EFF Gives a Tentative Blessing to Amazon’s Silk Browser

Kindle FireWhen Amazon introduced its Silk browser and called it “optimized” because processing is done server-side, my first thought wasn’t, “Wow, this will be faster.” I thought, now we surf with zero privacy.  With Chrome I can surf anonymously, but would I lose that with Silk? The Electronic Frontier Foundation, the international non-profit digital rights advocacy organization had the same question. After meeting with Amazon, they concluded:

Cloud Acceleration can be Turned Off

Right on the first page, users are given the option to switch off optimized browsing, so all requests hit the first DNS server instead of Amazon’s cloud. This on/off feature gives users a chance to test the efficacy Cloud Acceleration when privacy isn’t a concern.

SSL Traffic Does Not Go Through EC2

Even with Cloud Acceleration turned on, HTTPS traffic won’t be intercepted by Amazon’s servers.  So banking, PayPal, or other transactions that require a certificate are treated as if Cloud Acceleration is off, and so is unknown to Amazon.

Logging

Individual identifiers like IP and MAC addresses aren’t associated with browsing history. They’re tied to a session token for troubleshooting and are discarded after 30 days. No information about outgoing requests from Amazon Web Servers are logged.

Remaining Concerns

Amazon is still logging (forever) the URLs you visit. But though the company claims it’s not associating IP or MAC address with a URL, they could do some reverse engineering to figure it out.  Also, Amazon gets a treasure trove of search data that was it previously didn’t have. Regardless of the search engine you choose on the Kindle Fire, with Cloud Acceleration activated, Amazon will know what you’re searching for. EFF also warns that “the content of the EC2 servers’ cache might contain information that could identify an individual.” Surfer be warned.

Though the EFF was generally pleased with the answers from Amazon, at this point we can only take Amazon at it word.  Remember, Apple didn’t reveal that it was recording your locations and movements when using the iPhone or 3G Ipad. That was discovered by two users.

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