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Amazon Silk browser on Kindle Fire tracks page visits to generate trends, isn't as spooky as it sounds (update: opt-out exists)

Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
September 7, 2012
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When you pick up that new Kindle Fire HD this fall, one of the first things you'll notice is an updated version of Amazon's Silk web browser with a Trending Now section. It's a clever trick that takes advantage of Silk's server-based caching to find out what sites are popular among owners. That sounds good on the surface, but it doesn't take much effort to realize that there are privacy concerns already in the air -- Amazon is sharing personal web habits with a wider audience, after all. While the section is unlikely to include any identifying information, there's no immediate sign that tablet owners can keep their behavior private, and that could create some indignation among those who'd prefer to surf in isolation. We've asked Amazon if there will be an opt-out escape hatch and will let you know if there's a definitive answer. In the meantime, we wouldn't necessarily worry. Silk shouldn't be caching your e-mail, and it's only likely to ever show pages that have far more traffic than anything you'd be embarrassed to show to others. As far as we can tell, your secret knitting obsession should be safe.

Update: A spokesperson has confirmed that the option to disable Silk's caching is still available, and that switching it off will cut you out of Trending Now; that's a very all-or-nothing approach, but it'll likely suit those put off by the browser's predictive approach in the first place. Secure pages are still out of the picture as well, which should keep those private Twitter messages out of the equation.

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