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E-Book Privacy Buyer’s Guide

One of the tenets of librarianship is that we try to maintain the confidentiality of patron records and their reading habits. We have enshrined this principle in many ways including in the ethics statements of our many library associations as well as in educational and advocacy actions with regard to legislation like the USA PATRIOT Act. It has been refined over many years.

I call you attention to this important Electronic Frontier Foundation document which I give the rare classification of ‘must-read’:

2010: E-Book Buyer’s Guide to E-Book Privacy

“With the 2010 holidays upon us, it’s time to update EFF’s E-Book Buyer’s Guide to E-Book Privacy, which summarizes and comments on the privacy-related policies of several e-readers.”

You may be surprised (indeed maybe shocked) at the privacy issue with e-readers, e-book stores, etc. Answer questions like these:

1. Can they keep track of book searches, either on their website or on the website of other e-book sources?
2. Can they monitor what you’re reading and how you’re reading it after purchase and link that information back to you? Can they do that when the e-book is obtained elsewhere?
3. Is the device ONLY compatible with books purchased from an associated eBook store?
4. Can they keep track of book purchases? Can they track book purchses or acquisitions made from other sources?
5. With whom can they share the information collected in non-aggregated form?
6. Can they share information outside the company without the customer’s consent?
7. Do they lack mechanisms for customers to access, correct, or delete the information?

How does your library stand on each of these questions with your borrowers? Is it different from the e-book retailers, e-readers etc.?

I was certainly surprised that the Kindle shares all of your highlighting with the mothership.

I don’t want to be a nervous Nellie Nebish but . . . these are important issues for our times. There can be many benefits to sharing information about reading habits and these can be quite desirable. At this point it is my personal opinion that this is a choice to be made by the purchaser / borrower / reader and not by the owners of an e-reader patent, e-book retailer or, indeed, library staff.



Posted on: December 13, 2010, 11:26 pm Category: Uncategorized

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  1. I was also surprised to discover that Kindle shares your highlighted passages with other readers of the same book. A bit disconcerting, although interesting to see what others have found highlight worthy.