Ebooks may be a gateway to a harmful surveillance

A woman reading ebooks on her tablet / Image: Midjourney

The fact that you don’t reveal your reading activity to the public doesn’t mean your sensitive data is 100% protected.

The rise of e-books has brought a new era of reading convenience, but it has also raised concerns about privacy.

Opposite to social media, what you read is supposed to stay private. And this single thing makes you extremely vulnerable. Among the books you’ve read, there may be some you would never discuss publicly.

The book you are reading in a privacy of your bedroom says more about you than the dozens of Caturday posts you share on Instagram or Mastodon.

However, major e-book publishers and tech giants like Amazon, Rakuten Kobo, Google, or Apple are collecting vast amounts of data on your reading habits, anyway. It includes what books you read, when you read them, how long you spend on each page, and which device you use.

The reason is they want to improve your reading experience and book discovery. But they also use it to target ads – and who knows what else.

At the same time, ebook publishers and sellers do nothing or little to offer users transparent privacy rules and settings. And there are a lot of things to do in this area. Here is a set of basic privacy settings users should have in ebooks and audiobooks.

The Fast Company reports that a congressional letter was issued from a coalition of groups that include civil rights, anti-surveillance, anti-book ban, racial justice, LGBTQ+, and immigrant.

The coalition calls on federal lawmakers to investigate the digital reader surveillance. Activists argue that the data collection is an invasion of privacy and that it could have negative consequences for freedom of expression and their ability to access information.

💬 This investigation is an essential first step to revive the right to read without fear of having your interests used against you. Because, unfortunately, that right is on life support when it comes to digital books. 

The future of reading is at stake, and lawmakers must act to protect readers. We need strong privacy laws that apply to e-book readers, and we need to hold these companies accountable for their data collection practices.

Please keep it in mind: every time you sync your e-reader or app is the time you are sending your sensitive data to the company that may process it.

Keep reading. Here are tips and lists to explore:

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