Amazon’s latest idea, a cashback rewards system, is offering you the chance to get a little money back on select purchases at your favorite stores. But a darker motive lurks behind the lightly lucrative veneer of the concept: data collection.
The feature, called Shopping List Savings, is now available on the Alexa app. To use it, you’ll open the app before you go shopping, browse through current manufacturer offers, and add them to your shopping list. Then, you’ll go shopping at your preferred store (anywhere that’ll give you an itemized receipt), buy those items, then scan the receipt and product barcodes to finalize redeeming the offer deals.
And within 24-48 hours (but possibly up to one week), your cashback will appear directly on your Amazon gift card, which you can then use to purchase any eligible items on Amazon. Sounds straightforward, right? Well, not exactly.
While you may get a few bucks (or cents) back here and there on random purchases, it’s not quite the deal you may want to sign up for. Why? Through this app, Amazon will be freely and regularly handed vast information not just on participants’ shopping data, but on pricing at these other stores.
Amazon states in the feature’s Terms and Conditions that, “By choosing to participate in the Alexa Shopping List Savings program we will get any information you provide, including receipt images and information we may extract from those receipts, and the offers you activate. You understand and acknowledge that your personal information may be shared with Amazon’s service providers. The information you give to us will be used and shared as described in the Amazon.com Privacy Notice.”
So to be clear: you will need to take a picture of your entire receipt every time you want to redeem any of these deals, and you’ll be sharing it with Amazon. The company not only learns about pricing for the products you marked in the app, but also about every other item you purchased that day. That’s more data about what other places are charging for items and it’s more data about your personal shopping habits.
The company doesn’t share any additional details on how it will process that data, or whether it has any intentions of anonymizing the data. While there are other apps and services offering up similar benefits (and, likewise, taking in similar data sets), this effort from Amazon is extra concerning, thanks to Amazon making no promises towards anonymizing your data or sharing what it plans to do with it. Among other things, this could help Amazon undercut prices at other stores and help it build a profile on the types of things you (or people like you) tend to buy at a particular store.
It’s … kind of creepy. All we can say is, make sure you’re cool with that trade-off before you use the Shopping List Savings program.