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.
But it’s hard to find out what kind of data the e-readers are sending. Most e-book companies refer all questions about this to their posted privacy policies. The policies can be hard to interpret, so Cohn and the EFF created a side-by-side comparison. It’s just been updated to include Apple’s iPad.
The privacy policies also leave important questions unanswered. For instance, how long do the companies store page-view data? […]
“[The Kindle] is just one more string in their bow,” says author Scott Turow, president of the Authors Guild. “They could tell you with precision the age, the zip codes, gender and other interests of the people who bought my books. Now you can throw on top of that the fact that a certain number of them quit reading at Page 45.”