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When Your e-Books Read You 105

Posted by Soulskill
from the they-get-bored-and-put-you-down dept.
theodp writes "'Perhaps nothing will have as large an impact on advanced analytics in the coming year as the ongoing explosion of new and powerful data sources,' writes Bill Franks in Taming The Big Data Tidal Wave. And one of the hottest new sources of Big Data, reports the WSJ's Alexandra Alter in Your E-Book Is Reading You, is the estimated 40 million e-readers and 65 million tablets in use in the U.S. that are ripe for the picking by data scientists working for Amazon, Apple, Google, and Barnes & Noble. Some privacy watchdogs argue that e-book users should be protected from having their digital reading habits recorded. 'There's a societal ideal that what you read is nobody else's business,' says the EFF's Cindy Cohn."
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When Your e-Books Read You

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  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Saturday June 30, 2012 @09:37AM (#40504147) Homepage

    In Capitalist America, book reads you!

    • You read ebooks!

    • by fferreres (525414)

      And more seriously, I think that the solution is to use capitalism itself, which has a fundamental principle of private property. If my activity, information, habits and likes are my private company, you cannot use it unless I sold it to you. Just like you cannot take a picture of a celebrity and use that to promote a product or conduct business (only to report).

      Same here. Companies should not be allowed to steal property from citizens. Their individual behavior is their own asset, whether thinking of it as

      • by aisrael (1266098)
        "Unless I sold it to you" or unless I clicked through a EULA that effectively waived all my privacy rights just so I could play SomeVille and see cat photos posted by my friends for 'free'.
        • by fferreres (525414)

          I was suggesting in the same post that they'd need to license them and that EULA that contain things about your property (privacy) would have those clauses invalidated. But that can only happen when privacy becomes property.

  • You live in Soviet Russia.
  • I'm pretty sure it will be sold to us with discounts and targeted recommendations. But I'm not looking forward to it.
    • by Lumpy (12016) on Saturday June 30, 2012 @09:57AM (#40504261) Homepage

      I am. That way I can buy one cheap to hack and make into a normal device.

      Kind of like the Kindle "special offers edition" Smacked those ad's and other crud right out of there. Yes I shed a tear nightly for all the engineers that live on the streets due to my actions.

      • by RockDoctor (15477)

        buy one cheap to hack and make into a normal device.

        The hack possibly being as simple as a disc of aluminium foil pasted over the camera that reads your eye orientation.

        (There are no doubt harder-to-avoid ways of doing the "attention detection", but they're likely to be more expensive.)

        Putting data onto and off the device by removing the (mobile telephony/ data) SIM and using the device as USB mass storage, or swapping SD cards, would probably help prevent data leakage / data theft too.

    • by dhasenan (758719)

      I'm all for behaviorally targeted recommendations. I want to be able to opt out, but I'd definitely opt in.

      I imagine this should fall under the standard behavioral targeting rules, where you must be informed that this is going on and have an option to opt out.

  • Someday some genius is going to have the bright idea of being the sole content provider who does not mine users' personal data for targeted ads. And people will sign up in droves for all the pent-up demand.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Right. The average person is even aware that their data's being mined.

    • by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Saturday June 30, 2012 @09:49AM (#40504219) Homepage

      Someday some genius is going to have the bright idea of being the sole content provider who does not mine users' personal data for targeted ads. And people will sign up in droves for all the pent-up demand.

      Most users are not conscious that their data is being mined. And even of those who are and have a problem with it, a majority of those who voice their displeasure will go ahead and continue using the product nonetheless. The result is that users who really insist on privacy are such a small group that it is hard to build a business from them. "Droves" is not a word.

      • Someday some genius is going to have the bright idea of being the sole content provider who does not mine users' personal data for targeted ads. And people will sign up in droves for all the pent-up demand.

        Most users are not conscious that their data is being mined. And even of those who are and have a problem with it, a majority of those who voice their displeasure will go ahead and continue using the product nonetheless. The result is that users who really insist on privacy are such a small group that it is hard to build a business from them. "Droves" is not a word.

        Yet supposedly the data-mining aspect was the primary reason the CueCat [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CueCat] failed.

        • by Kozz (7764)

          Yet supposedly the data-mining aspect was the primary reason the CueCat [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CueCat] failed.

          I thought it failed because it was a dumb idea.

        • by CRCulver (715279)

          Yet supposedly the data-mining aspect was the primary reason the CueCat [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CueCat] failed.

          The article notes that the company's product did not seem to fill any real need. That is the primary reason it failed. Only a niche of users got upset at the privacy implications.

          • The QR codes which pop up everywhere left and right serve the exact same purpose. Strangely enough, they do seem to fill a real need.

            • by nbsr (2343058)
              The need wasn't strong enough to justify a purchase of a dedicated reader. Especially that there is a critical mass effect involved.
      • "Droves" is not a word.

        Drove [merriam-webster.com]

      • by lennier (44736)

        "Droves" is not a word.

        Crikey! Is that the dinkum oil? Many drovers [wikipedia.org] would be right gobsmacked to hear you say that, mate.

    • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Saturday June 30, 2012 @11:40AM (#40504947)
      I think you're missing the point. Often this data is worth more than the device itself. When you're reading books on Herpes management or something, and they use your internet connected TV to start flooding you with herpes treatment commercials... and now have you tied down buying medication at $100/month for the rest of your life... The value of knowing exactly what to put in front of your eyeballs quickly dwarfs the value of whatever device you're using to access the data their mining. We are likely to see, in the near future, free smartphones, ebooks, tablets, whatever... in exchange for mining all of our data. Eventually I doubt it will even be possible to buy a device that doesn't mine your data.

      Generally I'm a libertarian, but this is a rare case where the direction the free market will take us is a bad place indeed. The only real solution here is clearly written legislation. Unfortunately that is very unlikely. Sort of some tragic event happening and making national news (maybe pedophiles using this data for some nefarious purpose) I doubt it will ever come up in congress.
      • by fferreres (525414)

        What if the reality where that private data is private property? As a work of art or a thing itself. I believe that if I paint a like in a canvas I own it. If I write a poem I own it. Data I generate that is associated with me, is another form of expression, and I should own it. The problem is that how it's bern framed, as "privacy" as something I don't own, but may have some ethical reason for trying to prevent mining is the wrong approach. As a true libertarian things are simple: private data is private p

        • What if the reality where that private data is private property? As a work of art or a thing itself. I believe that if I paint a like in a canvas I own it. If I write a poem I own it. Data I generate that is associated with me, is another form of expression, and I should own it. The problem is that how it's bern framed, as "privacy" as something I don't own, but may have some ethical reason for trying to prevent mining is the wrong approach. As a true libertarian things are simple: private data is private property of the citizen that created it. If you want use it, you must license it from the owner. Requiring the user to forfeit that right to use a service is illegal and a criminal act, theft.

          Unfortunately, data is atomic, unlike a work of art.

          Computers manipulate data to produce information, which humans find useful and relevant.

          And most often this data mining occurs because your data is on their property, which is why I will never subscribe to cloud computing. If anything you're a lessee and Google, or wherever, is like your landlord; essentially if privacy is to be observed, legislation will have to be introduced similar to that of Tenant's Rights.

          • by fferreres (525414)

            Yes, exactly. But why not treat private data as private property of the person generating the data. They can aggregate the results, but resulting in no personally identifiable information - because they don't own that data unless they license from owners. In any case, I agree it'd need to be legislated and that has a very slim chance.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        In free market, market is free to sell _you_.

    • This is why I like buying ebook readers from Irex or from some obscure Korean hardware company. Because these companies are in the hardware business, not in the content business or in the assrape-your-customers-by-selling-their-personal-data business. And that means their goal is to sell me hardware that works well for me. Sony and Philipsmare still more or less ok; they do content as well and thus are fans of DRm, but at least they haven't build their business models around data mining like Amazon or Go
  • Rented videos? Noted. Subscribed to a magazine? Noted. Visited a web site? Noted. Searched for something? Noted.
    • by Lumpy (12016)

      bought a dead tree book at Barnes and noble?: Noted.

      All this stuff you point out already happens and is in your lexis Nexis report for $50.00 Yes I can see what books you have bought already.

      worried about privacy? get rid of your bank accounts, ATM cars and Credit cards. Although give it time and the security cameras at the stores will identify and log you.

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by DogDude (805747)
        You retain 99% of your privacy just by using cash. Most people are too stupid and/or lazy to consider this an option, though.
      • Yes I can see what books you have bought already.

        But not which pages of the book you've read.

      • by akeeneye (1788292)
        I buy my dead-tree books used at brick+mortar used bookstores. I often pay cash because they're only a couple of bucks usually and I tend to have a couple of bucks on me. So: not noted. I'm not going out of my way to prevent the Big Brothers of industry and gov't from tracking my reading habits, yet. I'm just a cheap bastard and I like the character of physical books. This article is giving me another reason to become an exclusive cash+used-book buyer. I can see no attributes of ebook readers or ebook
        • by Lumpy (12016)

          "What I'll do when dead-tree books are killed off, I don't know."

          Resort to pirated DRM removed versions that can be read on an ereader that has all it's spyware removed.

      • by fferreres (525414)

        Can you point me to this "service"? I ddn't know they could report that per person. I'd appreciate that. Thanks

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 30, 2012 @10:08AM (#40504307)

      Rented videos? Noted..

      No, not noted http://epic.org/privacy/vppa/ [epic.org] by law. It's why Netflix pitched a hissy that they're not allowed to auto-publish your video rental history on Facebook http://money.cnn.com/2012/03/27/technology/netflix-facebook/index.htm [cnn.com]

    • by RabidReindeer (2625839) on Saturday June 30, 2012 @10:27AM (#40504433)

      Rented videos? Noted. Subscribed to a magazine? Noted. Visited a web site? Noted. Searched for something? Noted.

      Not even scratched the surface. How about "last page read", "text highlighted", "bookmarks taken", "time spent reading"? These are all things that B&N and Amazon know about your reading habits that weren't covered in your "don't worry-be happy" list.

      It's one thing to notice what book the person across the room is reading, but standing behind them and taking notes is a whole level up from there.

      • by BrokenHalo (565198) on Saturday June 30, 2012 @10:49AM (#40504585)

        ...but standing behind them and taking notes is a whole level up from there.

        Which is pretty much why I rip the DRM out of any book I buy (for futureproofing) and only use my reader device offline, using Calibre [calibre-ebook.com] to manage content.

        • Calibre's great - I use it in conjunction with my Nokia N900 and (open-source) FBReader app, which works perfectly(and strips all that crappy formatting included with some Ebooks, stripping it down to the level of a RTF).

        • ...but standing behind them and taking notes is a whole level up from there.

          Which is pretty much why I rip the DRM out of any book I buy (for futureproofing) and only use my reader device offline, using Calibre [calibre-ebook.com] to manage content.

          Seconded. Amazon must be pretty confused by my reading habits -- with any book I buy from them I only ever view the cover page in KindlePC for about one second :)

  • by jejones (115979) on Saturday June 30, 2012 @09:49AM (#40504209) Journal

    ...pay per read?

    • Pay per second displayed.

    • Pay per read word...

      They have software that can tell what your eye is looking at and it charges you per word.

      Solution: Just read the ending. Spoiler: The Butler did it. He always does it.

  • by nurb432 (527695) on Saturday June 30, 2012 @09:55AM (#40504251) Homepage Journal

    Don't buy books from those vendors, don't enable wifi on your reading device.

    My nook touch hasn't checked in since the day it was registered ( which was required to make it work.. grrr )

    • The problem is proprietary software. This is a feature that could theoretically be included in free software, but which the users would just remove and distribute a fork.

      Yet everyone said we were crazy when we warned about proprietary ebooks and reader software...
    • by Gertlex (722812)

      In my case, I think I'm safe...

      I buy some ebooks from B&N. I then break the DRM with good ole Python, and toss the epub files onto my iPod Touch to be read in Stanza. Granted, Stanza was bought by Amazon a few years ago, but no one's forcing me to install any hypothetical updates to the app.*

      *Actually there was an update in November to make stanza work with iPads, or something. This resulted in Stanza not working on iOS 4. But that's what jailbreak+Cydia+Installus is for...

      • by Gertlex (722812)

        Slashdot ate my 'less than' symbol. The update mean iOS 3 devices couldn't run Stanza.

      • by nurb432 (527695)

        In my case, i only use drm-less files, epub or pdf. And i get them via my non windows PC, then transfer them via cable to my reading device(s).

        One reason i don't have wifi on is i didn't want B&N to push an update down and break my device, like they did what the nook color. Cant trust anyone it seems. Ironically, my tablet i got direct from china is more 'mine' than the stuff from here in the states.

  • "'There's a societal ideal that what you read is nobody else's business,'" ... no, no there isn't. It's at least the business of whoever is selling you the book... literally. That doesn't change when you add on the internet.

    • Knowing which books you buy is not equivalent to knowing which books you read. You can be buying a gift, you can be making a donation to a library, you could receive a book from someone else, etc. The difference here is that the software is designed to spy on you.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      That only tells someone what you bought, not what you read, how often you read it, what parts you reread, etc. While the first part is useful, it isn't as useful as having all of it. There's a reason why Librarians fought so hard to prevent giving over your checkout history to other parts of the government several years ago.

    • by Immerman (2627577)

      That presumes you buy the book from someone that records your purchase, which is historically not the case. Alternatives:

      1) Buy the book from someone who doesn't record specific sales details - used book dealers still generally do this.
      2) Borrow/be gifted the book from a friend/stranger.
      3) Borrow the book from a library. Obviously they will record what you currently have out, but I wouldn't be at all surprised to find that many delete those records soon after the book has been returned, librarians can get

    • No. You can into a book shop in some town where you are not known by anyone, and buy a book with cash there. The only thing the seller has to know is that you pay for the book. He doesn't need to know who you are, what other books you bought (not even if you've ever bought another book at his shop), how many of the books you bought you've already read, how many you've started to read but for any reason didn't finish, how many you bought as a gift for others, etc. And of course not every book you read you bu

      • by hicksw (716194)

        You could go into a book shop in some town where you are not known by anyone, and boost a book there.

        This encourages you to avoid human and video surveilance.

        Saves money, too.
        --
        Almost all integers are too big to remember or compare in a reasonable length of time.

    • Re:Uh what? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by zmughal (1343549) on Saturday June 30, 2012 @11:14AM (#40504767) Homepage

      "'There's a societal ideal that what you read is nobody else's business,'"... no, no there isn't.

      When speaking about the act of reading, there is some expectation of privacy, at least from the government. This isn't related to businesses per se, but librarians have fought to keep library records private and as such, their policies and software try to keep records for only as long as necessary (e.g. the duration of loan). Librarians often refuse to give out information on their patrons unless there is a court order.

      This same sort of ideal can be applied to businesses in the form of opt-in data mining, but U.S. society needs to make this sort of decision in the form of information privacy law.

      • Many libraries are also lending e-books now, and the aggregators for that are capable of tracking your reading habits.

  • Taming The Big Data Tidal Wave?
    Appropriate name since a lot of those books arrive in torrents.
  • I'm glad I've not purchased an eReader yet. I feel like we're licensing our souls piecemeal these days. Unfortunately, we're getting a raw deal in return for the adoption of technology.

    I actually do this when I buy a book and have done for 20 years now: Buy it cash (preferably second hand already), Read it, Stick a bloody great big sticker on the front that says this is to be handed around for free and must not be sold, Give it to someone (anyone!). I encourage everyone else to do this as well.

    • Read it, Stick a bloody great big sticker on the front that says this is to be handed around for free and must not be sold, Give it to someone (anyone!). I encourage everyone else to do this as well.

      This is fine up to a point, but it's a bit of a raw deal for the author when you're dealing with etexts of any kind. My own "code" (FWIW) is that if the author is deceased, the publisher has no moral right to insist on milking readers for the full purchase price of any book when they are under no obligation to pass royalties on to the author, so I have no qualms about using Bittorrent to obtain those texts.

      • Me too. If I right fancy an entertaining yarn but I'm a bit short on the readies I just bump off the author.

        What worries me is Stephen King. That wasn't me.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 30, 2012 @10:40AM (#40504521)

    The more everyone decides to move to electronic devices we don't control - ebooks, iOS, most Android devices, WP7, Facebook, DVRs that report on our viewing habits, and many others - the more this reality will come to pass. Every single thing we ever with anything electronic will be tracked, logged, used to form advertizing profiles of us, and a government database mined to find da terrurusts.

    We get the reality we chose to buy. Most people are choosing to live in this world by preferring those products over others without the privacy problems. Thus, it is the world we will get.

    • by SirGarlon (845873)

      We get the reality we chose to buy. Most people are choosing to live in this world by preferring those products over others without the privacy problems.

      What alternatives? There are very few, and they are inferior (Linux on the desktop, anyone?).

      I reject your snobbish assertion that the citizenry deserves to have their privacy eroded. It's like you're watching a frog being slowly boiled and you're blaming the frog.

  • Why is it that the tone of these articles invoke a picture of Jeff Bezos sitting in a hotel suite with the shades drawn, watching numbers and graphs constantly changing on a bunch of laptops? I can see him now, fingernails 6 inches long because he can't look away long enough for personal grooming, drinking his milk, eating his peas. Barking orders out to his handlers...

    I think the only thing they'll find out is that much of the data collected is just about worthless. Yes, advertisers ask for all this inform

    • by Jiro (131519)

      Managers, executives, marketers, and other people in high positions in companies like to measure things. Spying on customers produces a series of numbers that they can numerically compare and produce "objective results"; that's enough for it to appeal to them. Whether the numbers are actually useful only has a minimal effect on their decision to use them unless the cost is very high (which may apply to an entire advertising campaign, but certainly doesn't apply to this).

    • I remember when it was a big deal just about 10 years ago when librarians fought back against the government spying on what books people read at their library.

      Now only 10 years later, only a few people are upset at the privatized version which just voluntarily hands the data over to the government without any fuss. The impacts are greater and far reaching but people don't care.

      Your profile might not be public, like Facebook... but leaks, 3rd parties etc. will someday be providing profiling services to insu

    • Who tells you that this information will be used only to sell you books? Indeed, I guess soon the main use of such data will not be to determine what to advertise, but how to advertise to you. You are reading SF? Well, from the pool of ads, select those which use a somewhat SF setting. You are reading romances? Well, there's another ad optimized for that. For very popular books, even ads targeted at the readers of that particular book could be used.

      Also, future technology might allow automatic special tailo

  • They can already track your reading habits if they wanted to.

  • by BetterSense (1398915) on Saturday June 30, 2012 @05:27PM (#40507109)
    Y.T.'s mom pulls up the new memo, checks the time, and starts reading it. The estimated reading time is 15.62 minutes. Later, when Marietta does her end-of-day statistical roundup, sitting in her private office at 9:00 P.M., she will see the name of each employee and next to it, the amount of time spent reading this memo, and her reaction, based on the time spent, will go something like this:

    Less than 10 min.: Time for an employee conference and possible attitude counseling.

    10-14 min.: Keep an eye on this employee; may be developing slipshod attitude.

    14-15.61 min.: Employee is an efficient worker, may sometimes miss important details.

    Exactly 15.62 min.: Smartass. Needs attitude counseling.

    15.63-16 min.: Asswipe. Not to be trusted.

    16-18 min.: Employee is a methodical worker, may sometimes get hung up on minor details.

    More than 18 min.: Check the security videotape, see just what this employee was up to (e.g., possible unauthorized restroom break).

    Y.T.'s mom decides to spend between fourteen and fifteen minutes reading the memo. It's better for younger workers to spend too long, to show that they're careful, not cocky. It's better for older workers to go a little fast, to show good management potential. She's pushing forty. She scans through the memo, hitting the Page Down button at reasonably regular intervals, occasionally paging back up to pretend to reread some earlier section. The computer is going to notice all this. It approves of rereading. It's a small thing, but over a decade or so this stuff really shows up on your work-habits summary.

Our policy is, when in doubt, do the right thing. -- Roy L. Ash, ex-president, Litton Industries

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