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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."



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RE: Islam? Really?
By Mandin on 7/27/2009 3:01:03 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
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.


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