Blog of Rights

Please Join Authors, ACLU in Opposing Google Book Search Deal

By Nicole Ozer, Technology & Civil Liberties Policy Director, ACLU of Northern California at 4:25pm

(Originally posted on Daily Kos.)

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 www.aclunc.org/googlebooks.

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