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Reading-Chat Monday: Is Someone Watching What You’re Reading?

Monday, July 16, 2012

I read a post yesterday on one of the general-market review blogs I follow which is the first in a series she’s going to be doing on privacy issues and e-reader technology.

It didn’t come as a surprise to me at all that there is technology in e-readers that can track annotations, bookmarks, and highlights. Nor is it a surprise that these companies can track your purchasing habits (do you download mostly free books or are you paying for them? what genres do you download most?) and even your reading habits (what time of day do you read most? how fast do you read? where do you stop? do you skip pages? how many page-turns per hour?).

I guess I’ve always lived with a constant sense that someone is watching my every move. I mean, you can’t have grown up in an evangelical church without having it pounded into your head that God is watching you all the time (Santa Claus, too, apparently). And for years, Amazon has tracked my online purchases to be able to customize a recommendations list for me based on what my purchases say about my interests and needs.

So many people think nothing of letting every website they log into (it seems) access and post to their Facebook account—even though it means that website now has permission to mine all of the personal information they have on their page, and possibly that of everyone they’re connected to. (This is why I don’t add apps or play games or log in anywhere with my FB account.) Yet these same people, if they read the post I linked to above (and the articles/webpages she links to in it), would throw a fit about the invasion of their privacy.

I personally don’t have a problem with this (though I do keep my wifi on my Kindle turned off unless I’m downloading something, just to minimize the tracking they’re able to do, hopefully). I like getting personalized reading recommendations. I like getting e-mails telling me about books I might like based on other books I’ve purchased/read.

But what about you?

Would it bother you to know that your reading habits are being tracked? What would an objective outsider learn about you through tracking your book buying/reading habits?

3 Comments
  1. Monday, July 16, 2012 4:55 pm

    I heard about the tracking thing last week. There’s not a lot I can do about it, but I do tend to keep the sync page turned off on my Nook, because I rarely read the same thing across multiple devices.

    I also turn off all the website/FB personalization stuff whenever possible and use my Google account for third-party login stuff, if it’s an option. I already know how Google uses my data, and again I have all the personalization stuff turned off.

    Right now an outside observer would note that I’m more than a little obsessed with romantic science fiction. I’ve got a dozen samples on my Nook and keep hitting the buy button when I get finished with the sample.

  2. Monday, July 16, 2012 7:48 pm

    I probably don’t worry about this as much as I should. But I think personal privacy has been an illusion for a very long time unrelated to the internet. As far as my reading habits go, those were being tracked long before I started buying books on Amazon. The librarian in the dinky little farm town in Oklahoma where I grew up remembered from week to week what books I checked out and would make recommendations based on my previous week’s reads. The waitress at the drug store sandwich counter during my junior year in high school knew every Friday my friend Martha and I would spend our school lunch break there eating a chuckwagon sandwich and drinking a Coke. If some number cruncher or marketing person at Amazon wants to go numb from boredom tracking what I read or the notes I make about what I read, well, I feel sorry for that person! LOL! I do try to be careful about what accounts I link together. I do change my online banking user ID and password several times a year. I change my FB password twice a year. I change my Gmail/Google password occasionally. My home wireless is password protected with a pretty long, nonsensical password. Even though I have several books on my Kindle I wouldn’t want a lot of people to know I read, I really don’t care if Amazon tracks my reading habits.

  3. Tuesday, July 17, 2012 1:36 am

    I guess it doesn’t bother me since I don’t really read that much (just download then archive tons of freebies). Because of that, Amazon has a hard time categorizing me (they’ve finally figured out that romance covers catch my eye). But I never respond to their recommendations since I rarely buy books.

    FB’s privacy stuff does bother me, but our addresses and phone numbers have been public information since they came into existence–though for someone to gather that info makes everyone nervous.

    Movies like Minority Report and The Net and especially the tv show Person of Interest show what happens when that information can be used against us. The only way to really live with this is remind ourselves that God is the ultimate tracker and He can protect us.

    Back to the original question, I don’t see the big deal with books. An outside observer would note that I never make notes or highlights in the few books I read; and the book most opened on my Kindle is my own word documents of my novel.

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