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Google Businesses The Internet Books Media Privacy Your Rights Online

EFF Urges Pressure On Google Over Book Search 37

angry tapir writes "The Electronic Frontier Foundation is urging its supporters to pressure Google to build significant privacy protections into its Book Search service. The EFF suggests that the service gives Google access to new personal information: what people are searching for in out-of-print and out-of-copyright books. The EFF posted its concerns with Google Book Search on its blog, with EFF designer/activist Hugh D'Andrade saying the search product could infringe on 'privacy of thought.' Google, in a responding blog post, said it will protect user privacy, though it can't yet say how — the service hasn't been designed yet, nor approved."
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EFF Urges Pressure On Google Over Book Search

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  • How do you have "privacy of thought" when it was published. These OOP and OOC books were published at some point, so isn't your "thought" more or less public domain at that point? You thought isn't "private" just because the copyright expired.

    Not following the EEF on this one.

  • I have never disagreed with any tiny thing the EFF has done. I think they are a wonderful outfit.
                  However this time I disagree with their position. The ability to collect information or disperse it should never be restrained whether it involves an individual or a huge corporation. I don't even like government being able to keep strategic or military secrets. What one person is allowed to know should be known by all.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Protected privacy in a library is something that we would probably not elect to lose. When moving into a new medium, it makes some sense to take action to ensure that what we have evolved toward in the past (that is, if people deem it to be good) is brought across to the new medium. Otherwise we've got to start over again, with unscrupulous people seeing what they can slip by along the way.

    • You may not be aware that brick and mortar libraries were required to keep records on an individual's activities in the library. If you were a suspect for any reason, in any crime, or even if you were merely a "person of interest", in some crime that involved a bomb, the FBI could check on your reading history. If you had read '10 easy steps to making your own pipe bombs' years ago, they could use that to help convince a jury that you really are a terroristic sumbitcht.

      Enabling government to dog your steps

  • by jfengel ( 409917 ) on Friday July 24, 2009 @05:34PM (#28813975) Homepage Journal

    Why are they calling it out for Google Book Search? Every search tells the company what the user was searching for. Every interaction with EVERY web page tells you something about the user. Every time you walk into a bricks-and-mortar store, you're letting the owner and everybody else in the vicinity know that you have some connection with what they sell.

    It sounds like the EFF is looking for you to be private-in-public, and that's just not guaranteed. Users have a right to expect a certain good-faith effort on the part of people they transact with not go to blabbing it to everybody, and the more data they have the more we need to clarify what "good faith" means, but I don't understand why they're singling out Google Book Search of all the things in the world.

    • by sbeckstead ( 555647 ) on Friday July 24, 2009 @05:44PM (#28814085) Homepage Journal
      For the same reason that the Librarians have so far kept the cameras and tried to keep the FBI out of the library. Please I don't want somebody looking over my shoulder at what I want to read. I'm fine with the public search function on the search engine but this is a little too far.
      • Digital technology makes everything easy to track, everything must pass through routers, so unless the internet moves to something like TOR or hard encryption you can expect underhanded monitoring.

        It's too easy to monitor people on the net, the very nature of using the internet to post information you're dropping your IP address everywhere as well as techniques used to identify your machine through flash and javascript, most computer users have no f'n clue how technology works.

        Ironically enough corporations

      • My local librarians (in Lake County, California, specifically in the Lakeport branch) have no idea whatsoever about privacy concerns and the internet. NONE. All activity at my local library is LOGGED, associated to your library card, and while she claimed that the logs are deleted she couldn't tell me anything about the actual retention time or their deletion policies. Needless to say, I turned around and walked out. Looks like you're not allowed to use the internet anonymously unless you can afford a lapto

  • Why the urgency on protecting people's right to privacy on their book searches vs their right to privacy on their web searches. Honestly, web searches seem to be "more worthy" of privacy. I'm sure the EFF is also an advocate for web privacy, but why the special focus?
  • Facilitating in privacy of thought infringement.

    /s
  • by iamacat ( 583406 ) on Friday July 24, 2009 @05:51PM (#28814141)

    If you search slashdot using Google, the articles and comments you read are already used to deliver targeted advertisement and would probably be available to law enforcement. Why should searching an out-of-copyright book receive any more or less protection? If anything, the issues in old books are probably less related to present-day calamities than many of present-day blogs.

    • by Crispy Critters ( 226798 ) on Friday July 24, 2009 @06:03PM (#28814245)
      This is a serious question.

      Part of the answer is history and expectation. Society has had libraries for many years where you can search for information without leaving any record of what you are doing. It is not crazy to think that big musty buildings full of old paper books are going to start to disappear in my lifetime. Instead, people will have Google books, where what we read is recorded.

      This represents a loss in privacy. On the other hand, my web searches were never private to begin with. You can argue reasonably that what privacy we end up with is more important than what is lost; that's a difference of opinion.

  • Do I care that Google knows I searched on a 200 year old book? Am I harmed that they know this?

    OTOH, perhaps protections as stringent as those that libraries where I might have checked out that 200 year old book already have would be sufficient.
    • If you try to find a real copy of the Anarchist's Cookbook, see how fast the FBI shows up at your door. (yes this book is officially illegal in the US)

      Now, do you want to search for the Anarachist's Cookbook on google and still have the FBI show up at your door?

      • by Quothz ( 683368 )

        If you try to find a real copy of the Anarchist's Cookbook, see how fast the FBI shows up at your door. (yes this book is officially illegal in the US)

        Now, do you want to search for the Anarachist's Cookbook on google and still have the FBI show up at your door?

        You are mistaken. I found and bought a copy of the Anarchist's Cookbook. No FBI came a'callin'. Later, I received a security clearance.

  • So this now gives Google access to new personal information? Alright, so they have the remaining 1% of everything there is to possibly know about me and millions of other people...
  • So, I understand that people might feel like Google is scanning your library card every time you borrow a book. But the thing is, in order to return more relevant results for your searches, Google (or whoever) needs to know what sort of things you typically look for. You know, like the librarian who tells you that there's a new book on adult stuffed animals.

    Relevant search and anonymous search: Pick one.

    • by CSMatt ( 1175471 )

      Give those who do not mind their search requests being logged the option to improve the service, while letting those who do care use the service without logging.

      • And make being "logged" require an affirmative opt-in by the user.

        Good luck on getting Google to accept that. They refuse to make their behavioral tracking "opt-in," and make opting out way too complicated for the average schmuck.

  • by Ungrounded Lightning ( 62228 ) on Friday July 24, 2009 @08:23PM (#28815279) Journal

    One of Ted Nelson's insights that went into the planning of the Xanadu hypertext project: To replace paper publication you first have to do all the useful things it does at least as well as it did.

    This is an instance of that: Once they're out of the store or library (and ignoring quibbles about DNA analysis of fingerprint material if a copy is later recovered by forensic types) dead-tree books don't leave a handy record of who read them. Reading a "book" on an electronic server does, as does purchasing and downloading a copy. (And DRM is explicitly designed to keep those copies from circulating, so additional readers have to go back to the source and leave additional tracks.)

    AHA! Another argument against DRM and the DMCA: Loss of the readers' right to privacy.

    • > To replace xxxx you first have to do all the useful things it does at least as well as it did.

      To fully replace it, maybe. But to start replacing it, not necessary. At least not with other technologies.

      E.g. mobile phones, laptops, all have shortcomings compared to the previous technologies (voice quality, disconnections for early mobiles, processing power, etc.. for latops).

  • Maybe I'm the only one who feels this way, but as a regular donor to the EFF I'm a little uneasy about them spending my contribution in this way.

    Thoughts from other contributors?

  • In American you read books from library, In Google world library reads YOU!
  • Google logs search queries by its users. Necessarily, this means it knows very personal things about its users, starting with their sexual preferences (pornography is allegedly the most-searched content), and not ending with their political views.

    Now you can search out-of-print books, and suddenly this becomes an issue?

    I just don't really see the distinction here. I can appreciate their perspective, but why now, and why this?

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