Intersection: Sidewalks & Public Space

Chapter by Melissa Ngo

"The Myth of Security Under Camera Surveillance"

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    Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

    New York Times: As New Services Track Habits, the E-Books Are Reading You

    Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

    The New York Times reports that electronic books are gathering information about readers’ habits, which raises privacy questions:

    SAN FRANCISCO — Before the Internet, books were written — and published — blindly, hopefully. Sometimes they sold, usually they did not, but no one had a clue what readers did when they opened them up. Did they skip or skim? Slow down or speed up when the end was in sight? Linger over the sex scenes?

    A wave of start-ups is using technology to answer these questions — and help writers give readers more of what they want. The companies get reading data from subscribers who, for a flat monthly fee, buy access to an array of titles, which they can read on a variety of devices. The idea is to do for books what Netflix did for movies and Spotify for music. [...]

    The move to exploit reading data is one aspect of how consumer analytics is making its way into every corner of the culture. Amazon and Barnes & Noble already collect vast amounts of information from their e-readers but keep it proprietary. Now the start-ups — which also include Entitle, a North Carolina-based company — are hoping to profit by telling all. [...]

    The services say they will make the data anonymous so readers will not be identified. The privacy policies however are broad. “You are consenting to the collection, transfer, manipulation, storage, disclosure and other uses of your information,” Oyster [a New York-based subscription start-up] tells new customers.

    Opinion at Library Journal: Breaking the Panopticon

    Friday, October 11th, 2013

    At Library Journal, Dorothea Salo, a Faculty Associate in the School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, talks about what privacy means in libraries, especially in light of the NSA domestic surveillance scandal:

    Teaching from the real world is pure joy most of the time. Students love it when they see something from class in the pixels of library journals and magazines, the mass media, or the technology press. Most of the time, discussing change while it’s happening is a visceral lesson in professional adaptability and continuous learning. However, I could have done without having to teach technology-related privacy issues to my “Digital Trends, Tools, and Debates” students in the shadow of the NSA’s newly-revealed surveillance practices. [...]

    As I always do, I explained to my students why I chose to teach them about this. My own visceral outrage aside, the simplest reasons call back to parts of the ALA Code of Ethics: Read more »

    ProPublica: Everything We Know About What Data Brokers Know About You

    Monday, March 11th, 2013

    ProPublica takes an in-depth look at data brokers, companies that compile information on individuals and the sell or use that data for marketing or other purposes:

    Data companies are scooping up enormous amounts of information about almost every American. They sell information about whether you’re pregnant or divorced or trying to lose weight, about how rich you are and what kinds of cars you have. [...]

    But many people still don’t even know that data brokers exist.

    Here’s a look at what we know about the consumer data industry.

    How much do these companies know about individual people?

    They start with the basics, like names, addresses and contact information, and add on demographics, like age, race, occupation and “education level,” according to consumer data firm Acxiom’s overview of its various categories.

    But that’s just the beginning: The companies collect lists of people experiencing “life-event triggers” like getting married, buying a home, sending a kid to college — or even getting divorced. Read more »

    Salon: ‘Privacy’: Why it matters much more than you think

    Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

    Salon takes a look at Garret Keizer’s book, “Privacy,” and discusses the idea of privacy and why it is important:

    The greatest threat to privacy in contemporary America is a pervasive, shrugging indifference. Many (though not all) citizens are willing to give up a certain amount of their personal information to obtain credit cards, rent movies, post photos on Facebook and look at Web pages. After all, if you’re not doing anything wrong, what do you have to hide? At least that’s the logic flitting through many minds as they prepare to order groceries online or download the sequel to “Fifty Shades of Grey” onto their Kindles.

    Garret Keizer’s slim, eloquent “Privacy” is a cri de coeur against this state of affairs, less a book of facts and theories than a series of provocative juxtapositions and suggestive arguments. It encourages its readers to reframe how they think of privacy before it’s too late. Read it to jolt your imagination into new territory, and to understand why the privacy that many of us sacrifice so readily ought to be held more dear.

    Take, for example, the advantages listed in my first paragraph, conveniences for which many of us blithely trade our privacy online. They allow us to enjoy a film without having to share the theater with annoying popcorn-munchers, to avoid standing in line at the drugstore while holding over-the-counter hemorrhoid medication and to read that “Fifty Shades” e-book on the subway in confidence that our fellow passengers will learn nothing of our taste in smut. In contrast to the people poised at our elbows to snoop, interfere or judge, the corporations who track our consumption of these items seem so remote. But, as Keizer points out, “in attempting to hide from our neighbors, we put ourselves more at the mercy of opportunistic strangers.” [...] Read more »

    PCWorld: 5 Online Privacy Intrusions You Don’t Know About, and Should

    Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

    PCWorld reports on five ways in which your online privacy could be invaded:

    These days, you need a healthy dose of naiveté to think that your personal data isn’t routinely bought, sold or tracked online. Tracking cookies are the norm on popular websites, and tech giants such as Google and Facebook have a reputation for mishandling and/or overcollecting users’ personal data.

    But while those issues receive lots of attention, corporations and governments may keep an eye on you in other, lesser-known ways. Here are five online privacy intrusions that you might not know about.

    The Government Might Be Building a File on You

    The idea that government agents are reading your email messages and listening to your phone calls sounds like the stuff of conspiracy theorists, but saner minds claim that it’s possible. According to several former National Security Agency employees-turned-whistleblowers, the government is building a dossier on practically every U.S. citizen, drawing on information from e-mails and phone calls. And as Wired has reported, the NSA is building a massive spy center to sift through all the data and figure out who’s a threat. [...] Read more »

    Wall Street Journal: Your E-Book Is Reading You

    Monday, July 2nd, 2012

    The Wall Street Journal reports that, because of the rising popularity of electronic readers such as Amazon’s Kindle, Barnes & Noble’s Nook, Apple’s iPad and other devices, publishers and retailers have a large amount of data about individuals’ reading habits. This has implications for the privacy of individuals’ reading habits:

    In the past, publishers and authors had no way of knowing what happens when a reader sits down with a book. Does the reader quit after three pages, or finish it in a single sitting? Do most readers skip over the introduction, or read it closely, underlining passages and scrawling notes in the margins? Now, e-books are providing a glimpse into the story behind the sales figures, revealing not only how many people buy particular books, but how intensely they read them. [...]

    But the rise of digital books has prompted a profound shift in the way we read, transforming the activity into something measurable and quasi-public.

    The major new players in e-book publishing—Amazon, Apple and Google—can easily track how far readers are getting in books, how long they spend reading them and which search terms they use to find books. Book apps for tablets like the iPad, Kindle Fire and Nook record how many times readers open the app and how much time they spend reading. Retailers and some publishers are beginning to sift through the data, gaining unprecedented insight into how people engage with books. [...] Read more »