Amazon Gathers Info on White, Gay Christians Earning Big Bucks
Amazon.com has filed an application with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office for a system the company is developing that would capture intimate details on customers such as their ethnicity, sexual orientation, religious affiliation and income.
The database from the system would come from information voluntarily provided by Amazon’s customers. While the company is developing the system, it said it has no plan to put it to use at the present time.
By applying for a patent, Amazon is looking to lockout competitors who may be considering developing a similar process to get at consumers’ personal details.
The goal behind Amazon’s expanded personal information gathering system is to help make its product recommendations feature more precise.
The new system would also help gift givers, for example, by accessing a recipient’s preferences to make recommendations. The recipient would have to grant permission for their personal information to be accessed.
As Amazon’s patent application states: “Even if a customer does not know demographic information or interests of a possible recipient, the system may be able to access such information from a user profile for the recipient, from past ordering patterns of the recipient, or from publicly accessible databases.”
Patty Smith, a spokesperson for Amazon.com, refused to lay out a timetable for implementing the system.
“Not every company uses a patent it has in its name, but it may have a patent in portfolio,” she told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. “Who knows, 10 years down the road or five years down the road? It might be good to implement. We want to protect our intellectual property.”
Ms. Smith said her company is also looking to protect customers who may share more of their personal details with the e-tailer.
“Amazon is always careful how it uses customer data so the customer experience will be as good as it can be,” she said.
Discussion Question: While it may be years (or never) before Amazon.com puts its expanded information gathering and product recommendation system into
use, what do you see as the potential benefits and drawbacks of such a program?