Your E-book Reader is Spying on You

Your E-book Reader is Spying on You
Photo from Amazon

At night, when you’re reading, know that someone else is keeping a close eye on you, checking on what book you’ve read and what time you put it down.

And it’s no less than your e-book reader.

Privacy advocates have been crying foul over a report that said e-book readers in the market are actively collecting information about their owners’ reading habits— like which books they read, which passage they usually dwell on, and what time they usually put down their e-book readers to go to sleep.

The concerning information came from a representative of the maker of e-book readers himself— Michael Tamblyn of Kobo. According to Tamblyn:

“We’re synchronizing a bookmark constantly as you move along.

“That gives us insight into how you’re engaging in the book that you’re in … so if you have stayed up through the night and you can’t put that book down, that helps us find other books from other people who have had that same kind of experience.

“When you think about the number of books people buy and don’t finish, the ‘other people who bought this also bought this [formula]’ isn’t that good a way to try to recommend a book.”

Kobo is the manufacturer of e-book readers that consumers get from John Lewis, Tesco, and WHSmith.

Although Kobo affirms that the data collected by the e-book readers that they make are used solely for marketing purposes, privacy advocate groups believe that the mere thought that these e-book readers keep track of their owners’ reading habits is alarming.

Amazon’s Kindle, which is one of the most popular e-book readers around, also collects the same data from its owners. The data the device collects ranges from its owners’ reading habits, the amount of time they spend reading an e-book, as well as keeping track of the last page they’ve read on it.

Amazon reserves the right to store the information that they collect from Kindle on its own servers.

Renate Samson, a representative from Big Brother Watch, a privacy campaign group, told:

“It is rather alarming to think that whilst you read your e-book your e-reader device is reading you.

“That these products feel the need to monitor more than just what we read, but to actively store data on what page we might linger on or more worryingly what time of day or night we choose to read seems disproportionately intrusive on what is to most of us a moment of personal quiet time.”

Another huge concern would be: how safe are the data being collected by these companies from the hands of evildoers?

3 Comments

  • xSentaru says:

    “It is rather alarming to think that whilst you read your e-book your e-reader device is reading you.“

    That was the creepiest thing I’ve read in a while. I fortunately don’t use an e-book and probably won’t in the future, not mainly because of this, but because I find classic books more satisfying and more enjoyable to read. On another thought, I don’t really think this kind of “spying” would affect me in any way. What’s wrong if they want to know that I actually stood all night reading that book?

  • troutski says:

    I see the benefits that could come from such tracking. However, it’s more than likely the case that companies are looking to increase their profits by selling such information. User-habit information is incredibly valuable to marketing companies and other corporations. I’d rather not be tracked by an e-reader to avoid these issues because I value my personal information, and more people need to realize how their privacy is infringed upon by consumer devices.

  • Diane Lane says:

    I don’t have an e-reader, but I do have and use a kindle app, which probably has the same features. I am a privacy advocate, and do not like the idea of any entity spying on me, nor the idea of a company, government, or individual storing that data for whatever future uses it deems necessary or useful.

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