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“Interface artist” Johannes P Osterhoff

As part of the terms of use for Amazon Kindle devices, users grant the company permission to collect data including their bookmarks and the last page they’ve read. This information helps the company synchronize the reading experience across devices. It also feeds into advanced analytics that give Amazon insights into reading patterns across its user base, which Amazon can ultimately use to boost its business.

Amazon isn’t alone in this practice. But if the company is that interested in what people are reading, why not just send the information straight to the top?

That’s the tongue-in-cheek idea behind “Dear Jeff Bezos,” an online performance piece by Berlin-based “interface artist” Johannes P Osterhoff. The project aims to make a statement about privacy in the digital age, with a unique twist.

Osterhoff hacked his Kindle to automatically send an email to what’s believed to Bezos’ email address whenever Osterhoff sets a bookmark in his Kindle. The messages are also posted on the project page, at bezos.cc.

For example, the most recent message reads … Dear Jeff Bezos, I just read “Daemon” by Daniel Suarez until position 478. Sincerely, Johannes P Osterhoff.

Osterhoff described the project in an interview with Rhizome, explaining that he jailbroke the Kindle and used PHP script to automatically send a message to his server whenever he sets a bookmark, which in turn sends the email to Bezos.

He tells the site, “Not so long ago it was very simple to read a book in private. With the Kindle and Whispersync it is impossible. I am required to surrender my privacy during reading on my Kindle. So sending e-mails about my reading activity directly to the CEO of Amazon was just the next logical step.”

Bezos presumably has plenty of automated filters and staffers screening his email, so even if he were interested in Osterhoff’s reading patterns, there’s a decent chance that he’s not getting these messages. Osterhoff just responded to our own email and, as you might have expected, Bezos hasn’t yet replied to the messages.

Image of Osterhoff via Flickr.

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