EFF Claims Google Book Search, Amazon Kindle Threaten Privacy

 
 
By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2009-12-22 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Privacy watchdogs at the Electronic Frontier Foundation claim that electronic reader technologies such as Google Book Search, Amazon.com's Kindle and Barnes & Noble's Nook threaten consumer privacy. Noting that e-readers collect a lot of information about their users' reading habits and locations and convey it to the companies that build or sell these technologies, the EFF has created a Buyer's Guide to E-Book Privacy to shed some light on what information existing e-readers collect and share.

Consumers mulling whether or not to license book titles through Google Book Search or purchase an electronic reader such as the Amazon Kindle or Barnes & Noble Nook may want to take the privacy policies of those services and devices into account before they do so.

Privacy watchdogs at the Electronic Frontier Foundation argue that while e-reader technologies are a hot item for the 2009 holiday season, the services and devices that let readers access and view digital books threaten consumers' privacy.

Ed Bayley, an adjunct attorney for the EFF, in a blog post Dec. 21 said e-readers collect "substantial information about their users' reading habits and locations" and report back to the companies that build or sell these technologies. To educate users, the EFF created a Buyer's Guide to E-Book Privacy to shed some light on what information existing e-readers "reserve the right to collect and share."

The Google Book Search project is Google's broad effort to scan out-of-print books and offer them to users online for fees. The project is on hold while the search engine and the New York District Court hash out a renegotiation, and won't be finalized until 2010.

However, the current privacy policy for the service allows Google to automatically log each book and page a user of the service searched for and read and how long a reader viewed it for, as well as information about subsequent books a reader searches for. Google Web History also tracks what books users purchased.

The EFF pointed out that this practice is consistent with the way Google logs user information for its core Web search offering, including "query term ... [IP] address, browser type, browser language, the date and time of your request and one or more cookies that may uniquely identify your browser," it quoted Google's privacy policy as saying. So users who are comfortable with this practice may not have an issue with Google Book Search.

Bayley also noted in the Buyer's Guide that information on Google Book Search users is available to the Book Rights Registry, a not-for-profit group that represents book rights holders, and third-party service providers. Google denied this in a statement sent to eWEEK.

"We will never share individual users' information at all unless the user tells us to, or in some very unusual circumstances that are spelled out in the Privacy Policy, like emergencies or when we receive valid legal process. The Book Rights Registry created under the settlement won't have access to users' personal information, either," the Google statement said.



 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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