Amazon knows product reviews can have a big influence on customer purchases, so it goes to great lengths to ensure the process is as legitimate as possible.
However, the online retail giant is now facing serious allegations that it is spying on the social media profiles of reviewers and product creators.
According to blogger Imy Santiago, a book review she wrote was censored by Amazon because she followed the author on social media.
That raises the question: how could Amazon possibly know that to be true, unless it has been surreptitiously data-mining social media services for links between authors and reviewers?
Here’s how it all went down – Santiago first tried to post the review several times, but was told it violated Amazon’s policy.
Amazon’s initial response read: “Your review could not be posted to the website in its current form.”
The second response was similar, but the third stated: “We cannot post your Customer Review for (book title deleted) by (author name deleted) to the Amazon website because your account activity indicates that you know the author.”
It continued: “Customer Reviews are meant to give customers unbiased product feedback from fellow shoppers...we encourage family and friends to share their enthusiasm for the book through our Customer Discussions feature or Editorial Reviews feature.”
Santiago replied to Amazon claiming she doesn’t know the author personally, although she does follow them on social media.
“Knowing an author online, and personally knowing an author in real life are two different things,” reads Santiago’s appeal.
She added: “By your definition it would mean that bloggers such as myself are being barred from reviewing books they legitimately purchased.”
Unfortunately, Amazon’s next reply was largely unhelpful: “We removed your Customer Reviews because you know the author personally. Due to the proprietary nature of our business, we do not provide detailed information on how we determine that accounts are related.”
Amazon response (Image credit: Imy Santiago)
The most obvious conclusion is that Amazon crawls social media services like Facebook and Twitter to establish links between product creators and reviewers to make sure there’s no funny business going on.
However, Amazon has not publicly revealed any such practices and has made no official comment on this story so far.
If Amazon is crawling our social media, then this case potentially highlights a serious pitfall in the process.
We’ve contacted Amazon and we’ll update this article with any response.
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.