Google, Libraries, and Privacy

    January 12, 2005

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

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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.

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 )

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:

Daniel Brandt operates Public Information Research, PO Box 680635, San Antonio TX 78268-0635



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