Thursday, December 20, 2012

An E-Book Buyer's Guide to Privacy

In considering purchasing an ebook reader, another consideration you might want to make is whether you are choosing a device that has the potential to compromise your (or the receiver's) privacy. More and more, our buying habits and activities are being tracked technologically, so it is wise to be aware of the information you are handing out to companies.

Luckily, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) - whose tag line is "Defending Your Rights in the Digital World" - publishes an annual guide for e-book buyers on privacy.  They produce an easy to read chart that identifies the following characteristics for the most popular ereaders:
  • Can they keep track of searches for books?
  • Can they monitor what you're reading and how you're reading it after purchase and link that information back to you? Can they do that when the e-book is obtained elsewhere?
  • What compatibility does the device have with books not purchased from an associated eBook store?
  • Do they keep a record of book purchases? Can they track book purchases or acquisitions made from other sources?
  • With whom can they share the information collected in non-aggregated form?
  • Do they have mechanisms for customers to access, correct, or delete the information?
  • Can they share information outside the company without the customer's consent?
Not all of the answers are clear - sometimes it's just not known what information they might be collecting, but at least you will be aware of the possibilities.  Looking at this guide might scare one off from even buying eReaders, but again, at least being aware of what information you might be providing is the key - knowledge is power.

EFF explains that the stacked license agreements and privacy policies for the devices, software platforms and e-books stores you access just to read one ebook can mean reading thousands of words of legalese before you can even get into the book.  This chart makes it easy to find out what you are agreeing to (even if you already own an ereader - check this out before you purchase your next ebook).

The E-Reader Privacy Chart, 2012 Edition can be found at:

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