Why Does Amazon Want You To Remove This $4 Billion Browser Extension?

Amazon’s security risk warning

Amazon is warning users to remove Honey browser extension, which was bought by PayPal for $4 billion. The American multinational e-commerce giant sees the add-on as a treat to users privacy as it collects users data for tracking the shopping behaviour of the purchasers. However, the timing and selective outrage has confused experts and buyers around the world.

Initially, the message popped up for a few users during Christmas, and later it was notified to almost all the users. However, it came as a surprise as Honey is providing its services on Amazon for years. And on top of that, Amazon didn’t target other extensions like Camel Camel Camel.com that more or less delivers the same functions as Honey does.

Amazon’s Security Risk Warning

“Honey’s browser extension is a security risk. It tracks your individual shopping behaviour, collects data such as the order history, items saved, and can even read or change the data on any website browsed. To keep your data private and secure, uninstall the Honey extension immediately. Please note that all Amazon offers, deals, and coupons, are available without this extension installed,” the warning read.

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However, Honey’s spokesperson has disagreed with the notification and said, “Our extension has never been a security risk and is safe to use. We have dedicated team for ensuring the security of our purchasers’ information, and we continuously engage with third-party security firms to assess our security protections.”

Why Only Honey

PayPal Holdings announced the acquisition of Honey in November 2019 and completed the deal in January 2020. Honey allows users to apply best coupons and helps users to save money by finding the best deal across various retailers. Started in 2012, Honey has over 17 million users leveraging the plug-in to secure cheaper deals.

Amazon does not go along with PayPal as it perceives them as a direct competitor. The e-commerce company doesn’t support PayPal on its platform during check-out as it was associated in its early years with eBay — another Amazon’s competitor. Amazon released the security risk warning about the plug-in only after PayPal acquired, which portrays the e-commerce giant’s unethical practice to downplay competitors. 

According to Juozas Kaziukenas, founder of New York e-commerce research firm Marketplace Pulse, “Amazon’s security warning against Honey, while letting a dozen other tools go on, is confusing. I don’t buy their security risk message. They want Honey and PayPal to be squashed.”

Threat To Amazon

Similar to Honey, Amazon has a recommended solution that suggests products, but its algorithm prioritises fast delivery instead of low price. Honey, in contrast, focuses on best price, which the customers embrace, resulting in reduced relevance of Amazon’s algorithm of recommendation. This has the potential to disrupt Amazon’s approach of favouring its products over competitors. However, Amazon’s, in the past, has squashed the narrative of encouraging purchasers to buy its products over others.

According to reports, PayPal has raised a complaint about the unfair practices to regulators, for which they have been asked to provide anticompetitive practices. However, one of Amazon’s spokesperson said that they must warn users of any extension that collects shopping data such as name, billing address, payment methods, and others, without their consent.

Outlook

Amazon warned users that the plug-in collects purchaser’s data from any website, which is false as the policy of Honey states that it doesn’t track search engine history, emails or any website that is not a retail website. “As markets become more concentrated and organisations grow larger, we see attempts to preserve market positions and remove rivals through deceptive practices,” said Diana Moss, president of the American Antitrust Institute.

Since Honey’s revenue is generated by charging retailers for the sales that go through its extension, collecting data doesn’t make them money. Instead, as per Honey, it doesn’t sell users data and utilises for improving its services. Consequently, the extension can be considered safe even after Amazon’s security risk warning.

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Rohit Yadav
Rohit is a technology journalist and technophile who likes to communicate the latest trends around cutting-edge technologies in a way that is straightforward to assimilate. In a nutshell, he is deciphering technology. Email: rohit.yadav@analyticsindiamag.com

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