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Amazon Is Collecting Your Kindle Highlights & Notes 211

Posted by kdawson
from the margin-is-too-small-to-contain-it dept.
TechDirt catches Amazon playing fast and loose with data that consumers may think is private — namely, their highlights and notes entered into Kindle books. "Amazon will now remotely upload and store the user notes and highlights you take on your Kindle, which it then compiles into 'popular highlights.' I have no doubt that the feature provides some interesting data, but it's not clear that users realize their highlighting and notes are being stored and used that way. Amazon basically says there's no big privacy deal here, because the data is always aggregated. But it sounds like many users don't realize this is happening at all. Amazon says people can find out they added this feature by reading 'forum posts and help pages.' ... [This situation] once again highlights a key concern in that the 'features' of your 'book' can change over time. Your highlighting may have been yours in the past, but suddenly it becomes Amazon's with little notice."
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Amazon Is Collecting Your Kindle Highlights & Notes

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  • Repeat after me (Score:3, Insightful)

    by djupedal (584558) on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @10:40PM (#32178632)
    1.) highlight
    2.) upload in steal, er, I meant borrow...ahhhrr.. I mean stealth mode
    3.) profit
    4.) wow sharewholders
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Isn't the user generated notes are written by the customers? The customers still owns the copyrights and they can and should all file DMCA take down notices.

      • by Mathinker (909784)

        Isn't the user generated notes are written by the customers? The customers still owns the copyrights and they can and should all file DMCA take down notices.

        In theory, you are probably correct. However, you can be relatively sure that somewhere in the terms of use, Yahoo's lawyers have tried to reduce liability, and you may have agreed to assign your copyright on your annotations to Yahoo (or otherwise limited your ability to use the DMCA or sue for infringement).

        Not to mention you would be suing a large corporation with many more $s than you. Not easy.

        One more thing to file under Yet Another Reason I Will Never Use A Kindle.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by coaxial (28297)

        Isn't the user generated notes are written by the customers? The customers still owns the copyrights and they can and should all file DMCA take down notices.

        Check the EULA. Dollars to donuts (I'll take the donuts), there's language in it to the effect of "by using this device, you give Amazon a royalty free, irrevokable, license to all notes, highlights, and other annotations made with this device.

    • by causality (777677) on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @11:28PM (#32178918)

      1.) highlight 2.) upload in steal, er, I meant borrow...ahhhrr.. I mean stealth mode 3.) profit 4.) wow sharewholders

      I can't wait to see who comes out of the woodwork to defend Amazon on this one, and what sort of faux reasoning they use to do it. I know Amazon doesn't have the fanboy base that Microsoft and Apple currently enjoy, but I think that's because they are, for the most part, "just a retailer" reselling goods they did not themselves design or produce. Most of the items they sell are things you happen to have bought from Amazon but could obtain elsewhere. The Kindle is quite the exception to that. It's a real Amazon product and service with all of the brand recognition that goes with that.

      I'm wondering who is going to make excuses for Amazon and advocate that we view this as a desirable or at least benign practice. That's what happens whenever there is a story about alleged or proven malfeasance by Microsoft. It's what happens whenever there is a story about excessive vendor lock-in, general control-freak practices, or arbitrary and inconsistent actions (like which apps are accepted/rejected for its App Store) by Apple. So, who will it be? Who's going to try convincing us that this is a good and desirable practice, that it's in our interests as customers, that it's not a step in the wrong direction that has a long series of steps, or that there's something wrong with seriously questioning it?

      Or better yet, who will point out a EULA clause or similar document stating, "we can arbitrarily modify this agreement without notice or ability to opt-out, at any time, to allow ourselves to engage in any practice" and conclude that this completely justifies everything beyond reproach, both legally and morally/ethically?

      In the interests of non-discrimination, I hereby request that those of you with fanboy inclinations, who derive your identity in part or whole by feeling a personal connection to non-human entities that don't give a damn about you except that you spend money, who cheer their successes and mourn their losses, who add your free contributions to their already multi-million dollar marketing and PR budgets, who use ad-hominem and invective against anyone who dislikes "your team", speak up and be heard. There is no reason why Amazon should not be treated equally.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @11:52PM (#32179028)

        As a (recently) former employee (new gig) of Lab126, the people who make the Kindle, I can assure you that only highlights are used in data collection, i.e. the selection from a start location to end location. When shown as popular highlights, they are just an underlining of text for those locations, as well as the number of users who have highlighted that selection. That is it, nothing more, nothing less.

        No annotations are used that people have typed. Finally, the service is optional, with the ability to opt-in and opt-out on device. I'm pretty sure this has been stated in the kindle users guide, the legal menu item in settings, and on the website.

        • by batistuta (1794636) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @03:20AM (#32180050)
          Since this is a new "feature", I'm sure it was no where at the time buyers acquired the product a few months ago. Besides, that's not the whole point. Sure, Amazons profits from this and they do give part of the benefit back to users, but it should be done in such a way that the users are absolutely informed of what's happening. And it should be disabled by default.
        • If I highlight the Wikipedia article on 'plastique' you can personally garantee that I won't ever be getting a visit from the feds or be placed on any kind of watch list?

          Because if you can't, well ... we should just ban curtains and envelopes and get it over with.

          • What if many pranksters highlight a page (or more) in a popular book in a manner that would produce an offensive image/text? Or a spoiler for the book ending ;).

            Individual highlights could be designed to look innocuous, but produce the target image when combined by Amazon.

            Of course this may require a fair number of people getting access to a kindle. Doesn't have to be that many since I'm sure some pages are less likely to be highlighted in normal circumstances.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @03:48AM (#32180172)

          It's not the fact that I can opt in or out.

          It is the fact that, once I buy a (e)-book, I don't want to hear from or interact with the publisher ever again concerning that purchase. Money exchanged, goods recieved, and that's the end of it. Period and finished.

          I do not want my "book" to send out any information whatsoever unless I explicitly go through motions that enables it. And if I do enable it, I expect a little wi-fi type of icon present on the corner of every page of each book that has this enabled.

          On the same vein, I do not want my "book" to listen for and receive anything. No "your purchase has been deleted your money refunded" bullshit. Once I have it, I have it, it is mine, and nothing short of a physical person showing up with a signed court order will remove it from my possession.

          I do not want a device that interacts in any way whatsoever with a network other than to make a new purchase, and then limited exclusively to information concerning that purchase.

          Capish? What is so hard to understand about implementing this simple basic model, and nothing more?

          • by pgmrdlm (1642279)

            Should be the same with computers also and the software that runs on them. But we all know thats not true. We are constantly asked to opt in for anonymous data exchange.

            Not saying I agree with this, because I don't. But this practice is nothing new for products we currently purchase.

          • by Zordak (123132) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @10:19AM (#32182768) Homepage Journal
            I believe what you're looking for is the new "paperback" book reader. Text shows up on an organic, fibrous display via the PII (physical ink imprint) protocol. There's no backlight, so you may need a lamp next to your bed, but daylight visibility is unmatched, and I have yet to exhaust the battery on one. There's even a special exception that lets you use them on airplanes during takeoff and landing. And the text delivery is strictly one-way---there's no backhaul connection to the publisher. They're basically impossible to hack without physical access to the terminal, and they tend to be very error tolerant (I've seen some that have still been usable after being left in rain and mud). You may even have a local repository near you where they will loan you a reader for free. And they're so pervasive, even Amazon has started selling some now. You should check it out!
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Late Adopter (1492849)

            It is the fact that, once I buy a (e)-book, I don't want to hear from or interact with the publisher ever again concerning that purchase. Money exchanged, goods recieved, and that's the end of it. Period and finished.

            And that's neat, and I feel where you're coming from, but most people really don't care. If Amazon can find a buck or two in value using something that people don't even notice the impact of giving, it's a sustainable enough business model.

            There's no reason why an e-reader necessarily HAS to have communications capability. Most don't. Use those if this matters to you so much. I have a Sony Reader myself, and only communicated with them once for a firmware upgrade immediately after purchase (to add su

        • I really interested in what the reasoning was behind all of this. Most people highlight because of their professor/teacher, not for entertainment. The small subset of reference or self-help books which users are likely to independently highlight give you snippets and keywords which are going to be useless outside of context. Bible study, book clubs - it's all groupthink, and you're going to reinforce the importance of specific parts without users coming to the same conclusion.

          You're going to end up with

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          That is it, nothing more, nothing less.

          That's already far, far too much. Beyond the beyonds in fact. However I'm sure it seems utterly innocuous to the kind of people already engaged in wholesale data collection. If ever there was an example of entry level drugs leading on to harder and harder types, data is it. They started with name and address, moved on to purchase history, then browsing history, and now they're on what parts of the book you highlight. Pretty soon they'll want to know the times you read(

        • by T-Bone-T (1048702)

          Nobody reads the manual, website, or legal menu. That reminds me of HHGTTG.

      • Microsoft has fanboys? Mayhaps you refer to the boys Ballmer employs to keep him cool on a hot afternoon.

        • by tverbeek (457094)

          Yes, Microsoft has fanboys. I've worked with some. Often its about the Xbox and Halo, but some people seriously think that Windows, IE, and Office are It. It's the same mentality that leads some people to think that The Phantom Menace should've won the Oscar for Best Picture because it was the top-grossing film that year, or that Kelly Clarkson is one of the greatest singers in America because so many people voted for her on American Idol. They can sometimes be identified by a venomous hatred of Apple o

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Kijori (897770)

        I can't wait to see who comes out of the woodwork to defend Amazon on this one, and what sort of faux reasoning they use to do it.

        Well I will for one, because I don't see where Amazon have done anything wrong. Point out to me where the "faux reasoning is".

        Here are the facts of this:

        - The data is anonymized
        - The data is only published in aggregate
        - The change was publicised in the Kindle forums, by email and in a new manual being sent out
        - The change only sends highlights, not annotations. (The Techdirt writer seems to have misunderstood the article they cited and invented the annotations part)
        - The setting defaults to off.

        So Amazon ha

    • Go to every book you own, highlight the first 'F', the first 'U' after this, the first 'C' after this , the first 'K' after this , then first 'A', then 'M', then 'A', then 'Z'.... you get the idea.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    highlights kindle you.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @10:42PM (#32178638)

    Collecting and anonymizing highlights to form something like "most popular passages". Awesome. Collecting and "anonymizing" notes? Impossible and terribly invasive.

    Guess which one is actually happening? Guess which one the title and summary suggests is happening?

    • Even collecting information about 'most popular passages' is, IMHO, kind of invasive. Especially when it happens without you even realizing it. When you highlight something on a personal device you hold in your lap where you 'buy' the books the expectation is not that the highlight becomes public knowledge in any way, even as part of an aggregate.

      The plain fact is, the idea that you 'own' your Kindle or any of the books on it is a complete fiction. Amazon should not be allowed to imply that you do in any way.

      • by tuttleturtle42 (1234802) on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @11:09PM (#32178798)
        But it is an /optional/ feature, that they put out a press release for, put a big message on the amazon kindle forums about and are sending out an updated user's manual with. It is even a feature that defaults to off. They are telling people about it and letting them not turn it on. Otherwise it'd be terrible. It'd make sense as a complaint if they didn't share what they were doing. There's also the option of not updating the software if you care so much about keeping the kindle exactly as it is. The kindle store has problems, that doesn't mean that everything that amazon does with the kindle is a problem.
    • I suggest hacking this. Get a whole bunch of people to download some really obscure free book and then highlight words which suggest some deeply disturbing pathological behavior. Get enough people to do it and you'll have Amazon highlighting some sicko fantasy.

      • That's a job for 4chan. [4chan.org]

        Other comments have missed the point. Amazon is transmitting and storing information about what interests readers enough to highlight. That can be very personal. It doesn't matter that the information that Amazon displays is "aggregated".

        For example, if someone highlights the name of a terrorist, that could be a cause for police interest in that person. The information about what the person highlighted is available to police investigation, or to any surveillance department of th
  • This is why (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Omnifarious (11933) * <eric-slash@omnif ... s.org minus city> on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @10:43PM (#32178648) Homepage Journal

    This is why I'm so very insistent about owning the hardware I buy. Mostly. Unfortunately, I sort of share vague ownership of a PS3 with Sony. :-( But generally, it's not a concession I'm willing to make.

    Sadly, I don't think most people are aware of the choice they're making. And when you tell them, they think you're a raving lunatic or some kind of bizarre idealist. But their choices have real consequences, and the network effect of their choices have consequences for me.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by BadAnalogyGuy (945258)

      Ownership is the same as renting. It just has an indefinite termination date.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Culture20 (968837)
        Even when renting, there are certain limitations a landlord must follow. The property is *yours* in terms of privacy, even if not legal ownership.
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by TheLink (130905)
          Yeah there are laws limiting what you can and cannot do when repossessing a car or property. Heck even squatters have rights in many countries.

          There's probably a fair bit of history behind those laws. Just hope we don't have to go through it all over again. Or worse, we get stuck back in the crap old days.

          Nowadays the law seems to be: "When you have a monopoly, it's near-absolutely yours for 120* years, muahahahaha" (* subject to future renewals). Or "When you own something, you're not liable for anything,
        • by batquux (323697)

          Brilliant idea! Rent properties at a discount.. ok, full price, since they'll pay it. Then collect 'anonymous' data about how the tenants use said property, and sell that to whoever is interested. You could even include a hands-off billboard or display screen on the property as part of the lease and tailor ads specific to conversations that occur within the house. It would even be possible to have it automatically respond to common phrases like "I'm hungry," "I have a headache," "We're out of..."

          I think I'm

    • Re:This is why (Score:5, Insightful)

      by adolf (21054) <flodadolf@gmail.com> on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @11:06PM (#32178780) Journal

      Let us not fog this discussion with dismissives about hardware ownership, for this really has nothing to do with that. Instead, this about how companies treat the data you create. And let me just say that there's are some useful aspects to having Amazon keep your data for you.

      Suppose I have a Kindle (or, say, one of the requisite apps on some other hardware platform), and I've bought a few books for it that I've noted and highlighted. Suppose, then, that I lose my Kindle. Or it gets run over by a bus. Or stolen. Or dunked in a hot tub. Or whatever.

      All I have to do is procure/install a new Kindle, enter the appropriate account identification, and my books and notes are transferred to the new device.

      Which, you must admit, is pretty cool. (Hey luddites! The cloud has uses!)

      As I see it, the only problem here is if, and how, Amazon shares that data with others. It really has nothing to do with hardware ownership, which is a red herring argument at best. [amazon.com]

      So, instead, please: Let's simply discuss the implications of Amazon sharing your highlights with others. (This is a matter that I really don't have any opinion on in this instance, but I guess I'll don my flamesuit anyway...)

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Suppose I have a Kindle (or, say, one of the requisite apps on some other hardware platform), and I've bought a few books for it that I've noted and highlighted. Suppose, then, that I lose my Kindle. Or it gets run over by a bus. Or stolen. Or dunked in a hot tub. Or whatever.

        All I have to do is procure/install a new Kindle, enter the appropriate account identification, and my books and notes are transferred to the new device.

        And if you want that, that's fine. The problem is, I might be much more alright wi

      • Re:This is why (Score:5, Insightful)

        by causality (777677) on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @11:47PM (#32178994)

        Let us not fog this discussion with dismissives about hardware ownership, for this really has nothing to do with that. Instead, this about how companies treat the data you create. And let me just say that there's are some useful aspects to having Amazon keep your data for you.

        Suppose I have a Kindle (or, say, one of the requisite apps on some other hardware platform), and I've bought a few books for it that I've noted and highlighted. Suppose, then, that I lose my Kindle. Or it gets run over by a bus. Or stolen. Or dunked in a hot tub. Or whatever.

        All I have to do is procure/install a new Kindle, enter the appropriate account identification, and my books and notes are transferred to the new device.

        Which, you must admit, is pretty cool. (Hey luddites! The cloud has uses!)

        As I see it, the only problem here is if, and how, Amazon shares that data with others. It really has nothing to do with hardware ownership, which is a red herring argument at best. [amazon.com]

        So, instead, please: Let's simply discuss the implications of Amazon sharing your highlights with others. (This is a matter that I really don't have any opinion on in this instance, but I guess I'll don my flamesuit anyway...)

        Hardware that you own is under your control. "Control" as used here includes the ability to decide whether or not it transmits locally-stored data to any remote destination.

        The scenarios you gave of a Kindle being destroyed, stolen, or otherwise rendered inoperable have a simple enough solution: backups. On a hardware device that you own, there is nothing preventing you from making backups of any data it stores. If you own it, you can send your data "to the cloud" as a backup (whether or not this is the primary purpose of doing so), you can back the data up to physical media that you own, you can choose to do both, or you can choose to do neither and take your chances.

        Most importantly, hardware that you own doesn't "phone home" unless you specifically configure it to do so. It doesn't force you to return a downloaded book (i.e. 1984) because the publisher screwed up and wants to make this your problem. It doesn't transmit your data to "the cloud" unless you enable such functionality, or if it is enabled by default, you are at least able to permanently disable it with the confidence that your settings won't be remotely overridden.

        I think you miss an important point. Data ownership is a total non-issue if no one but you has possession of your data. It's an easy issue if no one else has possession of your data unless you specifically, willingly, and intentionally gave it to them. The only reason you mention "how companies treat the data you create" and think this trumps the "hardware ownership" concern is because Amazon gets this data with or without your consent because they have total control over a device you thought you owned.

        The repeated examples of this single principle are why I will never use a Kindle. I refuse to reward such business practices with my money. If you really had no qualms about doing so, if there were truly nothing wrong with any of this, then you wouldn't need to create a false distinction between "hardware ownership" and "how companies treat your data", as though the hardware ownership were not exactly the means by which Amazon obtains your data.

        • Most importantly, hardware that you own doesn't "phone home" unless you specifically configure it to do so.

          They have made this configuration radically simple to carry out. Just turn the wireless off, leave it off, and use your USB port to transfer your data.

          And for the tinfoil hatters who say "How do you know it's really off? How do you know the switch is actually connected to anything?" and so on... Well, how do you know there's no microphone, GSM transmitter, and SIM card buried in your kitchen stove secr

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by causality (777677)

            Most importantly, hardware that you own doesn't "phone home" unless you specifically configure it to do so.

            They have made this configuration radically simple to carry out. Just turn the wireless off, leave it off, and use your USB port to transfer your data.

            And for the tinfoil hatters who say "How do you know it's really off? How do you know the switch is actually connected to anything?" and so on... Well, how do you know there's no microphone, GSM transmitter, and SIM card buried in your kitchen stove secretly sending all of your conversations to Whirlpool?

            I have a question for you. As in, I really don't know the answer but would like to become informed.

            Let's say that a user disables the wireless functionality so that only the USB port can perform data transfers on the Kindle, as you mention. That user then purchases the book 1984. The publisher screws up and decides that the very best way to handle that is to forcibly reverse the sales. In other words, instead of taking responsibility for its screw-up and paying any necessary fees to the copyright hol

      • All I have to do is procure/install a new Kindle, enter the appropriate account identification, and my books and notes are transferred to the new device.

        I have a computer that's connected to the Internet 24/7. It runs an IMAP server, an SMTP server, a web server, Mailman, a few wikis, and other miscellaneous things.

        Why do all of these devices insist on storing things on Google's cloud, or Amazon's cloud, or someone else's cloud? What about mine? I want my data right where I can see it, not in the dubiously benevolent hands of some random third party. Why isn't that happening with any of these devices?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mpe (36238)
        Let us not fog this discussion with dismissives about hardware ownership, for this really has nothing to do with that. Instead, this about how companies treat the data you create.

        Whilst the highlighting might be "data" notes are more "content".

        And let me just say that there's are some useful aspects to having Amazon keep your data for you. Suppose I have a Kindle (or, say, one of the requisite apps on some other hardware platform), and I've bought a few books for it that I've noted and highlighted. Sup
        • by adolf (21054)

          Indeed there's no good reason that it need be Amazon storing this...

          Then, who shall store it instead? And what is the "good reason" they should do so, instead of some other (perhaps first-party) entity?

      • Re:This is why (Score:4, Informative)

        by Asic Eng (193332) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @03:37AM (#32180114)
        All I have to do is procure/install a new Kindle, enter the appropriate account identification, and my books and notes are transferred to the new device. Which, you must admit, is pretty cool. (Hey luddites! The cloud has uses!)

        OK, I'll go ahead and admit that: It is cool and it does have uses. However it has problems, too.

        To give a very very specific example: Amazon has recently suspended my account. It's not that they told me about it - it's just that my password suddenly stopped working, and when going through the password reset process I found the new one wasn't working either. Only when I contacted them through their contact form did they actually tell me that they suspended the account. They said they were investigating something with another similar account which had a problem. They didn't tell me what they were investigating, they didn't tell me how long they were planning to investigate, just asked me for "patience". The email can't be replied to either. To give some context: I checked my records, and I have been buying stuff from them since at least 1997, as far as I am aware they never had the slightest problem with me in that time.

        I did some web searching and it seems that this sort of thing is something Amazon does fairly often, they seem to have some sort of system which they use to try and detect fraud and apparently it triggers on some rather weird things (lives at the same address as someone they had problems with in the past, has the same last name as someone they have problems with ... stuff like that). Of course they are entitled to chose who they do business with (and so it should be) so there is really no recourse against this.

        As you can imagine I'm fairly pissed at them, but everything I bought from them over the years is still available to me, everything I own I can still use. There are other suppliers of books, mp3s and electronics - if they don't want my business I can and will take it elsewhere.

        I'm not sure how much all this would affect me if I owned a Kindle, but I don't think I would want to buy one now. (Well, it's not like they'd let me anyway ...)

        I'll take this as a reminder not to entrust anything important to "the cloud" and continue not to buy DRM products.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by JohnBailey (1092697)

          As you can imagine I'm fairly pissed at them, but everything I bought from them over the years is still available to me, everything I own I can still use. There are other suppliers of books, mp3s and electronics - if they don't want my business I can and will take it elsewhere.

          I'm not sure how much all this would affect me if I owned a Kindle, but I don't think I would want to buy one now. (Well, it's not like they'd let me anyway ...)

          I'll take this as a reminder not to entrust anything important to "the cloud" and continue not to buy DRM products.

          As far as I have read (not stupid enough to rent a Kindle).. No account = no way of (legally) changing the DRM code on your books = no way of transferring your books to a new device.

          So if you buy say ten books a year, for the next five years, those fifty books will last as long as your current Kindle device works. Not as long as you decide you want the books.

      • Suppose I have a Kindle (or, say, one of the requisite apps on some other hardware platform), and I've bought a few books for it that I've noted and highlighted. Suppose, then, that I lose my Kindle. Or it gets run over by a bus. Or stolen. Or dunked in a hot tub. Or whatever.

        All I have to do is procure/install a new Kindle, enter the appropriate account identification, and my books and notes are transferred to the new device.

        Which, you must admit, is pretty cool. (Hey luddites! The cloud has uses!)

        The fata

    • by AHuxley (892839)
      Exactly make sure your next handheld book reading, connectivity device is not from Apple, MS, Google or Amazon.
      Get a "Dell" like device, make sure it runs Linux and buy after some smart people have inspected every packet for a time.
      Enjoy Linux and buy on the resolution and form factor you like.
      First Amazon reached in and removed your property, now .....
      What next?
  • by creimer (824291) on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @10:46PM (#32178660) Homepage
    Just use a regular highlighter pen. Of course, you might want to cover the display with clear plastic first. :P
  • by bkpark (1253468) on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @10:49PM (#32178686) Homepage

    As a Kindle 2 owner who just had his Kindle updated to 2.5 firmware (which has this feature), I can tell you that this feature is off by default. In order for Amazon to actually share your highlights (of course, who knows if they're collecting it silently in the background; it's their system after all), you have to actively turn on this feature.

    I've also seen Kindle for iPad. I don't recall whether this feature was on by default, but it is rather prominently displayed on their relatively simple options menu. If you have privacy concerns, it's fairly simple to turn it off.

    • Check the Terms of Service.

      ie. I think you'd be illuminated.
  • RTFM (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @10:51PM (#32178698)

    Kindle User's Guide (pdf) [amazonaws.com], page 99. Notes and highlights have been backed up to Amazon's servers since the v1 launch, and you can easily turn off sync of your own data.

    You can enable or disable automatic backup by following the steps below:
    1. If you are not already on the Home screen, press the Home button.
    2. Press the Menu button.
    3. Move the 5-way to underline "Settings" and press to select.
    4. Press the Menu button.
    5. Move the 5-way to underline "Disable/Enable Annotations Backup" and press to select.

    Why should I care that Amazon builds an aggregate summary?

    • Re:RTFM (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Culture20 (968837) on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @11:12PM (#32178824)

      Why should I care that Amazon builds an aggregate summary?

      What if your (admittedly stupid) note said "This passage is exactly what happened to my wife, Jenny Smith, last night at our home address of 12345 Stupid street in Stupidville."? Or more likely, you annotated someone's name and address or phone number in your kindle because you had it with you by the pool, but you didn't have your phone.

      • Would the world would come to an end?
        Would the shadowy anti-privacy forces finally get the last piece of their diabolical puzzle and finish their time machine?
        Would we get to read yet another story on Slashdot whining about imaginary injuries to our privacy?
        Would Santa Claus finally have probable cause to cross Jenny Smith's name off his gift list?
        Would I finally get that beer I've been wanting?
        Would terriers learn to play bass?

        With a tremble in our hearts, the world awaits knowledge of our terrible hypothe

        • by yotto (590067) on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @11:44PM (#32178982) Homepage

          Good thing none of those would happen. They also won't happen if you reply to this with your home address so long as you post as an AC.

          We promise we'll only use the information in aggregate.

        • by carlzum (832868)
          Like many others here, I've worked with databases that store call logs and correspondence. You would be surprised how often personal information like SSNs and credit card numbers end up in the system. A single incident can be a legal or PR disaster for an organization. I don't see how the value of user notes could outweigh the risk. Is it really a feature people want?
      • I imagine there's a better way to take a note like that on the Kindle, like not in a book's notes, but in a separate file. If there isn't, it's probably not well enough designed to grab my attention anyway.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by discord5 (798235)

        If Amazon is collecting notes, expect a few "Impress her with your stamina. Buy viagra at http://penisexperts.com/ [penisexperts.com]." notes in the near future.

        • by Culture20 (968837)

          If Amazon is collecting notes, expect a few "Impress her with your stamina. Buy viagra at http://penisexperts.com/ [penisexperts.com]." notes in the near future.

          I wish authors of parent comments could pass on mod points to their children like an inheritance. You are spot-on.

      • by SeaFox (739806)

        How about I'm reading the Kindle edition of the [insert religious/philosophical text here] and make notes comparing passages/figures in the book to certain nations/political figures. Will the CIA come knocking if take a passage in a religious text referring to "an evil that has to be expunged" and make a note that this area is referring to the United States, or Capitalists?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Kijori (897770)

        Why should I care that Amazon builds an aggregate summary?

        What if your (admittedly stupid) note said "This passage is exactly what happened to my wife, Jenny Smith, last night at our home address of 12345 Stupid street in Stupidville."? Or more likely, you annotated someone's name and address or phone number in your kindle because you had it with you by the pool, but you didn't have your phone.

        Nothing. Because that scenario cannot possible happen and is simply paranoia.

        Everyone is trying to come up with scenarios that turn this into an invasion of the user's privacy, but if you take a look at the facts rather than assuming the worst you'll see that there is no privacy concern at all:

        - The data is anonymized
        - The data is only published in aggregate
        - The change was publicised in the Kindle forums, by email and in a new manual being sent out
        - The change only sends highlights, not annotations. (The T

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Why should I provide Amazon with a free service?
    • Really? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Saeed al-Sahaf (665390) on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @11:12PM (#32178828) Homepage

      Why should I care that Amazon builds an aggregate summary?

      You might care if the books you read and the things you highlight come up at your next security clearance interview. As well, it may take you some time to realize why you are getting certain types of clearly targeted spam. And, down the road, maybe you just don't fit in to that condo you want to buy, maybe you'll wonder why and where they got their data. Trying to adopt a child? You might want to be concerned

      You do realize that all data is for sale, right?

    • by Eivind (15695)

      Thanks for pointing out that the user-interface is lying about this feature.

      They call it "backup". People have spesific expectations about what a backup is, and what is is for. (it's a copy of your data on some other location, the purpose of which is to make it possible to restore the data if the primary copy suffers a catastrophic loss of some sort)

      "Enable backup" sounds -very- different to users than "Transmit info about your highlights to amazon, for them to use to create statistics on popular highlights

  • This is why I still don't own a "reader". I'm willing to go as far as PDF readers, i.e. some tablet device. But if I can't get it as a PDF, fine, I'll buy the paper product.
    • This is why I still don't own a "reader". I'm willing to go as far as PDF readers, i.e. some tablet device. But if I can't get it as a PDF, fine, I'll buy the paper product.

      You know, there are readers that are just readers. I picked up a Sony PRS-300 recently and am very happy. No WiFi, no Bluetooth, no 3G cellular service. Just a USB cable. I use Calibre to manage my books, not their software. There's no annotation, no searching, no document editing, no highlighting. It's just a reader. And it works really, really well.

      Here's a cool thing. My wife and I are going to be going on vacation soon. We're going to load up our Readers with a tonne of material, stick them in

  • by c0d3g33k (102699) on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @11:20PM (#32178868)
    Isn't it interesting that the very companies that protest constantly about piracy of their "intellectual property" and want to DRM lock everything to prevent it seem to have no respect for the property rights of individuals? Take note, you apologists who constantly point out that piracy is "theft" because it "steals" something that belongs to the creator whose 'right' to compensation and control of their works must be protected. Why silent now? The personal notes a person creates on their reading device are no different from other creative works and should be protected accordingly. Amazon should not be accessing or using this information without express permission or fairly compensating the rights holders and providing royalties for the lives of the authors plus 70 years. Live by the sword, die by the sword.
  • by NotQuiteReal (608241) on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @11:49PM (#32179006) Journal
    And not your "notes"... he just wants to know where you live and how much you spent at Amazon... to make sure you paid your local "use" tax.

    You have paid, right?

    Do you have any right to ask Amazon to delete your "history"? Probably not any more than you have the right to ask your doctor to erase bad things from your medical charts...
  • Textbook notes? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by LoverOfJoy (820058) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @12:20AM (#32179190) Homepage
    So will students start noting what's on the test to help the next class out? What will this actually be used for? It's hard to imagine scenarios where I'd want to use it much.
  • Surprising to me (Score:4, Interesting)

    by cgenman (325138) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @01:10AM (#32179428) Homepage

    I first noticed this earlier today: passages just started being underlined. Hovering over the text explains that it has been highlighted by other users, and how to turn off the feature. It's a bit bloatey for anything other than textbooks, but as a feature it is almost unmissable. You can't read on a Kindle anymore without knowing about this feature (and preferably disabling it).

    Personally, I'm just annoyed that people highlight the most inane sappy lines as if they were genuinely insightful about life. Thank you, dozens of people who highlighted "The most important things in life are friends"; I'm glad that if you forget this pearl of wisdom in the future, you can return to the convenient highlight marker and be re-enlightened.

  • I've just realised how sinister the potential of the Kindle is. In Nazi and Stalinist states, THEY controlled the printing presses - we're getting into a situation where THEY control the very act of reading. Start stockpiling paper and pencils.
  • oops, perhaps I should stop highlighting the phrases that I use as secret keys for the book cipher when I send out instructions to my henchmen ?
  • Everyone highlight everything.
    What this will do is make it pointless or biased if all is not highlighted.
    And this would raise the question of who's controlling the bias of highlights.

    There is also issues that can arise regarding education and cheating, using someone elses highlights and notes.
    Maybe its time to get the school system involved here.

    Highlighting should perhaps be a personally controlled and shared only with those you want to share with, even outside the mechanism of amazon control.

  • start a campaign to get as many people as possible to put the following note in EVERY amazon ebook they've bought:

    "Amazon are evil bastards who should keep the fuck out of my private notes".

    then see that become the most popular.

  • If we are working on developing server side storage and data management, we're offering a "cloud based" computing solution and hopefully celebrating some big venture capital. If we are the customers are using it, the providers are well, "gathering our data". Of course Amazon is storing data on their servers. Of course everyone who has all that data is going to look for ways to monetize it. That's the whole point of server side computing, really.

  • Posters have already commented on the possibility of pranking the system with weird passages - given the ability to reach diverse groups with social media this seems like a real possibility.

    Taken a step further, how about teams vying to get quotes up. In a variation of geo-caching you could have quote-caching - some relative obscure quote from a free text; along with separate quotes for each team. First team to get their quote and their selected passage up gets a point; you'd need a quote-master to select

  • I thought when Amazon removed 1984 a few years ago a few people were upset specifically because they lost their notes on the book, but then Amazon was able to restore those? Seems like this should have been obvious for years.

  • by rock_climbing_guy (630276) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @08:19AM (#32181364) Journal
    Amazon, let me count the ways that your Kindle sucks. I've been wary of you ever since I first heard that your device calls home and deletes users' files upon your request. Now this, you've got to be kidding me!

    I've been pissed at you ever since the whole 1-click patent fiasco, but I buy things (other than Kindle ) from you simply because it's so easy and convenient. I may have to start seriously considering alternatives.

  • Pretty sure the little Kindle manual tells you that your notes and highlights are archived on Amazon's servers.

    At least, mine did.

    If you are paranoid about this, don't make highlights or notes. Not that most of you do, anyway.

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