From The Guardian:
When I requested my personal information from Amazon this month under California’s new privacy law, I received mostly what I expected: my order history, shipping information and customer support chat logs.
But tucked into the dozens of files were also two Excel spreadsheets, more than 20,000 lines each, with titles, time stamps and actions detailing my reading habits on the Kindle app on my iPhone.
I now know that on 15 February 2019 starting at 4.37pm, I read The Deeper the Water the Uglier the Fish – a dark novel by Katya Apekina – for 20 minutes and 30 seconds. On 5 January 2019 starting at 6.27pm, I read the apocalypse-thriller Severance by Ling Ma for 31 minutes and 40 seconds. Starting at 2.12pm on 3 November 2018, I read mermaid romance tale The Pisces by Melissa Broder for 20 minutes and 24 seconds.
And Amazon knows more than just what books I’ve read and when – it also knows which parts of them I liked the most. On 21 May 2019 I highlighted an excerpt from the third installment of the diary of Anaïs Nin, the data shows, and on 23 August 2018 at 11.25 pm, I highlighted an excerpt from Leslie Jamison’s The Recovering: Intoxication and its Aftermath. On 27 August 2018, I changed the color of a highlighted portion of that same book.
Other habits tracked included the times I copied excerpts from books into my iPhone’s clipboard and how often I looked up definitions of words in Kindle’s attached dictionary.
I already understood Amazon tracks our purchases on its site, our activity across the web, our voice commands, our grocery shopping and our locations. But the extensive tracking of my reading habits – my most beloved and previously offline hobby – was jarring. Who is this information shared with, what is done with it, and how can it affect my privacy – and the future of the reading experience itself?
Amazon says it does not share what individual customers have highlighted with publishers or anyone else, a spokeswoman said. The highlights are logged to sync reading progress and actions across devices, she said. Aggregated data is used to show which parts of books have most frequently been highlighted, as Kindle customers can see while reading. It does say the data is used “to provide customers with products and services, pay content providers and improve the reading and shopping experience”, the spokeswoman said.
From my reading history, which included books on self-help and mental health, Amazon could easily make inferences about my personal health, career and hobbies.
Link to the rest at The Guardian
PG is not surprised when he’s tracked across the internet. If he were concerned, he would simply use the Incognito browser mode and/or a VPN that connected him in a different place or use more than one ID/PW combination. For a few years, PG used a browser setting that automatically erased stored cookies every time he shut down the browser, but stopped because it was more convenient not to sign into every website he regularly visited. Google and a variety of other free email providers seem happy for PG to create and use as many email addresses as he desires and there are a variety of browsers available at no charge – Tor, the Epic Privacy Browser and the Iridium Browser, for example.
PG suggests the large majority of internet users value convenience over privacy, but if the author of the OP really wanted privacy, it’s not hard to make it quite difficult for someone to follow her around the Internet. If she’s really concerned about keeping the details of her reading private, she could go back to hardcopy books purchased through a physical bookstore. Used hardcopy books are a less-costly option.
Perhaps PG missed it, but he doesn’t recall the OP saying anything about the fact that the author agreed to these sorts of terms of service when she signed up for Kindle books and effectively reiterated her agreement to those terms each time she signed on. PG doesn’t recall that the OP indicated the author had ever read any of the Terms of Service/Use or that Amazon had ever violated its agreements or commitments.
The simple fact is that 21st century online commerce of any sort means agreeing to some form of ToU, ToS, etc. The New York Times has them, The Washington Post has them, NBC, CBS and ABC have them.