While there are some good things in the policy – many that the ACLU of Northern California and its coalition partners the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the Samuelson Law, Technology, and Public Policy Clinic at the University of California Berkeley Law School have long been urging Google to do – it is still falls well short of the privacy protections that readers need, both substantively and in whether it will be permanent and readily enforceable by readers. Our coalition on behalf of authors and publishers seeking to protect reader privacy will still be filing an Objection to the Settlement in Court on Tuesday, September 8.
Given the important free expression interests at stake and the long history of protecting reader privacy by libraries and bookstores, readers need a durable guarantee of protection enforceable by a court. This is especially the case since Google needs court approval to create this massive new set of book services that include searching, browsing, lending, purchased access and even reading in the privacy of your own home.
Finally, Google also failed to include many other items in the list of privacy demands we published in July. The policy:
- fails to require Google to delete logging information about users within 30 days, or any other reasonably short period of time;
- fails to promise to annually publish online, in a conspicuous and easily accessible area of its website, the type and number of requests it receives for information about Google Book Search users from government entities or third parties; and
- does not offer registered users who purchase texts any equivalent of a "hiding books under their bed" to protect against parents, family members or other local users who might scrutinize their reading (we suggested several ways that Google might implement a feature like this, and hope that Google will eventually do so).
We're pleased that Google is taking these good positions, among others, on issues we raised during our discussions with them over the summer. But to do right by readers – and the authors and publishers who stand with them for reader privacy – Google needs to do more.