Is Your eBook Reader Tracking You?

Apple, Google Collect User Data

Apple Inc.’s iPhones and Google Inc.’s Android smartphones regularly transmit their locations back to Apple and Google, respectively, according to data and documents analyzed by The Wall Street Journal—intensifying concerns over privacy and the widening trade in personal data.

I don’t know why Symbian, Windows Phone, and webOS aren’t mentioned. They must do it too.

And why hasn’t anyone asked the question I’m asking here?

The Kindle 3G, Barnes & Noble Nook, and Sony Daily Edition use cellphone carriers for some of their data transmission. Do those devices track location too? You don’t need GPS to do that, just a cellphone tower “address.”

What about eBook devices that use just WiFi? Kindle WiFi, Kobo Wireless Reader, Nook WiFi, and NookColor? Do they transmit any such identifiers? Could they tell which Starbucks, Barnes & Noble, Borders, public library, or free WiFi access spot you’ve been at?

And what about the eBook reading software that runs on 3G or even just WiFi tablets? There’s software for Kindle, Sony, Kobo, and Nook. Do those do any location tracking? What about when they’re on an iOS, Android, Symbian, webOS, Blackberry, or Windows Phone cellphone?

In fact, what data do they collect other than transactional information?

We know that Amazon cloudsync for Kindle will grab bookmarks, notes, and last page read. That’s a feature. But is any location data also grabbed? What about with Apple’s iBooks? Kobo Books? Nook?

I don’t know the answer to any of these questions. Nor do I want to seem paranoid. But if you’re going to talk about some devices and some data, you better start thinking about all devices and all possible data.



Filed under Amazon Kindle, Android, Barnes & Noble Nook, eBooks: General, eInk Devices, Google, iOS, Kobo Reader, Other Hardware, Sony Reader, webOS

3 responses to “Is Your eBook Reader Tracking You?

  1. I would not worry so much about my Kindle tracking my location– I don’t have the wireless on unless I want to buy a book– but I do wonder how precisely Amazon is tracking my reading habits, and what use they would make of that information. They probably have a pretty good handle on which books get read immediately after purchase and how fast they are read. Would they try to lure those authors, who presumably have devoted followings, into ditching their publishers and going direct with Amazon?

    • mikecane

      I’m not worried about this at all. I’m just asking the question because I think it’s inevitable that someone will — or should. Amazon has lots and lots of juicy data that could be used to their advantage. I’m sure that data has enabled them to make larger forays into actual publishing.

  2. justin fondriest

    I am worried as hell about this. Are you guys seriously NOT concerned? This should be one of the primary issues individuals look to in this age because any infrastructure that takes away freedoms of privacy will ultimately be used by SOMEONE in power for ill.
    Please let me know if you are so intrinsically blessed with insight (nay, future-site) that allows you to see that the paradigm played out multitudes of times during human evolution is changing so I can consider myself truly paranoid.
    This should help answer the original author’s question.

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