January 17, 2022

OverDrive: "A Note on Library Patron and Student Privacy"

While it’s good to see OverDrive reaffirming their commitment to privacy the new OD post makes no mention about what happens when a user clicks to Amazon.com to initiate a download of a book(s) to a Kindle device.

Read The Full Text of the Post on the OverDrive Digital Library Blog

Some Questions Not Answered in the Blog Post:

1. Precisely what is Amazon collecting when a user goes to download a book from Amazon? If they are collecting library user data is there a data retention policy specifically for this data?
2. Amazon asks for a library card number to associate with a users Amazon.com account. Is there any way to remove this info? (See Below for More Info)
3. Are library checkout histories used to recommend titles?
4. Why after a book is returned but the info remains in users Amazon library why is there a link to download but no info about redownloading via their local library?
5. If a library user decides to buy after reading a library copy, does OverDrive or the library receive any type of affiliate commission? Should (or can) the local library also get a piece?
6. Legal issues are one thing but what about ethical ones? Libraries with the help of OverDrive are promoting the service. Shouldn’t OverDrive as well as libraries have some responsibility in making whatever is happening clear to users.
7. Why wasn’t it made clear to libraries privacy issues involving Amazon.com before the launch? What happened to the trial that was announced (or got out) and then ended less than 24 hours later.

From the Blog Post:

Patrons who wish to read on Kindle, for example, may find it convenient to use their existing Amazon account information, but it is not required.

So, is the solution to tell our patrons to set-up secondary or tertiary Amazon.com accounts for Kindle downloads? This might work for some users but it’s yet another step (multiple steps if they don’t have a secondary email address) before getting to the book. Adding hoops to jump through will likely not make for happy users.

See Also: eBooks, Privacy, and the Library
Our post from last week on this topic.

UPDATE: Our research has showed us that OverDrive does not have access to a library users card number. However, the other issues we mention remain.

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.