Amazon’s New AI Tool Raises Questions About Benefits


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  • Amazon’s new AI tool, Rufus, raises concerns about bias and advertising-driven results.
  • The FTC’s pending antitrust lawsuit accuses Amazon of favoring its own products and advertisers.
  • Rufus’ algorithm remains a closely guarded secret, making it challenging to assess its operations.

Amazon has recently introduced a new artificial intelligence assistant named Rufus, designed to assist shoppers with product inquiries. While Amazon claims that Rufus will help users find products that best suit their needs, concerns arise over the potential for bias and advertising-driven results, given Amazon’s history of favoring its own products and advertisers.

FTC’s antitrust lawsuit looms

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has accused Amazon of biasing search results in favor of its own products and operating a “pay-to-play” system. Amazon faces a pending antitrust lawsuit in 2023 that alleges the company prioritizes products backed by advertising dollars, potentially compromising the fairness of its search results. Amazon, however, denies these claims and asserts that its practices foster competition and innovation in the retail industry.

Amazon’s silent algorithm

Amazon has not disclosed the details of Rufus’ algorithm, keeping it closely guarded as a trade secret. The algorithm is trained using Amazon’s vast product catalog, reviews, web data, and question-and-answer sections. This lack of transparency raises concerns about how Rufus operates and whether it can be influenced by advertising.

Advertising’s influence on Rufus

Despite initial claims that Rufus remains unaffected by advertising, industry experts like Michael Pachter from Wedbush Securities believe that Amazon would eventually incorporate sponsored results to maximize profits. Amazon’s substantial advertising revenue, which reported a 27% increase to $14.7 billion in the last year’s fourth quarter, underscores the company’s reliance on advertising-driven revenue.

Gil Luria, a senior software analyst at D.A. Davidson, suggests that Amazon may refrain from introducing advertising into Rufus initially to build trust with consumers. Consumer trust is crucial for the long-term success of Rufus, as users are unlikely to continue using the service if they lose faith in its responses. However, Amazon has a history of gradually allowing advertising into its recommendations.

Amazon’s choice controversy

Amazon’s “Amazon’s Choice” designation has faced controversy in the past. Initially believed to be a mark of product quality, it was revealed that Amazon had granted the badge to marketers willing to pay for it, according to a 2019 Digiday report. Amazon disputes these claims and maintains that the label relies on criteria such as reviews, shipping speed, and price.

A study by Profitero from 2020 to 2021 found that Amazon search results included an average of nine sponsored listings, twice as many as Walmart and four times as many as Target. This highlights Amazon’s willingness to incorporate sponsored content into its platform, potentially influencing product recommendations.

Potential promise of Rufus

Despite concerns, some industry experts like Jim Tierney, Chief Investment Officer of Concentrated U.S. Growth Equities at AllianceBernstein, see promise in Rufus as an AI conversational shopper. Increased engagement and conversion rates could result in higher revenues and unit sales for Amazon.

Amazon holds a unique advantage over competitors like Google and Microsoft due to its extensive dataset of purchasing and personalized data. This valuable resource gives Amazon an edge at the checkout counter and enhances its ability to provide tailored recommendations.

Rufus: A different shopping experience

During the initial rollout of Rufus, Amazon CEO Andy Jassy described it as a tool that allows customers to discover items differently compared to traditional e-commerce websites. Rufus is trained using a variety of data sources, including Amazon’s product catalog, customer reviews, web information, and question-and-answer sections.

Amazon’s introduction of Rufus is seen as both innovative and controversial. While it has the potential to transform the shopping experience by offering personalized assistance, concerns persist over the influence of advertising and bias in the AI’s recommendations.

Disclaimer. The information provided is not trading advice. Cryptopolitan.com holds no liability for any investments made based on the information provided on this page. We strongly recommend independent research and/or consultation with a qualified professional before making any investment decisions.

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Glory Kaburu

Glory is an extremely knowledgeable journalist proficient with AI tools and research. She is passionate about AI and has authored several articles on the subject. She keeps herself abreast of the latest developments in Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Deep Learning and writes about them regularly.

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