By Larry Magid

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – Readers who have made the switch from old-fashioned paperbacks and hardcovers to e-books might be surprised to realize just how much information the publishers and distributors of those electronic editions are able to track.

Just like any other online activity, downloading and reading an e-book always creates some kind of electronic record. Every year, the Electronic Frontier Foundation surveys the tracking and data-sharing practices of some of the major players in the e-book market.

It’s worth a quick overview of what they’ve found this year.

KCBS Technology Analyst Larry Magid:

Amazon records book purchases, of course. The company also keeps track of which titles a customer actually reads, right down to the last page that opened in order to synchronize the e-book across a person’s various devices.

The privacy policy at Barnes and Noble is not 100 percent clear. Like other companies, it logs data on searches and pages views at its website. It too maintains some data on what the reader is doing in an e-book.

In both cases, that data has to live on a server somewhere, and the real question is what happens to this information. These companies and others have data privacy policies which claim they don’t barter, sell or distribute customer data.

It’s obvious they do try to capitalize on it.

Anyone who’s ever shopped Amazon or streamed movies and television through Netflix expects to see suggestions based on previous purchases and searches. And customers tend to like these features.

Consumers should be aware though that unlike a hardcover book, cracking open an e-book means the publisher knows what you bought, what you’re reading and what page you’re reading at this very moment.

You can hear Larry Magid Tech Report Monday through Friday at 3:50 p.m. on KCBS All News 740AM and 106.9FM.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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