[Libs-Or] Tuesday Topics: Intellectual Freedom & Privacy Implications of Ebook Services

Miranda Doyle doylem at loswego.k12.or.us
Tue Nov 17 17:08:41 PST 2015

Welcome to Tuesday Topics for 2015-2016.  Tuesday Topics is a monthly
series (September- November and January- June) covering topics with
intellectual freedom implications for libraries of all types.  Each message
is prepared by a member of OLA’s Intellectual Freedom Committee.
  Questions can be directed to the IF Committee member who sent the message
or to one of the co-chairs of the IFC

Is your eBook watching you?

The answer is probably “yes”. Once upon a time, stores and libraries only
collected data about the titles of physical books you bought or borrowed, and
most libraries prided themselves on not keeping a permanent record of that

Now, with the growing popularity of eBooks, companies can collect much more
detailed information on your reading habits -- not only what you buy and
borrow, but also what pages you linger on, what sentences you highlight,
and which books people finish reading most often
Amazon has started paying some authors not according to how many copies of
their books are sold, but how many pages
readers actually peruse. Adobe got into trouble for spying on readers
2014, though the company now collects less data

Concerns for Libraries

As libraries add more access to eBooks, there are new issues to consider
related to intellectual freedom and privacy. For example:


   What are the privacy policies for your eBook vendors -- including
   Amazon, if patrons borrow Kindle books through a vendor like Overdrive?

   If you lend out devices -- Nooks, Kindles, etc. -- is there any
   information collected by these devices or by the companies that sell them?

   Does your library restrict checkout of eBooks by grade level/age (more
   common for school libraries)?

   For school librarians buying ebooks from Follett, ABDO, Mackin, Gale,
   and other companies that host the books students are accessing, what are
   those companies’ privacy policies?

Take action

This is a good time to review your own privacy policies and the policies of
the vendors you use for eBooks. Ask yourself:


   What information does your library circulation system collect about
   eBook browsing, borrowing, and reading habits?

   Do users have any control over their data -- for example, can they opt
   out of storing their circulation history, including lists of eBooks they’ve
   checked out?

   Do vendor policies line up with your library privacy policy? Could your
   vendors do a better job of safeguarding or deleting user data? If so, how
   can libraries alert them to potential issues or pressure them to improve?

   If your library restricts access to eBook titles based on age or grade
   level, or other criteria, take a hard look at these policies to determine
   whether the are appropriate and necessary.

Alert your users. Your eBook readers may have no idea what information is
collected about them and their reading habits. School and academic
librarians can include a discussion about privacy and data collection while
working with classes, and public libraries can include this information in
training sessions on how to use library eBooks.

Learn more:


   American Library Association’s Library Privacy Guidelines for E-book
   Lending and Digital Content Vendors

   The Electronic Frontier Foundation created this chart
   <https://www.eff.org/pages/reader-privacy-chart-2012> in 2012 showing
   how vendors and eReaders collect and use data.Although dated, the chart
   gives a sense of how different e-readers and eBook platforms handle privacy

Miranda Doyle

doylem at loswego.k12.or.us

Intellectual Freedom Chair, Oregon Association of School Libraries

OASL representative to the Oregon Library Association’s Intellectual
Freedom Committee

Teacher-Librarian, Lake Oswego School District
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