A Prime Day promotion highlights the over-extension of browser extensions

Amazon Assistant is one of many browser extensions that collects a surprising amount of user data.

July 19, 2019

Millions of Americans are still shaking e-migraines induced by all that pervasive Prime Day pontification… if you went to sleep with “Instapots are only $50!” ringing in your ears, you’re not alone.

But, because of all that noise, a small, strange detail of Prime Day almost went overlooked: Amazon quietly paid customers $10 to install something called Amazon Assistant.

But what in the name of Bezos’ Bumble profile is Amazon Assistant?

On its face, Amazon Assistant is a browser extension that — according to Amazon — helps consumers compare products and organize wish lists.

Yet the extension also harvests oodles of users’ data, including information about what websites they’re browsing and what products they’re looking at while they’re there.

Amazon’s browser-based surveillance system monitors searches on competitor sites like Walmart.com or Target.com. But, as a Washington Post report reveals, other browser bullies are overextending their extensions even further…

And the extension epidemic is bad news for personal data

Researchers recently discovered that 3.8k extensions — 2% of the extensions available on Chrome — leak sensitive personal data.

Some leak data accidentally, but others intentionally extract and sell it. 

At least 4m people have unwittingly installed extensions that track their browsing behavior and then sell their data — ranging from medical records to flight confirmation numbers to tax information — to the highest bidder.

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