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Amazon Is Collecting Your Kindle Highlights & Notes

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the margin-is-too-small-to-contain-it dept.

Privacy 211

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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Repeat after me (3, Insightful)

djupedal (584558) | more than 4 years ago | (#32178632)

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

Re:Repeat after me (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32178746)

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.

Good luck with that (2, Insightful)

Mathinker (909784) | more than 4 years ago | (#32178914)

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:Repeat after me (3, Insightful)

coaxial (28297) | more than 4 years ago | (#32179484)

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.

Jeff Bezos wondered... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32180038)

You may wonder how this happened. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, was looking for a way to establish that he is both socially backward and dishonest.

Okay, if that's not correct, how did it happen? Why do people who already have billions of dollars begin to think that it is acceptable to cheat and lie and steal to get more money?

And... How can Amazon customers be bound by a contract everyone knows they didn't read?

Re:Repeat after me (Repetition Indeed) (4, Interesting)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:Repeat after me (Repetition Indeed) (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:Repeat after me (Repetition Indeed) (5, Insightful)

batistuta (1794636) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Let's see if I've got this straight (2, Interesting)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 4 years ago | (#32180078)

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.

Pranks (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 4 years ago | (#32180106)

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.

Re:Repeat after me (Repetition Indeed) (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#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?

Re:Repeat after me (Repetition Indeed) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32180386)

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.

Modded up to 5:Interesting? Are you kidding me? Was it the water-tight credentials, his assurance, or his use of the word 'underlining'* that sealed it as interesting?

*the word "underlining" can often be interpreted as; 'my-recently-vacated-position-was-CTO/Acting-VIP-of-BizDev-and-not-junior-Web-Developer'

In Soviet Russia, (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32178636)

highlights kindle you.

Book Reads You! (0)

sanman2 (928866) | more than 4 years ago | (#32178898)

:D

Title is a goddamn sonofabitch phony (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#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?

Re:Title is a goddamn sonofabitch phony (5, Insightful)

Omnifarious (11933) | more than 4 years ago | (#32178680)

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.

Re:Title is a goddamn sonofabitch phony (5, Informative)

tuttleturtle42 (1234802) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:Title is a goddamn sonofabitch phony (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32180388)

optional you say. for how long? this is the typical way it goes, you implement something evil and make it optional to see if it flies. if it does, it usually changes to mandantory sooner rather than later. in this case amazon has a history of previous transgressions, let's not forget the 1984 debacle. it only shows all too clealy exactly why ebooks is a really, really bad idea, that amazon can't be trusted and why people should stay the hell away from both of them.

another issue, and this is a real one, is it really just amazon that has access to this? a large array of organisations springs to mind that that would just loooooove to read your little annotations, with the fbi,cia and the thougth police prominently featured.. and there's essentially no stopping them other than some (easliy ignored or other ways "fixed") paperwork. I we're slowly letting the megacorps build a society that stalin and friends would be proud of.

rather ironic though that the only way to avoid it is to burn the ebooks. :>

Re:Title is a goddamn sonofabitch phony (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32178802)

Highlight book, carry around in public, people read over shoulder and see it. Or a friend/family/etc comes to your home and thumbs through your books. Oh noes, invasive? (Yes I understand the strawman argument there due to the whole levels of scale thing. But if it's anonymized, at least they won't know it's exactly you who highlighted it)

Also, how may people highlight books? I've got a shitton of books and I never mark them up in any way. After one read I can usually go back and find any passage I want through memory.

Re:Title is a goddamn sonofabitch phony (5, Funny)

nacturation (646836) | more than 4 years ago | (#32178770)

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.

Re:Title is a goddamn sonofabitch phony (1)

justhatched (1291470) | more than 4 years ago | (#32179038)

At least that would be more interesting than the trite drivel that comes up as most highlighted now, but then again the most of anything tends to be pretty lame.

Re:Title is a goddamn sonofabitch phony (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32179106)

I suggest "The Milk Bitch Trilogy" Now i haven't read it myself. but from amazons description it looks hilariously perfect.

4Chan will get right on that. (1)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | more than 4 years ago | (#32180334)

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 the government, of which there are many in the United States.

The information about what someone highlighted is also available to anyone who has access to the database. That may be a large number of Amazon employees, and even a large number of hackers, in the case of exploitation of a vulnerability.

My understanding is that the copyright to any modification someone makes to his or her copy of a book belongs to that person, even if it is just highlighting. He or she may not be able to publish that modification without permission from the copyright owner of the book, but the modification does belong to the person who made the modification. Any sneaky, after the fact change to Amazon's terms of use that gives Amazon rights to another person's creation is moral fraud, even if it is not legally actionable fraud.

One solution is to get books at the library.

Re:Title is a goddamn sonofabitch phony (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32179704)

Amazon does not collect and share your notes. Period. The original article is FALSE. Highlights, or rather, POPULAR highlighted areas (it takes more than one person highlighting something), yes. And you can opt out of this.

Come on, Slashdot. Do some research before you publish stuff like this.

Re:Title is a goddamn sonofabitch phony (1)

flex941 (521675) | more than 4 years ago | (#32180204)

opt-out? automatically opted-in beforehand? i do not want any opt-out if it's not preceded by my own manual opt-in. period.

This is why (5, Insightful)

Omnifarious (11933) | more than 4 years ago | (#32178648)

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:This is why (2, Funny)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#32178670)

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

Re:This is why (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32178732)

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

That's just fucking stupid. Ownership = sell at will; Renting = sell and face charges.

If you really think renting and owning are the same then I have a bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to rent you.

Re:This is why (2, Insightful)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 4 years ago | (#32178764)

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:This is why (1, Informative)

TheLink (130905) | more than 4 years ago | (#32180228)

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, and you can change the rules whenever you like to whatever you like, and you can kick people out for no reason whatsoever". They like to claim it's a service when it suits them, and it's property when it suits them.

I don't call it progress at all. After all even thousands of years ago there were laws like:

Deuteronomy 23:24 If you enter your neighbor's vineyard, you may eat all the grapes you want, but do not put any in your basket. 25 If you enter your neighbor's grainfield, you may pick kernels with your hands, but you must not put a sickle to his standing grain.

Deuteronomy 24:19 When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the alien, the fatherless and the widow, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. 20 When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time. Leave what remains for the alien, the fatherless and the widow. 21 When you harvest the grapes in your vineyard, do not go over the vines again. Leave what remains for the alien, the fatherless and the widow. 22 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt. That is why I command you to do this.

Ownership was not absolute. You're a farmer who has toiled hard over the land, and you're still supposed to allow random people to walk in and eat the crops...

Re:This is why (4, Insightful)

adolf (21054) | more than 4 years ago | (#32178780)

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:This is why (2, Insightful)

laughingcoyote (762272) | more than 4 years ago | (#32178846)

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 with the idea of my notes being lost, than I would be with them being shared with the world or even with Amazon. If it's an optional feature, available to those who are alright with using it, that's one thing. But as far as I know, you don't even have a way to turn this off, let alone an opt-in to turn it on. That makes it problematic.

When I buy a device, and enter data on that device, I do not expect that data to then be going to third parties without my knowledge and consent. Now, if I am clearly notified (for example, by a popup the first time you enter a note asking if you want to turn on remote backups or not), that's one thing. But you don't just help yourself without asking me.

Re:This is why (5, Insightful)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:This is why (1)

Omnifarious (11933) | more than 4 years ago | (#32179202)

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:This is why (0, Troll)

adolf (21054) | more than 4 years ago | (#32179412)

Likewise, I have a cock ring, a dildo, and a bottle of lube. Why do all these devices insist on storing things on Google's cloud, or Amazon's cloud?

The answer is simple: They don't, strawman.

Re:This is why (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32179530)

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.

Privacy aside, it's much less practical than you make it out to be. At least for people with higher than average computer knowledge.

Yes, you can easily backup and restore ONE device/service. However you most likely have more than one. There's your mail, phone, gaming console, tablet pc, ebook reader, bookmark service, shopping wish lists, digital music/videos/games, IM/voip contact lists and whatnot. For each and every one of these you need a separate way to backup/restore data. Due to the huge number, it's also hard to keep track of which services still work and which have been discontinued.

By doing it yourself, you get a uniform, reliable process. For example, I run a simple rsync script and everything is neatly backed up because my mails, ebooks, music, whatnot is local.

Granted that only works for people who know how to do it. For the mainstream, there's the cloud with its deficiencies. Mainstream technology always compensates lack of knowledge with proprietary systems.

As for the data sharing, Amazon will do just that if somebody pays enough. They all do.

Re:This is why (2, Insightful)

mpe (36238) | more than 4 years ago | (#32179578)

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. 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.

This dosn't require Amazon to allow access to whatever they store to anyone other than you. Indeed there's no good reason that it need be Amazon storing this...

Re:This is why (1)

adolf (21054) | more than 4 years ago | (#32179612)

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 (3, Informative)

Asic Eng (193332) | more than 4 years ago | (#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:This is why (1)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 4 years ago | (#32178990)

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?

Re:This is why (1)

Mistakill (965922) | more than 4 years ago | (#32179188)

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.

move to NZ... EULA's wont stand up, and neither you or the seller/wholesaler/importer is able to contract out of the Consumer Guarantee's Act, and you own the hardware, and can do with it what you wish (including smash it with a hammer if you felt the need to, though it'd void your warranty) ;)

and if sony changes something on your console without your permission, which messes things up, you have inexpensive legal means to address it

Simple solution... (2, Funny)

creimer (824291) | more than 4 years ago | (#32178660)

Just use a regular highlighter pen. Of course, you might want to cover the display with clear plastic first. :P

Re:Simple solution... (3, Funny)

blackraven14250 (902843) | more than 4 years ago | (#32179066)

"Ah shit, where did I put the saran wrap roll with the notes for 1984...."

highlight (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32178666)

highlight
Chinese Sim Card [chinamobilephones.org]
GT Bike For Sale [gt-bikes.info]
GT Bike Parts [gt-bikes.info]

Deceptive description (5, Informative)

bkpark (1253468) | more than 4 years ago | (#32178686)

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.

Re:Deceptive description (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32178808)

But they still know exactly what you're reading though, right? Does the Kindle even offer support for loading works from other sources? And even if it does, how do you know it doesn't report some type of statistical information about those 3rd party items back to Amazon?

Re:Deceptive description (2, Informative)

tuttleturtle42 (1234802) | more than 4 years ago | (#32178852)

Yes, you can load work from other sources. You can buy books from other places and load them on via usb, or have them emailed to your kindle. Amazon even tells you how to load books from elseware onto the kindle. The books (including pdfs and plaintext files) you load via usb are not put into the cloud. Personally my kindle 2 has much more from other sources than from amazon (and of those from amazon, only one was paid for). The device and the store are actually much more separate than people realize.

Re:Deceptive description (4, Informative)

DarkTempes (822722) | more than 4 years ago | (#32178926)

There are still logs that report device coordinates, cell tower coordinates, titles of books read, etc to Amazon. Supposedly it's all for 'diagnostic' purposes but who knows.

Of course you can just keep your wireless turned off and that information never gets reported and there are also some hacks out there to disable the logging (as shown here [mobileread.com] ).

Re:Deceptive description (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32179680)

My problem with these kinds of devices and services is that a) you must trust that they never do anything untoward, b) the devices and software are intentionally designed so they can do almost anything to your device or data at their whim or fancy, and c) what you think is your data is valuable to them. When they build a capability in to their device it seems reasonable to suspect that eventually someone will come along and say, "let's do xyz."

They have a conflict of interest. They don't want you to think that they can borrow your data at their slightest whim, but would love to grab it because it's valuable and they can.

Corporations have no morality, and at least in the US, it's essentially illegal for a publicly traded corporation not to do something that will maximize its profits. Doing things that you don't like will, in the absence of other considerations, deliver more money to the company. So for them it comes down to weighing the cost of the backlash against the value of the data that can be collected (there are no real data protection laws in the US). Right now if Amazon started collecting all your notes there would be a backlash, but in the future as bad behavior like that becomes more common it will get a lot harder to remember whom to boycott, and Amazon or anyone will be able to do as they like with relative impunity.

IMPORTANT: Don't make any notes that someone else might read the wrong way, "only a terrorist would write that!"

With hardware and software that I control, a lot less trust is necessary. I like that, because I certainly don't trust large companies to do what's right with access to my data when they're subject to this sort of conflict of interest.

Regular websites using apture or taint do the same (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32178822)

It's not just the kindle. Any website (and more and more are) that "augments" its site with services from apture or taint are also collecting exactly what you click on and select.

The New York Times uses apture.

All of this is wrong.

Re:Deceptive description (1)

rastoboy29 (807168) | more than 4 years ago | (#32179340)

Check the Terms of Service.

ie. I think you'd be illuminated.

RTFM (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#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 (1)

topherhenk (998915) | more than 4 years ago | (#32178810)

There is a difference between storing "backup your last location read, all of your notes, and
bookmarks" so that "you can automatically restore your annotations, bookmarks, and the last location you read by
downloading the item from the Manage Your Kindle page on Amazon.com" and using this information without the owners permission for any purpose.

It is called privacy.

Re:RTFM (3, Interesting)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#32178922)

It is called privacy.

If you wanted it, why did you turn all your data over to them? I don't keep notes I want kept private on DRM'ed hardware that I essentially lease from someone else. I keep them on paper or my own hardware.

Re:RTFM (2, Interesting)

flex941 (521675) | more than 4 years ago | (#32180262)

Is there an option to use 3rd party backup providers with Kindle? You know, something that works as automatically and seamlessly as the default Amazon one?

Re:RTFM (4, Insightful)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

I don't know. What would happen? (1)

Kohath (38547) | more than 4 years ago | (#32178950)

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 hypothetical fate. What would it be? What would happen?

Re:I don't know. What would happen? (3, Funny)

yotto (590067) | more than 4 years ago | (#32178982)

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.

Re:I don't know. What would happen? (1)

Kohath (38547) | more than 4 years ago | (#32179500)

Sarah Connor
309 Calder
Los Angeles, CA 91741

Re:I don't know. What would happen? (1)

carlzum (832868) | more than 4 years ago | (#32179292)

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?

Re:I don't know. What would happen? (0)

Kohath (38547) | more than 4 years ago | (#32179364)

Probably not. But it's hardly a cause for alarm either.

Re:RTFM (1)

justhatched (1291470) | more than 4 years ago | (#32179054)

Spose it would be a problem if most people made a note of what happened to jenny, and her phone number...

Re:RTFM (1)

blackraven14250 (902843) | more than 4 years ago | (#32179078)

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.

Everyone already knows her number (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32179142)

It is widely publicized. It is 867-5309.

Re:RTFM (2, Funny)

discord5 (798235) | more than 4 years ago | (#32179916)

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.

Re:RTFM (2, Interesting)

hamburgler007 (1420537) | more than 4 years ago | (#32178826)

Why should I provide Amazon with a free service?

Really? (3, Insightful)

Saeed al-Sahaf (665390) | more than 4 years ago | (#32178828)

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?

Re:Really? (1)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 4 years ago | (#32179252)

7/10 -- pretty good, but you could use a bit more tinfoil.

Re:RTFM (1)

Eivind (15695) | more than 4 years ago | (#32180438)

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 etc"

A Simple Solution (0, Flamebait)

dmomo (256005) | more than 4 years ago | (#32178722)

If this is really as innocent as they claim... why not "just ask permission first". Oh. Didn't think so.

Re:A Simple Solution (4, Informative)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 4 years ago | (#32178736)

Oh wait, they do.

That must burst your bubble.

Re:A Simple Solution (4, Informative)

Skreems (598317) | more than 4 years ago | (#32178738)

They do. The feature is off by default.

Re:A Simple Solution (2, Interesting)

icannotthinkofaname (1480543) | more than 4 years ago | (#32178840)

So...sensationalist headline is sensationalist? Or maybe lying headline is just plain lying. If no customers turn the feature on, then Amazon is collecting data from no one, so the headline is false.

How do we get the headline changed to something like "Amazon Could Be Collecting Your Kindle Highlights & Notes"?

Re:A Simple Solution (1)

Spacepup (695354) | more than 4 years ago | (#32178772)

They didn't ask permission because it violates the copyright claims of the note writers. Yes, if you write a note in the margin of a text, the copyright of the note is inherently yours.

For Amazon to take those notes, and algamate them into something of a Clif's notes amounts to no less than copyright theiavry.

Amazon should have run this one by their legal team first as there should have been a lengthy legal notice and opt in.
 

Paper is still king. (1, Insightful)

Saeed al-Sahaf (665390) | more than 4 years ago | (#32178788)

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.

Intellectual property theft (5, Insightful)

c0d3g33k (102699) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:Intellectual property theft (4, Informative)

icegreentea (974342) | more than 4 years ago | (#32178976)

They aren't getting the info without the permission. It's an opt in feature.

Re:Intellectual property theft (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32179314)

Isn't it interesting that the very people that get all righteous about "intellectual property" can't read and understand the fact that it's Opt In. Don't like it; don't opt in.

Re:Intellectual property theft (2, Insightful)

NicknamesAreStupid (1040118) | more than 4 years ago | (#32179558)

My notes are always plagiarized, mostly song lyrics coveted by the RIAA. If they publish mine, Amazon might have to kiss their cloud goodbye.

Re:Intellectual property theft (1)

DavidD_CA (750156) | more than 4 years ago | (#32179894)

It doesn't.

Unless you turn on the feature.

End of story.

Oh noes, they're taking my notes and my freedom! (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32178966)

Nobody gives a shit.

Who cares - the Tax man wants your data... (2, Interesting)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 4 years ago | (#32179006)

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...

F(_)ck Amazon! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32179032)

that is all

I'm tired of companies sucking (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32179056)

Fucking shitheads. That's it. I'm getting an iPad.

Kindle only, or Kindle iPhone app too? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32179118)

Does this only apply to the physical Kindle? Some are saying that there is the ability to opt out, but maybe only on the Kindle? I don't see that in the iPhone app.

Textbook notes? (2, Interesting)

LoverOfJoy (820058) | more than 4 years ago | (#32179190)

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.

Re:Textbook notes? (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 4 years ago | (#32179284)

Well, I could see value in shared notes, as long as the user ELECTS to make certain notes public notes.

For example, someone might make a note that better explains something than the book does. It could be useful to share, or maybe a useful link with supporting info.

However, i'm concerned that with anything like that, popular works would be quickly inundated with spam links to spam sites or malware distribution points.

How can you trust note submissions from the public, when the people who have the most to gain from sharing 'notes' are people who want to spam readers or plug their own products.

I can imagine notes advertising paid Windows based solutions in Linux / Mac OS administration / programming books :)

Re:Textbook notes? (1)

LoverOfJoy (820058) | more than 4 years ago | (#32179792)

That's the problem. As long as we only see whatever is most popular there's no telling whether what you'll see is of any value...or even the same tomorrow.

Highlights are defensible (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 4 years ago | (#32179258)

If they aggregate, anonymize the info, and discard information about highlight patterns that might be unusual (such as art created on a page with unusual selection of highlights)

However, recording people's notes is indefensible. That stuff is private information, users have an expectation of being sensitive.

For example, I might record password in a certain page of my favorite book. I should be able to do this without any fear of it ever being uploaded to or looked at by anyone at Amazon.

Notes should be private unless the user explicitly permissions otherwise. There is an expectation of privacy regarding notes you place in a book, and Amazon's practice of uploading or analyzing that info without permission is shocking and surprising.

And just plain wrong.

Re:Highlights are defensible (1)

kramerd (1227006) | more than 4 years ago | (#32179514)

For example, I might record password in a certain page of my favorite book.
I should be able to do this without any fear of it ever being uploaded to or looked at by anyone at Amazon.

I suppose this might be true, you might record your password in a page of your favorite book; but to be fair, you shouldn't. The first rule of password security is to pick something that you will remember and to not write it down.

The expectation of privacy for notes you place in a book only go so far as to how much you control over who reads them. If you don't want anyone reading your notes, write them on a piece of paper (noting the page number of the book file so you can review), and in the kindle file, place a note that simply reads ' I have a handwritten note for this' or some code note that alerts you to such. I see this as preferable to you knowingly posting a note to a file that is held on Amazon's server and then complaining that it was uploaded to an agregator such that no one knows that you even have the book, but others who also have the book will see that a line in their copy that you referenced and many others also referenced as commonly referenced (but only if they opt in to viewing and you opt in to having your notes aggregated).

To clarify, Amazon does not analyze your data unless you give them permission to do so. There is nothing shocking about this. Calling it wrong speaks to a moral imperiative, but such conclusion is based on facts of which your knowledge is incorrect.

Seriously, you don't post something on your third party hosted blog or twitter or social media site (I dont consider twitter to be social media but rather as a method of millions of idiots shouting 'look at me, I want attention about something useless') and then expect privacy, right?

Re:Highlights are defensible (1)

Slashcrap (869349) | more than 4 years ago | (#32180138)

However, recording people's notes is indefensible. That stuff is private information, users have an expectation of being sensitive.

Yeah, the thing is that they simply aren't doing that. What's happened is that Slashdot's cocksmoking retard editors lied to you in order to make you want to write your comment and view some more ads. How much time did you waste out of your day writing about this? Estimate how much time has been wasted in total because people have been bullshitted by Slashdot's COCKSMOKING RETARD EDITORS? Many lifetimes worth. So, congratulations Slashdot editors - your lives have actually made a net negative contribution to humanity through deliberate timewasting. You know if you commit suicide now, it won't get any worse. It's the honourable thing to do.

Surprising to me (3, Interesting)

cgenman (325138) | more than 4 years ago | (#32179428)

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.

Note to self... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32179504)

Don't get Kindled.

S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrats (0)

cristina1002 (1809698) | more than 4 years ago | (#32179786)

I appreciate the concern which is been rose. The things need to be sorted out because it is about the individual but it can be with everyone. cristina =========== S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrats [topyields.nl]

My thoughts... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32179858)

Did anyone think their bookmarks could be shared across all their kindles/PCs/Macs/devices for their books? If so, Opera Link and Foxmarks are no worse. Maybe there should simply be an option to explicitly disable syncing bookmarks.

Nothing new, fb's been there did that (1)

dragisha (788) | more than 4 years ago | (#32180016)

Just like http://facebookiswatchingyou.blogspot.com/2010/04/what-you-say-now-on-facebook-can-go-to.html [blogspot.com] Facebook "privacy.".. Hopefully, all products with such antics will die out once people are pi**ed enough. And after some survive consequences of being too openminded in her notes/thoughts... Like, denied XY visa because on your fb page you've being critical of AB policy of XY country .

User contributions and corporations (1)

batistuta (1794636) | more than 4 years ago | (#32180130)

We have been seeing this interaction between user contributions and corporations for a long time, and Amazon is neither the first one nor the last one to engage. It bothers the hell out of me when I see companies taking a lot out from their users and giving little back. When I talk to people, I have the feeling that most of them don't care or don't wanna care. My biggest example at the moment is Tom Tom map and share. I work in the digital map business and have seen what Teleatlas does with user's data. They log your life. Sure: anonymously, but they log it. They log where you go, at what time, how fast you were traveling, who many people, etc. They use this data to map new streets, to create statistics, to route through traffic, etc. this saves them an *enormous* amount of money since they don't need to drive everywhere with their expensive measurement vans. They get literally millions of km per day worth of data, some of which is later up for sale. So you give them data, and it becomes *their* data not yours. You don't get it back. Ever. Openstreet map for instance can't have access to it. To give you an idea of what this is worth, look at the EuroFOT project at http://www.eurofot-ip.eu/ [eurofot-ip.eu] . This is a multimillion-euro European project to collect data for just 1000 vehicles. Tom Tom collects this by several order of magnitudes a day and pretty much for free. Sure: EuroFOT collects video, ACC, CAN, etc etc. but I want to put the price of data into perspective. Tom Tom is profiting from their users big time, and what do they give back? Contributed map updates, not even the commercial map updates that are release every quarter. It bothers me even more how they make users opt for it. They hide their whole "I'll log your ass" behind the "community and friends" slogan. And it works for them. I'm not against companies engaging with the community, but I'm against them not giving enough back and moreover, not being honest about what they are collecting from you. I personally stop buying from companies that change terms and conditions as you go, but I seem to be an exception to the rule. So I don't blame Tom Tom or Amazon for doing this.

Red pill (1)

dugeen (1224138) | more than 4 years ago | (#32180238)

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.

Where's my Free Kindle!? (1)

ryan.onsrc (1321531) | more than 4 years ago | (#32180302)

After hearing about the rumor of free Kindles for all Amazon Prime members ... I'm still waiting, dammit!

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