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Old 06-29-2012, 06:40 PM   #1
Thalia Helikon
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Privacy Concerns

An article published in the Consumerist states that e-book readers:


send information back to Amazon or Barnes & Noble (or Google, or Apple). It's not just so that you can switch between your e-reader, laptop, phone and tablet without losing your bookmarks and notes; it's also so that these e-book sellers can share this information with the publishers of the books you're reading.

From the "Wall Street Journal:

Data collected from Nooks reveals, for example, how far readers get in particular books, how quickly they read and how readers of particular genres engage with books. Jim Hilt, the company's vice president of e-books, says the company is starting to share their insights with publishers to help them create books that better hold people's attention.[/INDENT]

So publishers know the obvious things -- that readers are more likely to bail out on lengthy, complicated books than they are on shorter, frothy titles. But they also know how quickly people read books, how long people wait between buying a title before they actually read it, which kinds of titles people are likely to buy and/or read after finishing that book, and even things like which sections of a book are most frequently highlighted.

My question is-- what private information is coded into ebooks created or converted in calibre? Is there readable information that includes unique identifiers? Is there some way to strip out identifiers from files that might have been converted or catalogued on another machine?
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Old 06-29-2012, 09:12 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thalia Helikon View Post
An article published in the Consumerist states that e-book readers:


send information back to Amazon or Barnes & Noble (or Google, or Apple). It's not just so that you can switch between your e-reader, laptop, phone and tablet without losing your bookmarks and notes; it's also so that these e-book sellers can share this information with the publishers of the books you're reading.

From the "Wall Street Journal:

Data collected from Nooks reveals, for example, how far readers get in particular books, how quickly they read and how readers of particular genres engage with books. Jim Hilt, the company's vice president of e-books, says the company is starting to share their insights with publishers to help them create books that better hold people's attention.[/INDENT]

So publishers know the obvious things -- that readers are more likely to bail out on lengthy, complicated books than they are on shorter, frothy titles. But they also know how quickly people read books, how long people wait between buying a title before they actually read it, which kinds of titles people are likely to buy and/or read after finishing that book, and even things like which sections of a book are most frequently highlighted.

My question is-- what private information is coded into ebooks created or converted in calibre? Is there readable information that includes unique identifiers? Is there some way to strip out identifiers from files that might have been converted or catalogued on another machine?
Get a PEz (or other reader) that does not have WiFi or 3G. Of course, you will have to give up some convenience and use a USB cable

Calibre adds a date-time, a UUID
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Old 06-30-2012, 05:04 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by theducks View Post
Calibre adds a date-time, a UUID
Do you happen to know what the UUID is tied to? Book, machine, user? Would the same book in different libraries on a network have the same or different UUIDs?
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Old 06-30-2012, 07:51 AM   #4
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Do you happen to know what the UUID is tied to? Book, machine, user? Would the same book in different libraries on a network have the same or different UUIDs?
Looking at the code ...

The UUID is assigned when a book is added to a library (when a new row is added to calibre's database). It is preserved when a book is moved to another library (copy with delete), but regenerated when a book is copied to another library.

Note that the UUID inside the book (e.g., in the OPF inside an ePub) is not changed when a book is added to a library. The value is changed to the value in calibre's database in the resulting copy when the book is converted, assuming that the target format contains a UUID.
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Old 06-30-2012, 07:20 PM   #5
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What is UUID?
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Old 06-30-2012, 07:23 PM   #6
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A universally unique identifier.

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uuid
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Old 06-30-2012, 07:32 PM   #7
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Is that something that can be changed from the "Change Metadata" page? Or do you have to find it in the code?
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Old 06-30-2012, 07:37 PM   #8
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Even if you manage to identify and strip out the bits that might identify the book as Amazon's, as B&N's, as Google's, or whoever's.... they (the retailers/devices) are still going to be collecting information about how long you read <whatever book it thinks you're reading>, if you finished it, how fast you read it, if the book has DRM, IP address, how many miles you are from the cell tower (if you have 3G), and numerous other things.

Calibre is (and should be) agnostic when it comes to things like this. If you don't want retailers to track personal things you're doing/reading on your ereader .... don't let your ereader communicate with the retailer. Calibre has no irons in this fire.

Last edited by DiapDealer; 06-30-2012 at 07:39 PM.
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Old 06-30-2012, 07:39 PM   #9
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I use my 650, so it's not the communicating with retailers that I'm concerned about. I'm just not sure I like that there's something in the ebook that ties it back to me specifically. I know it's rare, but my computer WAS hacked a few years ago. I'll never really know if they got access to any of my files, or it was one of those destructive bugs that just deletes everything. I'd rather not find out that books with my UUID are out there on torrents or wherever....
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Old 06-30-2012, 07:45 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by FizzyWater View Post
Is that something that can be changed from the "Change Metadata" page? Or do you have to find it in the code?
Calibre provides no GUI or command line method that I know of to set or change a book's UUID. You can change a UUID by writing directly to the database (very dangerous) or by changing calibre's source code.
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Old 06-30-2012, 07:46 PM   #11
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Does anyone know how much is written to the device when the books are on an sd card? I keep all I read on an sd card, when I need to communicate via WiFi I remove the card. Am I just fooling myself?
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Old 06-30-2012, 07:52 PM   #12
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I use my 650, so it's not the communicating with retailers that I'm concerned about. I'm just not sure I like that there's something in the ebook that ties it back to me specifically.
If the ebook has/had DRM... why would you ever think there wasn't something in the ebook that could be connected to your device/account and ultimately your name? That's how the whole watermarking concept of social DRM works, for one thing. And who knows what all's in the various extended metadata of a Kindle MOBI? I understand your concern, but at the same time ... I'm pretty certain calibre's never going to have official features that assist people in erasing all retailer cruft from their ebooks.
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Old 06-30-2012, 08:17 PM   #13
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FWIW, there's been a few tests done over the years, and none of them showed conclusive evidence that Amazon actually actively pull logs in the background. The facility is there, true, but, except when asked/done by CS, we haven't really seen it actually happening without consent. And it defaults to 'anonymous' uploads by default (using a random uuid generated at first boot, instead of the device s/n or account info). Doesn't mean it never happened/won't ever happen, but there you go .

On the other hand, they do know what you read, because I don't think I have to remind anyone that they're actually a book *seller*, so they do know what you *bought* from them .

Can't speak for Nook/Kobo/Sony, but given the nature of some of the features on some of those devices (Kobo Reading Life, in particular), it stands to reason that some/all of them do collect some kind of statistics, and that those stats *may* go back to the mothership in some form or other .

@geormes: Yes, you probably are. Not familiar with your particular devices, but it stands to reason that they didn't revamp the whole Linux/Android syslog concept, so, it's logging stuff *all the time*, it won't suddenly forget about part of the system (your sd card) [and erase all previous mentions of it, ever] just because you removed it at one point .


Long story short: If any of this bothers you, I'd suggest stepping back from any kind of computer and moving to the North Pole or something, total digital anonymity is pretty much a pipe dream, IMHO.

Last edited by NiLuJe; 06-30-2012 at 08:32 PM.
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Old 06-30-2012, 11:33 PM   #14
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Just to clarify, the calibre generated uuid is a random number that is in no way tied to your identity as a human or your computers identity as a networked device. There is no way that a third party can know that a book with a given calibre uuid comes from your calibre library, unless they also have access to your calibre library, but in that case, they will know anyway, regardless of the uuid.
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Old 07-02-2012, 11:52 AM   #15
Thalia Helikon
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Make it easy for Book Sellers to track your behavior--
* Turn on Social Annotation: highlight passages, make notes
* Leave WiFi Turned on all the time
* Purchase books through the bookseller using the WiFi

Limit the amount of data available to booksellers
* Don't use the WiFi, sideload your books via USB
* Turn off Social Bookmarking
* obtain books from a variety of sources, preferably DRM-free

Any other recommendations?
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