Genii Weblog

Privacy erosion and the Kindle

Thu 29 Apr 2010, 11:15 AM

by Ben Langhinrichs
Sometimes you have to read between the lines.  In one of those innocuous stories that AOL and CNN love to pick up, Malcolm Gladwell, William P. Young, & Dan Brown Top "Most Highlighted Passages of All Time" List on Amazon Kindle, there is the wonderful quote:
"AmazonKindle also introduces a "Popular Highlights" feature that identifies the passages that are most highlighted by the millions of Kindle customers. We combine the highlights of all Kindle customers and identify the passages with the most highlights. The resulting Popular Highlights help readers to focus on passages that are meaningful to the greatest number of people."
Of course, as a few people have noted on Twitter, this means that Amazon can, and does, track every bit of text you underline.  Never thought of that when you decided to buy the Kindle version rather than the printed book, did you?  Who gets to see what you think is worthy of underlining, and what other uses are made of the information?

Copyright 2010 Genii Software Ltd.

What has been said:

899.1. John Head
(04/29/2010 05:37 PM)

which is the same think as who you follow on Twitter, who you 'like' on Facebook, what you bookmark on Digg, or pretty much anything you do on Google. They all have a giant index. Unless you live on a private island and never connect to the net or phone networks, someone will have tracking data on you in some manner. You just have to decide who you trust and who you do not.

899.2. Ben Langhinrichs
(04/29/2010 06:37 PM)

Well, silly me. I thought I might like to know what is being tracked, and not simply by whom. After all, I trust the local city government with my tax money, but not with my medical records. It is not who to trust, it's also what with.

899.3. Jerome
(04/30/2010 12:08 AM)

John, it seems like we got more warning with the services you list, and didn't have to purchase anything in exchange for the loss of privacy. They're all free services, and the information we volunteer to share is sort of like our payment for them.

899.4. Doug Finner
(04/30/2010 11:50 AM)

I decided I had no interest in a Kindle when Amazon unilaterally recalled '1984' without any kind of prior notice; Amazon giveth, and Amazon can taketh away whenever they damn well wish. No a fan of DRM...

On the other hand, we all leak information all day long; electronic payments, EasyPass toll transponders, cell phones, any site we have a login to, paper checks (worst case of identity theft I've been party to was related to paper checks, go figure), heck, if you print to one of he newer networked/hard drive based printers you're giving away data.

Live in the techno world and you sign up for loss of privacy. Any perceived level of privacy is exactly what the current holders of data decide it is; they can change their mind at any time or be bought/sold to another overlord and the rules change instantly.

Interesting time we live in.