Is your Kindle keeping score? You bet! December 16, 2010Posted by Cameron Shelley in : STV202, STV302 , comments closed
Earlier, I commented on news that Amazon’s Kindle aggregates user data, such as the book passages most highlighted by users. Of course, besides your highlighting, your Kindle is keeping detailed files on you.
A recent piece by NPR explores how much your Kindle reports on you. The Kindle contains a cell phone antenna that allows you to download books wirelessly, which is very convenient. The same technology also allows the Kindle to report back to Amazon on your reading habits. How far did you get through War and Peace? How long did it take you? At what rate did you read through different chapters? What words did you have to look up? Where did you read it? Amazon may know better than you.
The EFF has produced a side-by-side comparison of privacy policies of various on-line book providers to guess at the data they are monitoring. It is interesting to note what information is obtained but also how much is simply uncertain. How long does your e-book provider store this information, for example? None of them seem to say. Nor are they very forthcoming on the subject, the NPR piece notes.
There are some useful things that Amazon or its clients could do with such information:
“[The Kindle] is just one more string in their bow,” says author Scott Turow, president of the Authors Guild. “They could tell you with precision the age, the zip codes, gender and other interests of the people who bought my books. Now you can throw on top of that the fact that a certain number of them quit reading at Page 45.”
The implication is that authors or researchers could form a better idea of what people like and how they read, and use this information to tailor a better reading experience. True, but the lack of clarity and transparency in what data is collected, how it is kept, and for what purpose remains unsettling.
Apparently, author Stephen King feels similarly:
“Ultimately, this sort of thing scares the hell out of me,” King says. “But it is the way that things are.”