Advocates ask Google for privacy guarantees in online library

Three advocacy groups have asked Google to commit to protect the privacy of readers in its book search service, which is poised for a major expansion under a pending class-action settlement, according to a New York Times report. The groups, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Samuelson Law, Technology and Public Policy Clinic at the University of California, Berkeley, have asked Google to limit the data it collects about users’ reading habits, to commit to protect reader records by handing them over only in response to subpoenas or court orders, and to put into effect measures giving users control of their data. The groups made the requests in a letter to Eric Schmidt, Google’s chief executive. In an accompanying blog post, the groups are urging people to send e-mail messages to Mr. Schmidt demanding privacy protections. "We’ve asked that Google only respond to legitimate warrants when the government comes calling, for example, and we’ve asked that they not share your private reading data with third parties without your permission, among other things," the groups wrote. On its public policy blog, Google said it shared many of the privacy goals raised by the advocacy groups. But Google also said that its expanded book search service would not be built until an landmark settlement of a copyright class action filed by authors and publishers is approved by a court. (That settlement, which will allow Google to build an expansive digital library, has attracted criticism and is currently being scrutinized by the Justice Department for possible antitrust problems.) Because the service has yet to be built, it was premature to draft a detailed privacy policy it, the company said.

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