Daniel Versus Gooliath

    January 13, 2005

I spoke to Daniel Brandt of Google-Watch today about his latest article about Google Print and possible privacy implications. Daniel’s long-standing issue with Google is its collection of individual user data, which he believes could be used against people.

Google Vs Daniel
Should Google Collect And Keep Privacy Info?

Daniel has issues with the way Google collects user information. He thinks that Google should not store the personal information they have. Do you agree? Discuss at WebProWorld.

Daniel thinks, “that within 6 months there is a good chance that the American Library Association will take a stand against Google”. You can read his article on this subject below.

In my talk with Daniel, I asked about his motivation behind Google-Watch.

Starting with his membership in the Vietnam anti-war group Students for a Democratic Society, Daniel has always made it a point to speak his mind. He actually appeared on national television in the 60’s burning his draft card in a protest that included Presidential candidate at the time, Senator Ed Musky. Daniel sees a similarity to his college protests days and his current campaign against Google’s privacy practices.

One of Daniel’s primary issues has to do with Google’s massive cookie. Google collects detailed data from users conducting searches. This includes geographic area, ISP information, and what was queried. Daniel feels that Google should NOT collect this information; or if they do, they shouldn’t keep it forever.

Why does Google’s information collection bother Daniel so much? Because he fears that Google may release this information to the authorities if ever asked to do so. This is especially true related to Google Print. Daniel feels that Google should automatically delete data of individuals similar to the way many library software programs do. According to Daniel, “If you don’t have the information of what books or pages someone read, you can’t give it to the FBI when asked. However, if you keep the data and you tell the FBI you don’t have it you might end up sharing a cell with Martha Stewart.”

The following is the article provided by Daniel Brandt.

Google, Libraries, and Privacy

As you have no doubt heard by now, five major libraries have agreed to let Google digitize all or part of their collections.

Google has made arrangements with the New York Public Library and the libraries of Harvard University, Stanford University, the University of Oxford and the University of Michigan. Stanford and Michigan will let Google digitize everything. New York and Harvard agreed to pilot projects. Oxford agreed only to books and documents prior to 1901.

To address copyright issues, Google will divide material into three categories: 1) public domain material that is displayed in its entirety without ads, 2) copyrighted material that shows only snippets and bibliographic information, and 3) copyrighted material where the publisher has agreed to allow a portion to be displayed by Google, along with sponsored links that return some money to the publisher.

Nowhere in the press have any librarians or academics expressed concerns about privacy issues. Google has the capacity, the history, and the intention of tracking the browsing habits of anyone and everyone who visits any of their sites. Since its inception, Google has used a cookie with a unique ID in it that expires in 2038. They record this ID, along with the IP address, the search terms, and a time/date stamp, for everyone who searches at Google. To make matters worse, Google never comments on their relations with officials in the dozens of countries where they operate. Google even required the libraries to sign nondisclosure agreements.

Moreover, they can be very misleading about this tracking. When Gmail was launched last April, a Google vice-president initially claimed that there would be an information firewall between Gmail and Google’s tracking on their main index search. Within three months, however, after the press interest receded, Google revised their main privacy policy to comply with a new California law. In it they confessed that a single cookie is used across all of their various services, and all information is shared between them. ( see http://www.google-watch.org/gcook.html )

I am asking the American Library Association to address the issue of privacy in cases where search engine digitization projects are proposed to libraries. Beth Givens from the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, Pam Dixon from the World Privacy Forum, and Chris Hoofnagle from EPIC are helping me with this. Here is a letter I wrote to Mitch Freedman: http://www.google-watch.org/appeal.html

About Daniel Brandt:

Daniel Brandt operates Public Information Research, PO Box 680635, San Antonio TX 78268-0635.
Nonprofit publisher of NameBase, http://www.yahoo-watch.org, and http://www.google-watch.org/

Tel: 210-509-3160
Fax: 210-509-3161

Rich Ord is the CEO of iEntry, Inc. which publishes over 200 websites and email newsletters.

Rich also publishes his blog WebProBlog which focuses on internet business and marketing trends.