Amazon recently filed a patent for a system wherein while someone is shopping inside of a store, and using that store's wifi connection, the store owner is able to inspect the wifi packets to see if a competitive product is being viewed and then issue a "control" action in response.

Basically if you want to price shop while inside of a retailer, they'll be able to block the action from happening.

http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsrchnum.htm&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=9665881.PN.&OS=PN/9665881&RS=PN/9665881
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Expert Comment

by:Brian Matis
Considering that Amazon is no doubt a top source of that in-store comparison shopping, I find this ironically hilarious!
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Author Comment

by:Lucas Bishop
I think this is more of a move to block retailers from having this technology. Basically if they own the patent, BestBuy for example, won't be able to integrate it into their retail chain.

It's a potential way to assure that box stores can't prevent people from price checking on Amazon, unless they pay to license the patented technology.
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Expert Comment

by:John
Anyone can sniff packets, so that is not new.

And if you have your wits about you, a smart phone is not needed to price shop.

Yawn!
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Expert Comment

by:Kyle Santos
Whoa.
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by:Sean Plemons Kelly, CISSP
... Or just avoid their unsecure WiFi in the first place?
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Expert Comment

by:John
I can't stop laughing.

I could walk in with my iPhone on cellular or my Laptop with HUAWEI rocket stick, price shop to beat the band and there is squat they can do about it.

Unusual for Amazon because some bright spark could not think beyond the end of their nose.

EE - You use AWS - tell them!
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Author Comment

by:Lucas Bishop
Anyone can sniff packets, so that is not new.

Indeed. However, integrating packet sniffing with control mechanisms, to prevent competitive sales in-store is new (or even currently non-existent) as far as I've seen. I've never been interrupted while price-shopping on Amazon when inside any of my local chain stores (Target, Walmart, Home Depot, etc), using their wi-fi. Plus, in most of these stores I'm forced to use their wi-fi (albeit over my vpn) because I lose signal inside.

It's obvious that every brick and mortar store should be using this technology and now they'll potentially have to pay Amazon to license it. They could simply block any competitors website, but that can potentially lose them the sale just as easily.
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by:Michael Arciniega
Next they'll use high resolution cameras and image recognition to just look at the actual phone screen.... brb I have to go patent something :P
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Expert Comment

by:Brian Matis
@Lucas: Is it obvious that brick and mortar stores should use this? It seems fairly customer hostile and not likely to have much impact other than to annoy someone. And if a store is going down that path, I've got other options of places to go...
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Expert Comment

by:Michael Arciniega
Does the "control action" have to be a filter? What if they subtly change an ad in store that temporarily discounts similar items to beat a competitors price.
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Author Comment

by:Lucas Bishop
The "control" mechanism isn't just for blocking though. They've specifically called out things like analyzing the page that the customer is using for price-comparison, then offering a coupon to match/beat it for example. So in many ways this could lead to a positive user experience, if used by the brick and mortar stores.
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Expert Comment

by:Brian Matis
Good point...
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Expert Comment

by:Nicholas
Would this not be tantamount to hacking?
You would have a reasonable expectation that the owner of the wifi you are using is not checking what you are doing

Can not in any way see this holding water within Europe
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Author Comment

by:Lucas Bishop
In the US, you generally have to agree to the Terms & Conditions that the business provides in order to use their Wi-Fi. You're presented with and have to agree to the T&C before you gain access to the wi-fi.
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Expert Comment

by:Nicholas
And so in Europe but usually within those terms there is also a paragraph that that data is not shared with other parties
If Amazon are now getting data about you and where you are (and likely logged in to Amazon) then that is very thin line
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Author Comment

by:Lucas Bishop
Keep in mind, this is a technology that would be used in the store (probably at the router), not by Amazon. If the store wants to use the technology they would need to license it from Amazon, since Amazon is the patent holder.

The store wouldn't be sharing the data with Amazon. Instead, the store would be doing something like:

IF someone price-compares over wi-fi:
EITHER - outright block the competitor website (something they can do already, but could anger their customer)
OR - compare their in-store price to the competitor-site price and then:
--IF competitor price is higher THEN do nothing
--IF competitor price is lower THEN:
----offer a price break (coupon) to the customer to price match/under price/etc
----offer a deal on a complementary product as an add-on purchase
----alert in-store sales rep to attend to the customer
----etc
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Expert Comment

by:Nicholas
If so (far too much to read at this time of night) with more and more sites moving over completely to SSL this would make it completely redundant - look at letsencyrpt, if you are using Linux and most CP's have it as part of their software

How is Amazon going to implement this on the router to inspect and analyze thousands of websites to determine the price from the HTML?

Another one of Amazon's crazy patent ideas and kinda in the realms of fake news
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Expert Comment

by:Josh Petraglia
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by:Andrew Leniart
With mobile data plans so affordable these days, combined with the great speeds 4G provides, I don't get why people still auto connect to public wifi hotspots at all? They're fraught with hackers and an easy way of getting yourself infected with something.  

Never use them myself so the expensive patent application is a waste of money on Amazon's part so far as I'm concerned.
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Author Comment

by:Lucas Bishop
In most of the big box stores, I lose my LTE signal and have to use their wi-fi. I use a secure vpn when connecting, but your average consumer just blindly connects.
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