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By Nicole A. Ozer, Technology and Civil Liberties Policy Director, ACLU of Northern California

A coalition of authors and publishers, represented by the ACLU, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the Samuelson Law, Technology, and Public Policy Clinic at the University of California Berkeley School of Law, filed an objection this morning in the Google Book Search case. The objection urges the federal judge to reject the proposed settlement because it lacks critical privacy rights for readers and writers.

The objection has been filed, but we need your help to protect reader privacy. Write Google CEO Eric Schmidt and tell him that you won’t pay for digital books with your privacy. Insist that Google promise that Book Search will not become a one-stop shop for government and third party fishing expeditions into your private life! 

Jonathan Lethem, best-selling novelist and winner of a National Book Critics Circle Award, said:

Google Book Search and other digital book projects will redefine the way people read and research. Now is the moment to make sure that Google Book Search is as private as the world of physical books. If future readers know that they are leaving a digital trail for others to follow, they may shy away from important intellectual journeys.

If approved, the settlement would give Google the greenlight to scan and digitize millions of books and allow users to search for and read those books online. While the ACLU strongly supports efforts to expand access to information, Google’s service would also become the single largest collection of reading records in the world — like someone following you around the library, writing down every book you pick up and every page you read. Without strong privacy protections, this sensitive and highly personal information would be vulnerable to fishing expeditions by law enforcement or civil litigants.

Readers need to know that Google Book Search will provide as much privacy in online books as they have in a library or a bookstore, so that it doesn’t become a one-stop shop for government access to the private lives of Americans. Unfortunately, neither the current settlement nor Google’s just-announced Google Books privacy policy are adequate to protect user privacy, and therefore the coalition has filed its objection to the settlement.

For more information about privacy issues related to Google Book Search and to write a note to Google, visit

Originally posted to ACLU on Tue Sep 08, 2009 at 01:21 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

    •  You need to educate people about privacy rights (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      You have a major task on your hands.

      Look at the comments: people who don't care who knows what they're reading, who's keeping databases on them, and what the data are being used for.  

      If this was a 1st A issue they'd be saying they don't care if there's censorship or a state-established church.  

      You need to start teaching people WHY privacy rights are important.  This is Job One before you can expect anyone to understand WHAT to do about specific privacy issues.  

  •  Google is a Private Company (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    debedb, Nowhere Man

    Right now every company on earth collects that same information about me every website I go to.  When I browse, I click, I use a credit card... it all gets sold to the highest bidder.

    Why should Google be held to a higher standard than that?  And also, is there some suggestion that they'd just hand everything over to the government instantly without a warrant, etc?

    Free Beer, Hot Wings, Eric Zane, Producer Joe, and Steve For President. OK Not Steve, but he can be chauffer or something.

    by TooFolkGR on Tue Sep 08, 2009 at 01:24:01 PM PDT

  •  Not that I even really like the Big Brother aspec (0+ / 0-)

    t of Google, but really, for the most part, I could care less if somebody did want to follow me around and take note of the books I was reading.

    If I had any I wanted 'kept secret', I'd simply buy them with cash in a book store.

    But I don't really care who knows I'm reading an L E Modesitt story or a book on gardening.

    Those who labour in the earth are the chosen people of God. - Thomas Jefferson

    by Ezekial 23 20 on Tue Sep 08, 2009 at 01:26:05 PM PDT

    •  Fine, but make sure your reading list (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      remains innocuous. Nothing too dirty, too ideological, too partisan, too foreign.

      By limiting our reading choices we can remain free of scrutiny. We'd better move to a more centrist blog, too, just to be safe.

      A nation is a mutual undertaking. - Roger Ebert

      by Bob Love on Tue Sep 08, 2009 at 03:32:15 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  My reading list is innocuous. (0+ / 0-)

        so it's not really a challenge.

        But my point is not that I don't read anything 'partisan' or 'foreign' - it's that I don't care who knows I read them.

        You can go through life never doing anything to be ashamed of.  Or you can go through life never being ashamed of anything you do.  

        Either way, you wind up not being ashamed ever.

        Those who labour in the earth are the chosen people of God. - Thomas Jefferson

        by Ezekial 23 20 on Tue Sep 08, 2009 at 03:52:02 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I trust you've never been a member of a class (0+ / 0-)

          of people that has been and never will be targeted because of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual preference or other difference.

          You seem unable to conceive of any kink or quirk that might cost you your job, your house, your family or friends. That must be bliss.

          A nation is a mutual undertaking. - Roger Ebert

          by Bob Love on Tue Sep 08, 2009 at 04:15:17 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I belong to several, thanks. (0+ / 0-)

            But I also figure I make my own way in life, and I'm not about to knuckle under to what other folks care or think.

            Those who labour in the earth are the chosen people of God. - Thomas Jefferson

            by Ezekial 23 20 on Tue Sep 08, 2009 at 04:21:18 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Good for you. But (0+ / 0-)

              others less blithe about their situation may well be intimidated, and your comments have only been about yourself.

              A transexual who could lose a job custody of his/her kids if an employer or state office found out might have a different view.  This isn't solely about you; should others in more precarious positions simply be more thick-skinned?

              A nation is a mutual undertaking. - Roger Ebert

              by Bob Love on Tue Sep 08, 2009 at 05:32:45 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  How is this different from a library? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Libraries keep records too. Government has sometimes used reading matter lists in prosecutions. Book stores have computerized records that can be used for targeting markets. Just how this this different?

    I don't want big brother monitoring my reading but i don't see this as a major new threat. If Google were to make all my books available online I'd have a much wider audience.

    The details of our lives are mostly on record in this century. The concern is with keeping the government away from the records. We have this concern across the board.

    I don't see Google as more threatening than my hospital or purchasing records. The issue is not the collection of data but whether government has legal access to it. We already know they have illegal access to most of our data.

    Is it not written "There's a lot goes on we don't get told."? (Lu Tze)

    by MakeChessNotWar on Tue Sep 08, 2009 at 01:34:55 PM PDT

  •  Whar author proposes as the solution? (0+ / 0-)

    Is this one of those "protest in the sake of protest" stuff?

    •  follow the link in the diary for some specifics (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      pico, wondering if

      I've answered since the poster apparently isn't going to bother.

      On which point, I'll just add:  I'm not a fan of this drive-by press-release-as-diary that the ACLU is posted here.  People complain about it when pols post and don't stick around to respond in comments, and I don't really see it as any different when the ACLU does it.

      •  In fairness it depends on who posts. (0+ / 0-)

        Some of the ACLU's posters do stick around and interact with readers: it just depends on who's posting that day - it's a group name that some writers are better about using to interact with other bloggers.  Disappointed that this one isn't going that route, because the diary itself shouldn't require use to follow links to figure out what the specific requests are (e.g. requiring a court order/warrant to disclose reader information, etc.)

        Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

        by pico on Tue Sep 08, 2009 at 02:57:17 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I'm too pissed off that you are supporting (0+ / 0-)

    the position that corporations have the right to free speech. They ARE NOT people. Nobody but the corporations will have free speech when they start really buying candidates.

  •  There is another solution (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marina, debedb, Shaviv, in the Trees

    Don't use Google's book search.

    I will not speak with disrespect of the Republican Party. I always speak with respect of the past. -Woodrow Wilson

    by Gangster Octopus on Tue Sep 08, 2009 at 01:54:19 PM PDT

  •  OK, so (0+ / 0-)

    This is what's got y'all's panties in a bunch?

    Books features that store information with your Account will show you the information you have stored and allow you to delete it (unless we are required to keep it by law or for legitimate and limited business purposes such as fraud investigations.) Google uses the information it stores for the purposes discussed in the Google Privacy Policy, including to improve our services and report on aggregate user trends.

    Having read the privacy policy, I'm not seeing the issue. Oh noes, someone knows I read a page in a book. I can delete that knowledge, though. And if I don't want to have to delete it, I can either spoof my IP (really not difficult), check the book out at a library or buy a copy, then burn it at the dead of night after conducting a satanic book-burning ritual.

    Not really seeing the big issue, but maybe that's because you didn't actually bother to quote in your press release the bothersome portion of the deal. Better luck next time.

    "Homeless veteran" should be an oxymoron.
    "Please know that I accept you and yours with no need for explanation of [any] kind." -Translator

    by iampunha on Tue Sep 08, 2009 at 02:37:27 PM PDT

  •  If Google Search is the ONLY search option, (0+ / 0-)

    do you HAVE a choice not to search? That's just part of the scenario facing us; they get exclusive rights, we hope they respect OUR rights. This is not a good situation, so the ACLU is right to be alarmed. Call it a drive-by if you will, they probably have so many irons in the fire they can't nurture this topic intensively as one might wish. See Geoff Nunberg on Google search for more bad stuff.

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