In an article by The Guardian, Kari Paul discusses a new discovery she’s made about how Amazon has logged not only what books she’s read on her Amazon Kindle, but the things she’s highlighted, excerpts she’s copied from books into her iPhone’s clipboard, and even looking up definitions of words in the Kindle’s dictionary. I am probably as shocked as she is. Paul was only able to discover this, as she starts off in her article:
“When I requested my personal information from Amazon this month under California’s new privacy law, I received mostly what I expected my order history, shipping information, and customer support chat logs. But tucked into the dozens of files were also two Excel spreadsheets, more than 20,000 lines each, with titles, timestamps and actions detailing my reading habits on the Kindle app on my iPhone.”
image via apple insider
This disturbing revelation, according to Paul, revealed the moments she highlighted excerpts from The Deeper the Water and Uglier the Fish on February 15, or another, Severance, started on November 3 of 2018. She then states that she made highlights in an excerpt from the third installment of The Diary of Anais Nin on May 21, 2019, or an excerpt from Leslie Jamison’s The Recovering: Intoxication and its Aftermath on August 23, 2018. Amazon even recorded her changing the color of this excerpt!
You may be asking why Amazon even needs this information from you. According to their privacy page, they collect things like search or shop for products in their stores, adding or removing items in your cart or placing orders, downloading, streaming, viewing, or using content on your device through their services, providing information in Your Account, and much more. Amazon says that they use this to personalize your shopping experience and make proper recommendations to you when shopping (this would explain why if you search ‘phone cases’ and then buy one, you suddenly see Amazon recommending you tons of other phone cases “you may like”).
image via mage plaza
Paul states that “Amazon says it does not share what individual customers have highlighted with publishers or anyone else,” according to a spokeswoman. “The highlights are logged to sync reading progress and actions across devices.” This seems to make sense, but Amazon is logging almost everything done while reading on a Kindle. What is all that extra data used for, then?
Paul has an answer through Alastair Mactaggart, someone who advocated for the California Consumer Privacy Act. Mactaggart states that “though Amazon says it is not currently sharing the insights gleaned from reading habits with anyone else, that the company holds on to the data shows it could be used in the future.”
For anyone who reads on a Kindle, this will be worrying for them. It definitely doesn’t feel good knowing that everything you’re doing on a Kindle is being logged and recorded, all for no good reason. Amazon is just collecting all this data and holding onto it. Paul quotes Evan Greer, the director at the privacy act group Fight For the Future. He makes a good point when he says, “There is no reason Amazon or any other company needs to collect that kind of information to provide you with the service, which is simply reading a book.”
This discovery of data collection could be yet another drawback to using technology to read books. Amazon definitely won’t be tracking what you read and what you mark through a good ol’ paper book.
Featured image via the verge
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