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Kindle Fire - Amazon's new advertising channel

Amazon's soon to be released Kindle Fire will serve you with advertising and marketing whether you like it or not, as there is no mechanism for opting out.

I have to admit that I do like my Kindle. It's only the basic model and I've only had it for six months but I'm already considering updating to a Kindle Fire. Well, I was... until I realised that Amazon are going to make me eat advertising as a condition of owning a Kindle Fire. There's no chance of that happening so I'm sticking with my basic Kindle until such a time as Amazon will let me opt-out.

I discovered this when I was looking on Amazon's website to see if they were offering an upgrade path from my existing model. One of the key features in the Kindle Fire marketing stated: Includes special offers personalised for you and sponsored screensavers. Yeah, it was a key feature, as if this was something to make me want to buy one. I clicked for more information and was informed:

Special Offers, personalised for you, & Sponsored Screensavers You'll receive special offers, personalised for you, and Sponsored Screensavers directly on your Kindle Fire - including offers on items like Kindle accessories or products from our digital catalogue of kindle books, apps, games and MP3, plus many more.Your offers display on your Kindle's screensaver and on the bottom of the home screen-they don't interrupt you while you're using your Kindle Fire.

While I'm sure that some people would welcome a feature like this, I certainly do not. What If I don't want the special offers, can I opt out? I was about to contact Amazon about this but found my answer among the questions and answers:

Special Ooffers display on your Kindle's home screen and screensaver.

By delivering these advertisements on your Kindle, Amazon is able to offer Kindle models with Sspecial Ooffers at a lower price.Special Ooffers are available on Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD.

Currently, Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD are only available with Special Offers.

You can see a screen shot hereLightbox window

So if you want a Kindle Fire then you must be prepared to forgo the rights afforded you by the DPA98 and receive Amazon's special offers. For me, this highlights a huge issue with data protection law in the UK in that it only applies to UK-based companies - of which Amazon.co.uk is not one. The data controllers for Amazon.co.uk are Amazon EU SARL, Amazon Services Europe SARL and Amazon Media EU SARL; all three are based in Luxembourg. There is an Amazon.co.uk Ltd which is based in the UK but it acts only as a data processor on behalf of the data controllers.

Amazon.co.uk do subscribe to U.S.-EU Safe Harbour rules though. These are nowhere near as good as our DPA rights but Safe Harbour does have a Choice rule which states:

Organizations must give individuals the opportunity to choose (opt out) whether their personal information will be disclosed to a third party or used for a purpose incompatible with the purpose for which it was originally collected or subsequently authorized by the individual. For sensitive information, affirmative or explicit (opt in) choice must be given if the information is to be disclosed to a third party or used for a purpose other than its original purpose or the purpose authorized subsequently by the individual.

I guess this explains why Amazon are keen to make the advertising a key feature of the Kindle Fire; if they make it clear that the Kindle will be used for this purpose then it won't be an incompatible purpose. I can't see the Safe Harbour rules being of any use here.

Furthermore, after conducting some online research, I discovered that Amazon.com had adopted the same "compulsory marketing" approach in the US but after much criticism in online forums, Amazon introduced the option to opt-out of the advertising served to the Kindle for a $15 fee. I wonder if they'll be adopting the same approach in the UK? Can you imagine that... having to pay to remove adverts from your screen just because the data controller for Amazon.co.uk is based in Europe. That'll be a slap in the face if it happens; an utter piss take! My opinion of Amazon is going downhill rapidly.

Conclusion

Apart from clothing, I buy about 70% of my products from Amazon.co.uk so this has been a bit of a wake-up call for me. Do I really want to do business on a regular basis with a data controller that does not recognise the rights afforded me as a UK data subject? What I find frustrating is that Amazon do have a UK-based limited company that could act as the data controller for Amazon.co.uk if they wanted to. However, this would then require Amazon.co.uk to comply fully with the DPA98 and our statutory rights as UK data subjects. And were this the case at the moment, then we would all be entitled to submit a section 11 request to Amazon.co.uk and opt-out of any and all adverts delivered to us via our new Kindle Fire. As it is, we're going to have to eat em and smile! Well, you lot are... I'll make do.

In my opinion the Government could be doing more. I'm all for free trade but when an international company specifically adopts a .co.uk domain name in order to appeal specifically to the UK market, then there should be a law requiring the data controller of that website to be based in the UK.

Clearly, Amazon.co.uk have no desire to comply with our rights as UK data subjects. My advice therefore, is to wait until Amazon have implemented a free opt-out functionality for the Kindle Fire advertising before buying one.

Last updated: 25.09.2012