Amazon's Silk browser may not be smooth with privacy

Amazon’s new Silk browser may compromise your security by passing your private data through Amazon's servers.

The most interesting feature on Amazon’s newly announced Kindle Fire tablet may be its Silk web browser. The browser promises to improve webpage loading performance by using Amazon’s servers to help render pages. But this performance boost may come at a cost: Security experts have already voiced concern about Silk, and what it might mean for your privacy and security.

[Read: Amazon’s New Silk Browser Explained]

Since Silk offloads a portion of the work required to draw a webpage to Amazon's servers, you’d connect to Amazon instead of directly to a website to use this "split browser" feature. The concern, according to security firm Sophos, is that Amazon will have a complete record of your Web browsing history. In fact, Silk’s terms and conditions say that Amazon will log Web addresses, along with and IP and MAC addresses, and that they can store this information for up to 30 days.

Worse still, even theoretically secure HTTPS connections will go through Amazon. While this raises some security concerns (since it breaks the chain of end-to-end security between you and the site you visit), Sophos is more concerned about the privacy implications. Since Amazon is based in the United States, the company may be forced to turn over your stored browsing history to the US government in the event of an investigation.

Of course, it’s important to keep in mind that we’ve barely gotten our first look at the Kindle Fire. While Amazon demonstrated the Fire after its announcement Wednesday morning, members of the press weren’t allowed to try it out for themselves, And the tablet won’t even ship until mid-November, so there are still a lot of unanswered questions when it comes to potential security and privacy issues. For instance, as one tweet shows, security experts aren’t even totally sure what kind of warrants the US Government would need to access your data.

We can, however, make some educated guesses about Silk's security and privacy since Silk isn’t the first browser to use the split browsing model. Opera Mini, the mobile version of Opera developed in conjunction with Google, also faced scrutiny, since it too sends traffic through a "middleman" server that lies between you and the site you're visiting. Because of this, you may want to steer clear of Opera Mini for tasks such as online banking where security is paramount.

Presumably, these concerns also apply to Silk, but it’s possible that Amazon has addressed this in Fire's security settings. But for now, if you're concerned about security and privacy, you will probably want to take the performance hit and turn off cloud browsing, just to be safe.

Related Slideshow: Meet Amazon's Four New Kindles

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags browserssoftwareapplicationssophosamazon.comonline securityKindle Fire

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

David Daw

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Father’s Day Gift Guide

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?