The Slippery Slope of eReader Privacy

I have made the decision that I am anti-eReader (also known as a digital book reader). Not that I was thinking of buying one at the moment, because they are a bit overpriced and the jury is still out as to which is the best product overall, but what stopped me in my tracks was a white paper written by the ACLU detailing eReaders’ lack of security and privacy.

The following information can be tracked from Google Books and Amazon and was provided by the ACLU of Northern California and the dotRights campaign (www.dotrights.org):

Google Books currently tracks: A reader’s initial search, a specific book browsed, a specific book’s pages viewed, the date and time of a search or page view, and the reader’s IP address/browser/and computer operating system. Note, one or more cookies can uniquely identify the reader’s browser.

Amazon currently tracks: The time that each Kindle is logged onto Amazon’s network, specific books/magazine subscriptions/newspapers/or digital content saved onto the device, each reader’s interaction with content (e.g., the last page read, any annotations/notes/or highlights the reader made to the content), and a record of any content deleted from the device.

And the Apple iPad is just as bad…

Since digital book readers store a treasure trove of information, what now? Amazon can delete books from Kindle without even telling the reader, Google books can tie information from the books that the reader is reading to his/her email address to determine what the reader will do next. And this is all being done in the name of COMMERCE.

We have virus and malware mitigation solutions for PCs, Macs, and mobile computing devices, so maybe it’s time for someone to put together “vault” software, like a password vault, that will allow the user to provide as much or as little information as he/she wants to the providers of content for these devices. It’s one thing to give your data knowingly, but it’s totally different to have your data taken from you WITHOUT your knowledge or consent.

Privacy and security go hand-in-hand and are valuable commodities, but everyday, I see our privacy rights erode further. The better and faster that our technology and gadgets become, the less privacy and security we seem to have. How did this happen? Lack of privacy in the name of commerce can lead to a lack of privacy in the name of government. This is a slippery slope, and frankly, it’s a slope I don’t want to slide down. How about you?

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About Allan Pratt

Technology and cybersecurity professional with focus on tech news, cybersecurity, networking, infrastructure, data protection, consumer electronics, and social media.
This entry was posted in Privacy Rights. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The Slippery Slope of eReader Privacy

  1. Kevin Neely says:

    Interesting points, but there’s certainly a way around the problem: use Tor to download and browse books and a completely offline reader like the Sony reader or the eSlick. Now you have a private and convenient way to read books

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