Kindle, iPhone Kindle App...Privacy?

I love Kindle and the new iPhone Kindle App... and Amazon, too.

Your books, bookmarks, and even your current page in a book is synchronized between Kindle and iPhone Kindle app via Amazon's servers. It's fast and transparent.

And troubling.

I hadn't really paid much attention to this until yesterday when I had lunch with Ewa and showed her how well it worked. Then I started thinking about privacy. We know that under the USA PATRIOT act (and other legislation), your library borrowings and bookstore purchases may be seen by the authorities. But now, it seems that they can view your bookmarks and even your current page if they so desire (and possibly without your knowledge).

Of course, the fact that you have bookmarked a page doesn't mean you've read it--and who knows what words or phrases on that page caused you to bookmark it. Likewise, your current page may or may not have been read.

If this data is aggregated (as I suspect it is), I don't have a problem. With identifying information stripped out, it's useful to see what pages are bookmarked and where people have stopped reading. I assume there's a timestamp, so Amazon could sell the information of the page on which people stopped reading a book when they stopped over a month ago. (I do intend to finish Proust one day...perhaps in my next life.) Even if a complete record of pages is kept, that's not too worrisome--authors and publishers can improve their books by knowing what people skip and what bogs them down. (In the case of friends, we have low-tech ways of finding out who's skipped sections of our books.)

You can turn off synchronization which turns off the risk (if you perceive one) as well as the convenience. For me, I leave it on because I don't care who knows what I'm reading and where I am...and that I also haven't finished the wonderful Hearst biography.

To manage synchronization, go to Amazon and choose My Account->Manage Your Kindle (under Digital Content and Digital Management)->Manage Synchronization Between Devices (at the very bottom of the page).

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P.S. Also applies to notes and highlights. Maybe somewhere in the Amazon terms of service is language about who owns and can see these. Any clues are more than welcome.