Thursday, July 5, 2012

Your eReader is Watching You - Is That Bad?

by Mary Sutton / @mary_sutton73

I've been seeing some tweets about how e-Readers are "reading" us and how that is another sign that they are evil. The logic, as it goes, is this. An e-Reader can tell what you buy. It can tell what you buy next, and whether you purchase the next book in a series. It can tell if you stop reading after two chapters and delete it. And this all informs the publishing industry so that the only successful books will ever be published, therefore forcing authors to only write in popular genres.

Um, yeah.

What people don't seem to realize is that everybody is collecting data on you and every retailer in the world uses that data for marketing.

Do you have a grocery rewards card? Every time you swipe it, data on what you bought is sent to the retailer. Those coupons that are generated at check-out are based on things you've purchased (I'm still trying to recover from my brief love affair with Lean Cuisine).

Have a Barnes & Noble membership card? Yep, they use that to track your purchases. Amazon has your purchase history back to the first thing you ever bought with them. And when you view a product, or put it in your shopping cart, Amazon uses that to recommend other products - "people who bought X also bought Y."

And who can forget that infamous story of how Target knew a girl was pregnant, based on her buying history, before her parents even knew?

It's a digital age folks. Unless you want to become a hermit, never purchase anything from a major retailer, never use a rewards card, and never use a credit card - heck, never mind this whole Internet thing - you're activities are being tracked. That data is being used to market to you. It's being used to let stores know what products to stock and let manufacturers know what products should continue to be made.

The sooner we make our peace with that fact the better.


  1. Sometimes I fear George Orwell only had the year wrong.

    1. Perhaps. But I worry about these things far less than, say, the feds.