Six Lines

E-Books and Privacy

Posted by Aaron Massey on 02 Aug 2010.

There’s an interesting essay on Slate about how e-books and their readers conceal their content from casual observers. It argues that “our gadgets give us too much privacy” at a time, when many people are greatly concerned about the lack of privacy provided by these devices. The Slate author’s argument boils down to this: when you see someone reading an e-book, you can’t determine which book they are reading. In addition, there aren’t physical copies of books lying around their apartments for you to peruse when you’re visiting.

Although I can understand the author’s perspective, I can’t agree with the author’s premise that e-books provide “too much” privacy. E-Book readers make it far easier to share your favorite books with others than physical books do. The difference is that the “others” with whom you’re sharing are a different set of people. The controls for this sharing are also different. Is this more privacy or less privacy? Probably neither. The only thing we can say definitively about it is that it is a different environment for privacy.