Sunday, August 16, 2009

Can you trust the world's largest library? On Google and the privacy of your reading habits

NPR's Morning Edition had this interesting story about the fight over readers privacy in the upcoming world's largest (virtual) library - Google's library.

Google has been working for a while on scanning millions of library books and putting them online. And they are expected to have a lot of information on users' reading habits, just like the information they already know now about your Internet activity.

"They know which books you search for," says Cindy Cohn, legal director for
the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EEF) to NPR. "They know which books you browse through; they know how long you spend on each page."

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, as well as the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, think books should be different and our reading habits should be much more protected than what Google is currently offering. EEF also started a campaign ('Don't Let Google Close the Book on Reader Privacy') calling Google to "build in privacy protections to its Google Book Search, and ensure that reading in the future is as safe and private in the digital world as it is in the analog."

And their timing couldn't be better actually because as NPR reports many of those scanned books are not yet readable, because of a copyright lawsuit filed by authors and publishers, which has been tentatively settled, but is waiting for a judge approval of the deal (expected this fall) to make millions more books will be available to browse through and read. EEF and and the ACLU of Northern California know they have the best leverage now as long as the settlement is currently under court review and want to take a full advantage of it.

What do you think? it's true we already know from the experience with Amazon's Kindle that reading will never be the same in the virtual world and that a lot of information about our reading preferences will be exposed in the minute we're entering this world. But it seems that with Google's library it would be much more extensive.

Do you think it's acceptable? can We trust Google or like the campaign is requesting, Google should pledge never to turn over readers' information unless presented with a warrant? I'll be happy to hear your thoughts here!

You can read NPR's story at

EEF's call for action can be found at

Raz @ Eco-Libris

Eco-Libris: promoting green reading!