about all the latest technology on the Kim Komando Show, the nation's largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today's digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com.

    Source: This article was published foxnews.com

    Categorized in Social

    We can thank Amazon.com, great enabler of our hoarding habits, for the ease with which we lead our sedentary lives. We've almost acquired enough material stuff to numb the all-consuming fears of death, taxes, the Death Tax, and other people that keep us from going outside at all anymore. Amazon's uncompromising love of efficiency makes it appealing to shut-ins, exciting to venture capitalists, horrifying to anybody who has to work for a living, and just so bloody convenient to busy consumers.

    They have tax issues in the UK .. and everywhere else

    Like any self-respecting brand-conscious Cthulhu of consumerism, Amazon has specialized, hive-like locations all over the world. These spawning beds occupy land in many sovereign nations, each with its own set of tax laws by which it expects Amazon to abide.

    Until a few years ago, Amazon claimed its only physical office was its headquarters located in Seattle, WA — its many warehouses across the US were actually, technically owned by independent contractors. This might sound like a silly distinction, but it had major sales tax implications for the company, since Amazon could claim that its only true (i.e. taxable) location was in Washington. It meant that Amazon could offer the lowest prices without charging its buyers any sales tax. Throw in Amazon's eagerness to sell items at a loss just to push out the competition (more on that later), and you have a community-robbing scenario where Amazon outsells local competition, takes away local jobs, and doesn't even pay its fair share on Tax Day. Do you want joblessness and poverty? Because that's how you get joblessness and poverty.

    Suspected of tax avoidance for years, Amazon's European offices finally came clean in 2015, and quietly decided to pay its share of taxes in the European Union. All it took to motivate "the everything company" was a scandal throughout the global business sector, starting with 2014's massive leak of controversial financial records relating to various multinational corporations. Allegedly, big corporations enjoy exploiting Luxembourg's tax loopholes. (Who knew?)

    It's almost understandable. You don't like paying taxes, Amazon doesn't like paying taxes. Gargantuan conglomerations of corporatized, trade union-smashing, economy-killing planet poisoners — they're just like us! Except, you probably don't funnel your taxable chump change through holding companies in low-tax haven. We bet Euros to European donuts that you didn't have an almost two-decade-long understanding with Luxembourg's prime minister, which was interrupted unceremoniously by LuxLeaks. Furthermore, we doubt that the revenue you made from millions of online transactions during each tax year throughout the European Union was then systematically shuffled into Belgian holding companies, where it could be taxed in a lighter, gentler, and more loving manner than they would've been elsewhere in the EU. Other than that, you're just like them!

    They were sued for using cookies to mine customers' private data

    In this 2003 article on Amazon's algorithms, the company's mastery of sorting through data is revealed. Having been in the product-recommending game since 1994, Amazon has four more years of experience than Google with using private citizens' data to generate curated content. Nobody does it better, and that's where the trouble comes in.

    You know those notices you see on sites that use cookies? They seem to be more prominent than ever, because cookies now have a lot of power … and it's not all delicious. Cookies track users' habits right down to the keystroke, and even the coordinates of your mouse's cursor in some cases. The data collected can tell an incredible amount of information about you, what you buy, what you read, what you chat about, what you post about, your browsing habits, who you are online, and when you are offline. Amazon uses Flash cookies to collect such data on private citizens for its targeted ads, and they collect a lot.

    The question is, at what point does data collection become privacy invasion? Del Vecchio v. Amazon sought a court's opinion on the matter. The court's' answer was, "We don't understand the question because we can't imagine that the way we're already doing things might not be the right one." More or less. In the actual words of the court: "Demographic information is constantly collected on all consumers by marketers, mail-order catalogues and retailers … we are unaware of any court that has held the value of this collected information constitutes damage to consumers or unjust enrichment to collectors."

    It sounds like the judge wasn't willing to break with precedent and do battle with the Amazonian beast's insatiable hunger for your sensitive information. Perhaps cuz he just scored some sweet free shipping on his new tablet.

    Amazon uses intimidation to quiet dissent

    Scary monsters intimidate us. Amazon, the two-day-shipping-taloned Gorgon of Globalization, uses intimidation to paralyze dissenters. In order to make it at Amazon, you must "obsess over customers," according to the company's founder in a letter to shareholders written back in 1997. If you're not obsessive enough, if you're not pathologically driven to work as hard as you possibly can to bolster the Amazon brand, or if you accumulate one too many strikes for standing still on the warehouse floor, you'll be chased out real quickly.

    "Amazon is where overachievers go to feel bad about themselves," one former employee told The New York Times in 2015. "If you're a good Amazonian, you become an Amabot," said another former employee. An Amabot is the ideal Amazon employee — an automaton with human features, an exemplary android falling in line with the capitalists' march to nowhere. It's what every Amazon employee aspires to be. Just don't get caught violating the (Amazon) Prime Directive.

    Amazon, as you'd expect, denies the allegations. Bezos went so far as to say that, if he worked at a company like the one described in the article, he would quit. Is that a promise?

    A "screwup" once barred LGBT authors from getting on the Amazon Bestsellers list

    Societal norms are always changing. Search engines must contend with filtering out unsuitable content, while returning appropriate results for users' queries. In particular, language about sex and sexual identity present a challenge to coders. How do we guide the customer to other "similar" products without running afoul of common decency?

    In 2009, it looked like Amazon's bookselling department had suddenly found the answer. What do authors Annie Proulx, E.M. Forster, Jeanette Winterson, Gore Vidal, and D.H. Lawrence have in common? They're all hugely popular, yes, but also there's how their best books were algorithmically stripped of their bestselling ranks on Amazon in 2009, all because a "family-friendly" algorithm didn't approve of the books' sexual content.

    A company employee chalked it up to a "glitch" and a "screwup." Thanks to the popularity of the Twitter hashtag #AmazonFail, and Bezos's ensuing PR nightmare, employees had to cut their Easter weekends short to go in and correct the code. According to the employee, once it was identified, it was easy to fix. Basically, some defective Amabot had switched the parameter for adult content from "false" to "true" on books containing any homosexual content at all, regardless of cultural significance. If it's that easy, what's to stop another seemingly politically motivated "glitch" from happening again — hashtags?

    Amazon wants its employees to be workaholics, allegedly doesn't care about work-life balance

    If the company's response to the #AmazonFail debacle tells us anything for certain, it's that Amazon has little regard for its employees' holiday weekends. Seriously, couldn't the company have released a statement and waited until after the holiday weekend to have employees fix the issue? Sure. Would Amazon's stock and reputation have recovered? Almost definitely. Yet, instead of letting employees enjoy their weekends, the company demanded immediate resolution of the issue to satisfy investors. Work-life balance? Please.

    Amazon's disregard for its employees' well-being goes well beyond dragging coders in on Easter Sunday. In its enormous warehouses around the U.S., sat navs track employees by GPS in real time — think Google Maps for people — mapping out the most efficient paths to the item they need to ship. Get caught standing still or reading Grunge articles, and you get a text message from your boss to pick up the slack. Failing to do so results in immediate dismissal. If you're not fetching items, you're packing them with a functional foreman standing over you to ensure that you keep moving, all while machines tabulate your hourly output rate and ensure that you've packed the boxes in the right, most efficient way. In the immortal words of Pink Floyd, welcome to the machine.

    It's all part of the Amazon Way, the brand's culture of ruthless efficiency, exemplified by a corporate initiative to coerce smaller companies into submission. It was called the Gazelle Program, so named for "the way a cheetah would pursue a sickly gazelle." Not only competitors but workers, too, must submit to the Amazon Way, or be eaten alive by the all-knowing, many-headed, cyborg cheetah.

    Amazon profits from selling Holocaust denial propaganda, even where it's illegal to do so

    You can buy pretty much anything on Amazon. It's like Silk Road except, instead of being a site where criminals can buy unregistered guns, illicit drugs, contracts for killings, and other contraband, it's a site for the legitimate sale of legal consumer goods … most of the time.

    Amazon cares about meeting demand, edging out competition, and boosting stocks. Abiding by the content-specific laws of foreign governments is pretty low on their list of priorities. Like, if you live in a place where racist, anti-Semitic propaganda has been outlawed, Amazon will probably sell and ship it to you, anyway.

    Yep, anybody can order Protocols of the Elders of Zion (fraudulent notes from a fictitious meeting of world-controlling Jews), or The Turner Diaries (a race war genocidal fantasy that has been called the "Bible of the racist right" by the FBI, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center), or Le Camp Des Saints from Amazon. Le Camp Des Saints is a French novel about the dangers of immigration. Spoiler alert: idiots' xenophobic fears confirmed! Collapse of civilization imminent!

    That said, while certainly distasteful, these books are works of fiction, so it's possible to argue their cultural significance. Inexcusable, however, is Amazon's profiting on the sale of neo-Nazi diatribes like Synagogue of Satan and Did Six Million Really Die?, which presents itself as a scientific, skeptical expose, but is actually pseudoscientific humbug, hate speech in a lab coat. Amazon's complicity in the dissemination of neo-Nazi propaganda in the U.S. might not be a good look but it's (arguably) protected by the Constitution. In places like Germany, though, Holocaust denial is a criminal act punishable by a five-year prison sentence … unless you're Amazon, apparently, and you're just facilitating it.

    Amazon encourages Prime retailers to price-gouge

    It's a paradox, but for two decades, Amazon never turned a profit. (That changed only recently.) The company's modus operandi has always been to offer the lowest prices, even if it means selling products at a loss. If you're an Amazon retailer, you're pressured to cut prices. Most retailers end up abiding by the abrasive requirements, banking on Amazon's name recognition, customer base, and worldwide reach to make up for the lost revenue.

    All of this is null and void, by the way, if the retailer offers free shipping for Amazon Prime products. According to a lawsuit filed in 2014, Amazon suggests raising prices on those items, in order to recoup the shipping costs. Tack on a few extra bucks to the retail price and call it "free shipping." Yeah, that sounds legit to us.

    Kindle Direct Publishing is becoming the only choice for e-book publishers … and it's rigged

    Amazon will distribute criticism of its own brand … for a cut of the profits, of course. In a testament to its monopolistic control, the company sells books that criticize its business practices and corporate culture. The implied message is that no criticism could bring down the Amazon brand, which is an ungodly sort of power. It's like the NFL promoting the Concussion movie, or Facebook promoting The Social Network, or a Catholic church offering the works of Church of Satan founder Anton LaVey in exchange for a donation.

    Why can it afford to do this? It's the only game in town for e-book sellers, that's why. Amazon sells two-thirds of the world's ebooks, and it uses ruthless tactics like, until recently, employing industry insiders like Laurence J. Kirshbaum to push traditional publishers out of the picture. Kirshbaum was well-liked all across the world of traditional publishing, until he joined forces with Bezos.

    Kirshbaum's fall from grace in the tabloids has been a strange one, but not necessarily as strange as his willingness to collude with Amazon to bring down the traditional book industry. It was Kirschbaum's then-good reputation that would facilitate the rise of the Kindle empire, and the downfall of bookstores.

    Amazon disrespects religious and cultural traditions to make a buck

    Amazon allegedly permitted retailers in Japan to sell the services of Buddhist monks for ceremonies — specifically, funerals. Naturally, the practice outraged some Buddhists. "Such a thing is allowed in no other country in the world. In this regard, we must say we are disappointed by an attitude toward religion by Amazon," said Akisato Saito, head of the Japan Buddhist Association.

    If you're scratching your head and wondering how such an industry even arose, know that Buddhist temples in Japan depend upon alms. As one monk puts it, "Today, nobody comes to temples asking for us to perform funerals for their parents." Rent-a-monk services are basically a frowned upon way for monks to support themselves, a business out of which Amazon happily took a cut.

    That's not the worst of it. A former corporate manager has alleged that he was the victim of racial discrimination. The plaintiff is an American of Syrian descent, who alleges that he endured "ethnically and religious tinged comments" from other employees at Amazon's offices in Detroit and Seattle. Working at the corporate office sounds almost as bad as working in one of the warehouses.

    It's cooler to hate Wal-Mart than Amazon, but Amazon might be worse

    Wal-Mart. Bunch of NAFTA-exploiting crooks and benefits-denying union-breakers, right? They open up shop, lay waste to local economies, and put hard-working ordinary people out of business. Good thing there's Amazon, so we can get all the same stuff at the same low prices and not feel bad about killing the world to satisfy our petty wants! We submit to its monstrous will, impossible speed, and limitless reach, because they don't make us drive anywhere.

    Many-headed and cheetah-pawed, the treacherous Amazonian amalgamation perches atop the sun-parched remains of humanity's dreams. Weep not for humanity's dreams. Amazon has already promised to build new, luxurious cages with the dream-bones. Your Prime cage should arrive in the next forty-eight hours. USPS tracking information forthcoming.

    Source: This article was published on grunge.com

    Categorized in News & Politics
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