Starting a Fire with Silk

As per my last blog post, talking about the new Facebook’s “Frictionless Sharing,” I have decided to continue my mini-rant on privacy to the new soon-to-be-a-debacle Amazon Fire with its Silk browser. For those of you who missed it last week, Amazon has released their own tablet, called the Amazon Fire, to seemingly rival the iPad. Besides the poor name (which makes me wonder if they actually have to set the Amazon ablaze to make it), Amazon is trying to shift how we do mobile computing. By using processing power and storage in the cloud, the Fire requires very little onboard hardware to operate.

To accomplish this feat, the Fire uses a custom Android ROM and what they are dubbing the Silk browser. Essentially, the Silk browser is Amazon’s own proprietary browser that uses the cloud to do most of the processing for the browser and helps pre-cache popular sites and pages. The only problem with it is that the Silk browser uses Amazon’s servers to do all of the input and output. So if you go to Google, they know. They will know everything that you do through their tablet. Everything you search, upload, and where you uploaded it to they will have a record of. With this knowledge, Amazon would be able to make more targeted ads at consumers and even improve algorithms for generating content that consumers might be interested in. For some, this does not bother them since they are either guarded enough about what they do online or they simply don’t think or care about the matter.

What I see it as is another step into the digital realm that people are making where their privacy is compromised, willingly or not. Companies are inching closer and closer to having products that know virtually everything about the user and transmit that back to the company. In many cases, this transmission of data is completely lawful since it is included in the EULA or some other kind of contract that is required to use the device. First, I am surprised at how little this is frightens people, though to be fair the Fire has only just recently announced so not many people have noticed much affect by it.

Second, I am more curious how we as designers and producers should look at this. Though we design products and software to make it easier for people to carry and read multiple books and websites all in a single, small digital device, we don’t always keep in mind the ramifications of what we are creating. How can this flash infographic I am making be interpreted? Will it change someone’s mind? Will it enforce certain stereotypes or ideas? How would it be considered from a different point of view? Is it representing the information fairly? Questions like these need to be considered when creating digital (and to be honest physical) artifacts for the public consumption. There seems to be a lack of care in the current industry towards thinking about the end result of the product rather than the ends that the product can give us.

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