We were SUPER excited to be featured in a cover story of the WSJ’s Arts Section. You can see the artwork online in the slideshow, but something about seeing it in the newsprint still made my heart flutter:
Our only complaint was that each article had a salacious title. Big E-Reader is Watching You!!! Your E-Book is Reading You! So while Alexandra, Alison, and Ines all did an excellent job of explaining that we don’t identify single users and that all of our data is both aggregated and anonymized, people still freaked out a bit.
Case in point is this email, forwarded on by my in-laws from one of their friends, Mr. X:
I’m was (sic) getting upset while catching up on my reading a long Wall Street Journal article on how E-Books “steal” the information from our private lives about what we’re reading on Nooks, Kindles, etc. Isn’t ANYTHING private anymore – not even what we read, what we highlight while reading, how long we spend on a page, how long it takes us to read a book, etc….
Then, about 3/4 through I’m startled when I read that Lisa Rutherford is pushing the envelope in developing this technology, which I’d like to ban!
Talk about 1984 – your beautiful daughter-in-law has joined the dark side.
While what she does is more than a little impressive…it’s quite disconcerting that it’s being done…I’m just an innocent bystander as our country ignores the rapidly alarming disintegration of our individual privacy – all in the name of profit.
Nevertheless, nice for her reputation, resume, and notoriety!
In case you missed the article, here it is with the name of the beautiful villainous data “thief” highlighted for your reference.
After reading that, Waynn and I decided it was high time for another edition of He Said/She Said!
Waynn: Wow. I love how he bold+highlights your name in 36 font.
Lisa: I am a notorious super-villain!!
Waynn: Except that it’s totally inaccurate.
Lisa: Not totally.
Lisa: He thinks I’m beautiful! He said it TWICE.
Waynn: I mean, yes…but he also thinks you’re a thief.
Lisa: A beautiful villainous data thief, to be exact.
Waynn: Focus, Lisa.
Lisa: Sorry. You’re right—It’s totally frustrating, considering how much thought and care we’ve put into protecting our readers’ privacy. For any blog readers who are curious: We only track aggregated and anonymized data. So we can see that 70 out of 100 readers finished a book and 3 of them re-read it over five times, but we have no idea who any of those readers are. We’re like the census.
Waynn: More like DVR ratings or behavioral data. Which new shows do people watch the whole way through? Which commercials were watched or rewatched in “play” mode during the Super Bowl? As long as it’s not tied to an individual household, that data isn’t being abused and is super helpful.
Lisa: Seriously — I WANT that data to be shared. How else are the writers over at NBC going to know I’ve lost interest in THE VOICE and replace it with THE SECRET LIVES OF HUSBANDS AND WIVES (the new series from Jerry Bruckheimer and based on the book by our very own Josie Brown)?
Waynn: Nice plug. Quite seamless.
Lisa: I’ve been practicing. What about Mr. X’s broader concerns about user privacy?
Waynn: Unfortunately, I think that ship has sailed. Our data is downright innocuous compared to general targeting on the Internet, so unless we take his computer away, I’m not sure we can do anything for him. In April, The Financial TImes reported that in a single typical website visit, a user encounters somewhere between 112 and 140 tracking cookies, approximately 68% of which are used for targeted advertising purposes. The ads are based on everything from the content of websites you visit, to your search history, to what you click on, to demographic info…even the applications you download. On top of that, any browser that autofills your information has your name, address, phone number, and credit cards on record.
Lisa: True. I’m going online right now to see what the ad networks are displaying for me right now… I’ve got toddler toys, protein drinks, and some dirty girl stuff. Pretty impressive targeting for a new mom doing p90x whose company is launching a new erotica line in September. That’s the perfect example of how search, retail, and browsing histories are being compiled. That seems WAY more invasive than what or how fast I am reading. I mean, even if Mr. X is ashamed of reading 50 SHADES, is it any worse than Amazon knowing that you bought it in the first place?
Waynn: Yes, I am afraid we aren’t as evil as Mr. X thinks.
Lisa: Can I still get a super-villain outfit?
Waynn: I’m sure you’ll look beautiful in it.
Lisa: We love Waynn!!!!
Note: A special thanks to Mr. X for letting us post an excerpt from his email!