Print 21 comment(s) - last by RandallMoore.. on Jul 28 at 11:08 AM

The ACLU and Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) are fearful that Google Books could be used by employers and the government to track citizens.  (Source: Flickr)
Groups fear discrimination based on what people read

Google Books is an ambitious project which certainly seems like something that will better society by allowing free online access to everything from scientific texts to great works of literature.  However, some are fearful that it will be abused as a digital era tool by the government and companies to track users reading habits.

Reading up on job hunting?  Your employer might be interested in knowing that.  Reading up on Islam and chemical engineering explosives texts?  Your reading could be of innocent nature -- but it could still lead to government surveillance.  Such scenarios are just a few possibilities that the ACLU of Northern California, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the Samuelson Clinic at UC Berkeley are fearful of.

These groups banded together, urging Google (PDF) to reduce its data retention of users' reading habits to 30 days.  Further the groups ask that Google allow users to easily delete their records and that the site offers more transparency about how the records are stored and used.

The letter states:

Under its current design, Google Book Search keeps track of what books readers search for and browse, what books they read, and even what they 'write' down in the margins.  Given the long and troubling history of government and third-party efforts to compel libraries and booksellers to turn over records about readers, it is essential that Google Books incorporate strong privacy protections in both the architecture and policies of Google Book Search. Without these, Google Books could become a one-stop shop for government and civil litigant fishing expeditions into the private lives of Americans.

The EFF is urging its supporters to follow in suit and send a letter to Google CEO Eric Schmidt on the issue.

Dan Clancy, engineering director for Google Books, has responded to the groups comments in a blog post.  He says that he cares deeply about respecting user privacy, but cannot implement final details until pending lawsuits by book publishers and other groups are resolved. 

He writes, "While we know that our eventual product will build in privacy protections -- like always giving users clear information about privacy, and choices about what if any data they share when they use our services -- we don't yet know exactly how this all will work.  We do know that whatever we ultimately build will protect readers' privacy rights, upholding the standards set long ago by booksellers and by the libraries whose collections are being opened to the public through this settlement."

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

By quiksilvr on 7/27/2009 1:07:59 PM , Rating: 2
The government ALREADY tracks peoples' reading habits no matter how "secure" the site or library is. I agree Google should make an effort to protect us from other people and hackers, but it's not gonna stop the government from spying on you.

RE: But...
By walk2k on 7/27/2009 5:56:29 PM , Rating: 4
Yeah.... and they also spy on your brain with alien mind control technology they stole from area 51 right?

RE: But...
By RandallMoore on 7/27/2009 6:23:35 PM , Rating: 3
If you think that they don't then you are quite mistaken. You must not have too much experience in the area of information technology to not know that internet backbones in America split at points of intersection with Different ISP's(plus other locations). I don't know how long that has been so, but I can say that it is as recent as Sep. 11, 2001.

Realizing that the gov has the ability to track everything you do online/on the phone or whatever does not make you a spook.

RE: But...
By MrDiSante on 7/27/2009 6:45:56 PM , Rating: 2
No, no they don't. Encrypted connections were invented specifically to prevent third parties from listening in on your communications, and they work pretty well. If you don't want the government or anyone else to know what sites you're visiting then use proxies and in particular onion proxies. The more you know and the less FUD you spread!

RE: But...
By RandallMoore on 7/27/2009 7:10:28 PM , Rating: 3
That response made me literally laugh out loud...

Go do a public survey and ask how many people use an encrypted randomized proxy to surf the net. Probably about 95% will respond with, "what's a proxy?".

I'm not spreading FUD, I'm just pointing out to people that don't realize the power that our government holds. Are their ways to have 100% secure communications? Absolutely not. From a security specialist standpoint, that will never happen.

However, informing others that the US government has the very real ability to track almost every single movement on the internet is not spreading FUD.

RE: But...
By maxcue on 7/27/2009 8:49:28 PM , Rating: 2
Most people haven't even heard of Project Echelon, and that's been listening for keywords on all email and phone calls and who knows what else for decades...

RE: But...
By walk2k on 7/28/2009 12:53:09 AM , Rating: 4
Lol please, the government can't even keep the stop lights working. Even if they had the raw computing power to track every bit and byte that crosses and re-crosses every node on the internet, why would they bother?

The real criminals will use encryption they can't crack (in time, anyway) and the rest of it is just noise - there's no point to some kind of god-computer that monitors... everything.

Do you really think they care about every stupid twitter and facebook update on the global web?

If you're right than this post will be automatically deleted:

sept 11 terrorist cell hijack bomb mind control black helicopter deep thought alien conspiracy government coverup watergate nixon reagan bush iran contra oliver stone

RE: But...
By RandallMoore on 7/28/2009 11:08:03 AM , Rating: 1
Please direct me to the part where I referenced a god-computer or any collection of computers that monitors EVERYTHING... That's right, I didn't.

All I said was that the backbones are split, and that they have the ability to track everything you (meaning a targeted individual or group) do. Get realistic here, I'm not saying they have alien technology that can spy on anything and everything. Of course there are some things that they just can't track and control. Stop trying to act like you know what you are talking about. You obviously have no information security or infrastructure background, so I'm not going to argue.

Safer than it sounds
By nafhan on 7/27/2009 4:43:20 PM , Rating: 3
This article makes it sound like the contents of your Google account(s) are freely available online. However, some sort of court order would be required to get this info, which pretty much rules out your employer seeing it. It also makes it less likely that any random government agency would see it as well.
The amount of information Google has in one place is concerning, but I have a hard time coming up with a scenario where book reading history would be more of an issue than someone getting your web search history.

Islam? Really?
By smackababy on 7/27/09, Rating: -1
RE: Islam? Really?
By quiksilvr on 7/27/2009 2:49:56 PM , Rating: 4
Though I seldom defend Jason Mick's journalism abilities, it is EXACTLY what the government screens for. As an Ismaili, I agree that it is unfortunate that this is the case, but it is, regrettably, reality.

RE: Islam? Really?
By Mandin on 7/27/2009 3:01:03 PM , Rating: 2
Such scenarios are just a few possibilities that the ACLU of Northern California, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the Samuelson Clinic at UC Berkeley are fearful of.

Well it is difficult to say for sure the sentence quoted above makes those examples appear as though they were the product of the ACLU and others. Not sure if that is the case but that is how I read it. When I read the article I did not read that all Muslims are terrorists who use chemicals. Hopefully people are smart enough to realize that it is only a small percentage that are extremist but I guess that would be pretty optimistic thinking on my part.

RE: Islam? Really?
By RandallMoore on 7/27/2009 3:41:57 PM , Rating: 1
I am offended you would even consider putting reading up on Islam and making bombs in the same sentence, let alone the same contex of negativity.

Well... If you are none of the kind then why get offended?

Why couldn't you just stick with something like, "I hate it that a lot of people relate "Islam" and "terrorist" without any pretenses."

Here is an example. I am white. I dislike that a lot of people think all white people are racists, rich, and have everything handed to them without hard work. It's a stereotype that doesn't apply to me, so I'm not crying about and getting offended.

RE: Islam? Really?
By smackababy on 7/27/2009 3:57:25 PM , Rating: 2
You're right. Thank you. I am glad you just rationalized, and made acceptable, racism.

RE: Islam? Really?
By RandallMoore on 7/27/2009 5:25:04 PM , Rating: 1
Idiots like you are one good reason that racism is still such a problem of modern society. If words hurt someone that much, then they have more problems than just sensitivity. I'm not saying racism or any other hurtful form of communication is acceptable. The point I'm trying to make is that people are WAY too sensitive these days. Guess what... Whenever I'm called "cracker", "redneck", "honky", "hick", or anything else I just laugh right along and keep on going. Know why it doesn't offend me? Because I am none of the kind.

If you want me to use your own logic then I would say that your user name "smackababy" endorses violence toward infants. Sounds ridiculous huh?

RE: Islam? Really?
By PrinceGaz on 7/27/2009 7:20:17 PM , Rating: 2
Are you implying all Muslims are terrorists? Thanks for putting nearly a billion people, 99% of which are not extremists,

You might want to revise that percentage, as it imples that nearly ten million Muslims are terrorists/extremists ;)

More of the same
By desertrat200 on 7/27/09, Rating: -1
RE: More of the same
By invidious on 7/27/2009 1:52:19 PM , Rating: 2
And our higher life expectancy is attributed 100% to our healthcare system? What about the FDA? What about crime control? Not everyone who dies is an old person who needs medication. People die to dissease, crime, and accidents all the time.

Please don't give us Republicans a bad name by stooping to the media's level and making wild accusations and only considering the facts that back up your argument.

RE: More of the same
By GaryJohnson on 7/27/2009 2:05:41 PM , Rating: 3
Don't feed the trolls.

RE: More of the same
By jarman on 7/27/2009 11:49:12 PM , Rating: 2
FDA? Crime control? What planet do you live on again?

Normal People urge ACLU to shut up
By ice456789 on 7/27/09, Rating: -1
"I'd be pissed too, but you didn't have to go all Minority Report on his ass!" -- Jon Stewart on police raiding Gizmodo editor Jason Chen's home

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki