What IS private anymore?

Let’s say I’m a bookseller. I’ve got an interest in knowing what books sell best, and that information is easy enough to collect from my own records. But let’s say I want to go farther than that; I need more information on what interests my customers. So I look up my customers’ addresses, discreetly break into their houses (touching nothing, you understand; being very respectful of their property at all times) and rifle through their books. I make note of anything they highlighted or marked as of special interest. Maybe once in a great while – Oops! How did that edition get in here? I was supposed to have removed those from inventory – maybe once in a great while I take a book with me, if I don’t think you should have it after all. I make sure to lock up after myself.

No problem, right? How could anyone object to that?

What’s that you say? You do object after all? How unreasonable of you!

After all, that’s exactly what Amazon.com is doing to you, if you bought one of their Kindle readers.

I remember reading about that kerfuffle a year ago where Amazon deleted some books from customers’ Kindles. I remember being appalled at the arrogance of a retailer that would dare reach into your electronics and take back a product you’d bought in good faith. But according to Wendy McElroy, Amazon has gone further than that by far…

Amazon lists the most highlighted passages from customers using their Kindle. What this means is that Amazon watches every KIndle user to see what they are reading, what passages they highlight and compiles that information. In the past if you highlighted a book it was private unless you loaned it to someone. I bet most Kindle users had no idea that what they highlighted was being reported to Amazon and that they were keeping track.

Of course all such information can then be demanded by police agencies as well. But as evil as I think Amazon is, I never even considered that they would be recording what passages of a book customers underline for their own use.

And this isn’t a big secret, you understand. Oh, no! They offer the information they gather freely on their site! It’s not an invasion of privacy, it’s just a marketing tool.

And so they settle forever the question of whether I want me one of them E-Reader gadgets. Guess I’ll just have to keep killing trees. It’s a bit more private that way.

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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To the stake with the heretic!