In fact, we’re being monitored from the most unexpected corners. But then, with all the stuff that’s been in the news lately about being spied on by the government, maybe we aren’t even surprised.
This morning, I was surfing around on one of my book pages on Amazon. I scrolled down and saw a section called “Highlights,” which is sentences or phrases from my book that have been highlighted in Kindles by readers. It might have been there for a while without my noticing it because I don’t always scroll down the page.
How many of you use the “highlight” feature on your Kindle? Apparently, quite a lot of you because Amazon says there has to be a number of highlights to generate the feature. Amazon apparently tracks “highlights” and the data they glean is what appears on the book page as “Highlights.”
At first blush, I like this feature. It’s flattering to me as an author. I assume Kindle readers highlight a word or words or phrases and sentences because they find them worth remembering for some reason. So it makes me feel good that readers feel that way about my writing.
On the other hand, it really is a sort of an intrusion. If you happen to be a reader who highlights material in the books you read on your Kindle, you now know that activity is being tracked by Amazon. On a deep level, do I want what I and you are highlighting in Kindle to be tracked by them? I don’t know about you, but I don’t. I don’t know what else they might do with that information.
We’ve known for some time that the books we pay for and download from Amazon don’t really belong to us. Amazon has access to the content on our Kindles, thus has the capability of yanking any one or all of the books we consider to be ours. Not that they do that or ever have done that (as far as I know), but the point is they have the technology to do it if they choose to. I don’t know if Nook also can do it.
Here’s my point. I’ve read “Brave New World” and “1984” and two or three other dystopian tales and I thought they were scary. The thing that makes them scary nowadays is the fact that much of the literature that we used to call “science fiction” and “futuristic” is now reality. Our privacy, which is always an issue in dystopian stories and one of the key elements that enables some villain to exploit the population, is disappearing fast.
Smartphones are a perfect example. Most people who own a smartphone have no clue all that it can and will do and wouldn’t know how to make it do those things anyway. But coming up on smartphones and already here in some brands is the phone’s ability to cease to function if it can’t identify your face or your eyes or your fingerprint. It’s a security feature and will keep a phone thief from being able to use the phone if he steals it, but what else can a feature like that be used for?
Every time I turn around, I’m discovering some new aspect of my life that somebody is watching and I don’t think I like that. It makes me wonder if I really need to get rid of my smartphone.