The was just one problem: Amazon’s Data Protection Policy only allows developers to use customer information for tax and shipping purposes, not for advertising. Marusenko says he knew his software might be bending the rules, but argues that it was an area Amazon didn’t seem to enforce—not to mention that thousands of sellers were requesting these kinds of features. “I was trying to find this balance, on what Amazon wants and what Amazon sellers want,” Marusenko says. “There’s a lot of things Amazon doesn’t want sellers to do—but it’s very helpful for a lot of sellers.”
While Amazon MWS policies state that the company can audit developers to ensure compliance, it has relied heavily on developers to police themselves. “Originally, the MWS API was available to pretty much anyone,” says one Amazon developer, who requested anonymity because they feared retribution from the company.
But Amazon also appears to be exerting more control over outside developers since launching its Marketplace Appstore last year. For years, developers like Marusenko have been selling their software independently through their own websites. But soon they’ll be required to sell through Amazon, too: The company notified developers earlier this year that they must apply to list their apps in the Marketplace Appstore by September 30, according to an email reviewed by WIRED. (Sellers who develop apps for their own use, and don’t offer them to anyone else, appear to be exempt from this requirement.)
The app store, in theory, could give Amazon the ability to more closely monitor third-party apps and their data use, depending on how robust the application review is. The Marketplace Appstore could also earn Amazon revenue, if it charged developers a percentage of sales similar to how Google and Apple’s stores operate. An Amazon spokesperson didn’t answer a question about whether the company planned to monetize its app store in the future.