Privacy and reading in the cloud: the EFF checklist for Ibis Reader

by Keith Fahlgren

We’ve just posted an Ibis Reader Privacy Checklist, a set of informal answers to the questions and issues raised by the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s February paper: Digital Books and Your Rights: A Checklist for Readers. The EFF has a long history of advocating digital and consumer rights and recently they’ve devoted more attention to digital books and cloud-based readers like Ibis.

Update: The EFF’s Richard Esguerra has posted about our answers to the checklist. His response is quite fair, noting that they appreciate the openness while they don’t agree with all of Ibis Reader’s answers. We’d love to understand more about what they didn’t like in the comments here (or elsewhere).

The EFF view of the privacy implications of networked readers is quite bleak:

The ability to read privately and anonymously is essential to freedom of expression, thought and inquiry. In the world of physical books, bookstores, libraries, and individuals have long fought against the chilling effect of someone, especially someone from the government, looking over your shoulder as you read….Digital book providers have the potential to track, aggregate, analyze, and disclose reader activity to an extent far beyond anything possible with physical books.

However, we’re hopeful that we can find a good balance between privacy and fully realizing the opportunities of digital reading. Peter Brantley outlines many of these benefits and drawbacks in his A proto bill of ebook management rights.

One of the very first user requests we ever received asked us to remember where they had stopped reading on any device so they wouldn’t have to. This was something we’d always planned on releasing, and is a clear way in which ebooks can trump physical books, but it also has a privacy component that some would find troubling.

So, what’s your take on how we should develop Ibis Reader? Would you rather build your own private cloud with something like calibre2opds? Please let us know in the comments…