updated 10/18/2011 11:20:20 AM ET 2011-10-18T15:20:20

Congress is putting the heat on Amazon over privacy fears raised by its yet-to-be-released Kindle Fire tablet and, in particular, the new device's Silk Web browser.

Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) on Oct. 14 sent a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos voicing his concern over reports that the Silk browser in the new Kindle Fire, set for a Nov. 15 release, will speed Web surfing by routing all traffic through Amazon's cloud server. That, in turn, would give the company complete access to customers' Web activities.

[Kindle Under Fire: New Tablet Heats Up Privacy Debate]

In the letter, Markey, co-chairman of the Congressional Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus, pressed Amazon for answers to four questions regarding the possible privacy infringement: What information Amazon plans to collect from Kindle Fire users; how Amazon intends to use the information, including whether or not it will "sell, rent or otherwise make available this customer information to outside companies"; how Amazon will convey its privacy policy to users; and whether or not customers will be able to "opt in to participate in the data-sharing program."

The "opt in" issue is particularly important. Amazon has said Fire tablet owners can opt out of using Silk's cloud caching; they will experience slower Web browsing as a result, but will avoid the tracking and data collection.

By default, however, the tablet is configured to run Silk through the cloud server, which would mean Amazon would collect customers' browsing habits automatically unless they specifically opted out of the caching service.

Markey asked Bezos to respond to the questions by Nov. 4.

This is not Markey or his committee's first foray into taking major technology companies and websites to task. Almost a year ago to the day, Markey, along with Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), sent Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg a letter questioning his company's privacy policies after it was revealed that many Facebook apps share personal data with third-party advertisers.

On Sept. 28, Markey and Barton sent a letter to FTC Chairman Jon Liebowitz after an independent researcher found that some of Facebook's cookies remain active, and continue to transmit users' Web browsing activities back to Facebook, even after the users log out of the social network.

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