Saturday, August 17, 2013

E-reader Privacy - Is There Any Secrecy for E-books?

How much privacy do you expect from the retailers who handle your everyday purchases? Do you read the fine print on all the agreements you have to click through to sign up for online accounts?

In my previous post I mentioned my concerns about the lack of a device password on my Kobo Mini. That if I didn't remove all my personal info - name, address - after each e-book purchase, anyone who came across the Mini could see it. So I have to clear it all out each time and then enter it to buy a book.

And without a password for the e-reader, anyone can see the books I've downloaded. I'm not concerned about that, but some people might be.

On a broader scale, who else do you think should be able to see your information: your location (through the IP address), your search history, buying habits - and who should they be able to share that information with?

Here's a detailed chart from EFF - the Electronic Frontier Foundation - whose slogan is, "Defending your rights in the digital world." Click here for chart.

The chart shows how much info is gathered by e-reader dealers Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Sony. It also includes details from other e-book sources: Google Books, Overdrive, Indiebound, and Internet Archive, and the software Adobe Content Server.

It looks as if EFF did quite a bit of research on this: "... we've taken some of the most popular e-book platforms and combed through their privacy policies for answers to common privacy questions that users deserve to know. In many cases, these answers were frustratingly vague and long-winded."

Looking through the chart shows what that fine print you skim over in the accounts agreements says in so many more words: that your stuff is out there for many companies to track. Is that important to know? In today's world, privacy is no longer expected. I'm concerned about keeping my personal info private, but do I care if some retailer tallies up what book genres I typically read, what toothpaste I buy, how often I travel - no, don't give it a second thought. 

EFF summarizes it this way: "In nearly all cases, reading e-books means giving up more privacy than browsing through a physical bookstore or library, or reading a paper book in your own home."

Well, that's pretty obvious. In a bookstore or library you can hide your identity if you're embarrassed by what books you're looking at. A hat, scarf, sunglasses, pay with cash ... 

EFF's efforts to cut through the gobbledygook of those online privacy agreements and document the basics are important, though, just to remind us of the general lack of privacy we face every day. I grew up in a time before the Internet took over our lives, back when the only wide exposure anyone would likely encounter would be their hometown newspaper. And the only way a retailer could track who was using buying what was by coding coupons and conducting surveys. Now, my movements and choices are tracked daily, in ways most of us don't think about. 

I think I'll go read a paper book now. 

1 comment:

  1. This is Yorkist, whose big pup has bone cancer. I just read your thread about your wee pup on AW, and I must say - your words about mine were not at all inadequate, and your recent post just brought me to tears.

    I'd respond on AW but I've been banned. (Quite the story, that.)

    Honey, take care of your baby. Give him his favorite foods. If the prognosis is so unfavorable, I personally would select pain meds and that's it. What's the point of prolonging the agony?

    Baby J - my pup with bone cancer - is doing pretty well, and is also like seriously unaware that she has it. Also she has STILL not gotten the memo that she is not a puppy anymore (in spite of being a canine geriatric citizen), and recently had such a frolicking foray at the dog park that she spent a whole day unable to straighten her hind legs.

    She knows she is about to go - she won't even leave me alone when I'm trying to take a bath, and hangs her drooly mastiff head over the side until I get out - but she's seriously comfortable as long as she isn't left alone.

    Just keep your pup company, and do not feel guilty at all about not engaging in heroic measures. Having seen real-life humans in my own family practically tortured by these, I am not impressed. Advanced medical treatments may prolong life by a small fraction but their effects on quality of life are adverse, IMO.