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    Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

    Update on Privacy Questions Surrounding Borders’ IP Sale

    Thursday, September 29th, 2011

    Last week, Bankruptcy Judge Martin Glenn halted the $13.9 million sale of the intellectual property of bookseller Borders to Barnes & Noble. Glenn said he needed more time to decide on privacy questions concerning customer data. Now, Reuters reports that Glenn has approved the sale — after both companies made provisions concerning customer data:

    Barnes & Noble won the bulk of Borders’ intellectual property at auction earlier in September. It will inherit the 48-million-member customer database of its one-time rival, which is going out of business after filing for bankruptcy in February. […]

    The deal announced on Monday gives customers 15 days to opt out of the transfer by responding to an email that will be sent when the deal closes, Borders lawyer Andrew Glenn said at the hearing. Read more »

    Op-Ed at Times Herald-Record: E-book readers deserve some privacy

    Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

    The Times Herald-Record has an opinion column about protecting the privacy of book readers:

    How would you like it if the bookstore you happened to visit kept track of every book you look at before you make your decision on what to buy? And after the purchase, would it be OK with you if the bookstore recorded how often you read the book, how long you view each page and even any notes you might write in the book’s margins?

    Well, all those things are happening now with digital books. Many bookstores already collect information about readers and their purchases.

    But digital book services can collect even more detailed information that often is bundled in a database and sold to marketers or acquired by governments. […] Read more »

    NPR: Is Your E-Book Reading Up On You?

    Friday, December 17th, 2010

    NPR takes a look at the question of keeping data private in an increasingly tech-driven world and focuses on electronic book readers, such as Nooks or Kindles, which can gather reading and location information.

    Most e-readers, like Amazon’s Kindle, have an antenna that lets users instantly download new books. But the technology also makes it possible for the device to transmit information back to the manufacturer. “They know how fast you read because you have to click to turn the page,” says Cindy Cohn, legal director at the nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation. “It knows if you skip to the end to read how it turns out.” […]

    And it’s not just what pages you read; it may also monitor where you read them. Kindles, iPads and other e-readers have geo-location abilities; using GPS or data from Wi-Fi and cell phone towers, it wouldn’t be difficult for the devices to track their own locations in the physical world. Read more »

    Washington Post: In shoppers’ Web networks, privacy has no price tag

    Monday, May 24th, 2010

    The Washington Post has a story about Web sites that we’ve discussed before, Blippy and Swipely, which let people broadcast online what they buy with credit cards, debit cards or through accounts with retailers such as Amazon. Blippy recently faced criticism from privacy advocates and others when it was forced to fix a technical problem that exposed some users’ personal financial data on Google. The Post reports:

    The founders of [Blippy] and rival site Swipely say the purpose is to reveal the stories behind America’s stuff and explore how much our purchases reflect our personalities. Are we Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts, Target or Wal-Mart, Payless or Prada? […] Read more »

    MSNBC: Is Amazon peeking over Kindle users’ shoulders?

    Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

    At MSNBC’s Red Tape Chronicles, Bob Sullivan reports that online store Amazon has a feature in its Kindle e-reader devices that is raising privacy questions:

    Readers of old-fashioned dead-tree books often like to underline or highlight passages they find particularly meaningful, or scribble notes for later reference. All e-book readers offer an electronic equivalent of such note-taking. But Kindle users who highlight passages will now have a record of those highlights sent back to Amazon servers, where they will be compiled and sorted to help produce a new feature called “Popular Highlights.” […]

    Amazon does not reveal preferences of individual users. Only passages highlighted by three or more users are included.

    Still, Larry Ponemon, who runs privacy consulting firm The Ponemon Institute, said some users will bristle at the notion that Amazon can track which passages they highlight while reading. The feature “definitely steps over the line,” he said.

    One of the biggest problems is that “Popular Highlights” is turned on by default — so customers have to 1) learn that their data is being sent back to Amazon and 2) figure out how to opt-out. How do users opt out? By disabling a feature on the Kindle e-reader that automatically backs up users’ notes and highlights. And Amazon doesn’t seem to be publicizing the “Popular Highlights” feature. Read more »

    ACLU of Northern California: Digital Books: A New Chapter for Reader Privacy

    Friday, May 14th, 2010

    The ACLU of Northern California has released an issue paper, “Digital Books: A New Chapter for Reader Privacy.” This is the second in a series of issue papers discussing the implications for individuals of new technology trends. (The first is: “Cloud Computing: Storm Warning for Privacy?”) From “Digital Books”:

    [A]s books move into digital form, new reader privacy issues are emerging. In stark contrast to libraries that retain as little information about readers as possible, digital book services are capturing detailed information about readers including who they are, what books they browse and read, how long a given page is viewed, and even the notes written in the “margins.” Without strong privacy protections, all of this browsing and reading history can be collected and analyzed and could end up in the hands of the government or third parties without the reader’s knowledge or consent. Retaining and strengthening reader privacy in the digital age requires a thorough examination of the potential privacy and free speech implications of digital book services and the establishment of laws and policies that properly protect readers. […] Read more »