The data flow wars on kindle

July 27th, 2009

I started writing about the dataflow wars on 1st May 2008 and updated that idea several times subsequently thereafter.

John Naughton brings to our attention Amazon’s terms of service for its Kindle, comparing such terms as just the same as George Orwell’s 1984,

The device software will provide Amazon with data about your device and its interaction with the service … and information related to the content on your device and your use of it (such as automatic bookmarking of the last page read and content deletions from the device). Annotations, bookmarks, notes, highlights, or similar markings you make in your device are backed up through the service.

A nervous tic, an unconscious look of anxiety, a habit of muttering to yourself – anything that carried with it the suggestion of abnormality, of having something to hide. In any case, to wear an improper expression on your face … was itself a punishable offence. There was even a word for it in Newspeak: facecrime …

This is a big deal, and Naughton goes on

Welcome to the world of eReaders and the arteriosclerotic narrowing of freedoms they bring in their wake. In recent days we have had a dramatic illustration of this because people who had purchased electronic copies of Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm for their Kindles had a nasty shock. On Friday 17 July their books suddenly disappeared from their devices. This was not because of a technical glitch – the texts were remotely deleted, without warning – by Amazon. Which of course brought to mind Orwell’s account in Nineteen Eighty-Four of how government censors would erase all traces of news articles embarrassing to Big Brother by sending them down an incineration chute called the “memory hole”.

The reason for the deletions was because the company they had bought 1984 from were not the “rights holders’ – how did that happen? But the point is that we are renegotiating who as the right to do what and to whom.

the biggest issue of all, namely the ways in which the technology enables content owners to assert a level of control over the reader that would be deemed unconscionable – and unacceptable – in the world of print.

Our societies have spent 400 years developing legal traditions which strike a reasonable balance between the needs of authors and publishers on the one hand and those of users on the other.

I am not so sure I want a Kindle if that is the level of the invasion of my privacy. I can understand that I might want to offer up my data and information, if I am going to be offered a better service and that my data would be protected. But we have no guarantees of that – and also I wonder how embedded Amazon’s terms of service are? By which I mean are they SIGNPOSTED, or are they opaque, stuffed deep inside a list of terms so long most people would never read them.

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