Amazon, Overdrive, Privacy?

Sarah Houghton, a.k.a. the Librarian in Black, has posted a 10-minute video offering her point of view on “why the Kindle format lending from Overdrive is anti-user, anti-intellectual freedom, anti-library, and something that all librarians should be aware of and disturbed by.” One of her core issues is that, when Kindle users borrow e-books from the library, Amazon keeps track of those records. Customers may be used to Amazon tracking their purchases, but libraries are much more careful about patron data.

The American Library Association (ALA) website has a section devoted to intellectual freedom, and to privacy and confidentiality. This section states, “Lack of privacy and confidentiality chills users’ choices, thereby suppressing access to ideas. The possibility of surveillance, whether direct or through access to records of speech, research and exploration, undermines a democratic society.” Therefore, “confidentiality of library records is a core value of librarianship.” Amazon does not care about keeping your reading or borrowing history private and confidential, and this is what Houghton – and many other librarians – are upset about. Patrons may be willing to sacrifice privacy and confidentiality for convenience, but many libraries have privacy policies in place – supported by state law – specifically in order to protect patron privacy. That isn’t something that ought to be given up lightly.

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