The central question in the privacy debate that EFF and our partners at the ACLU of Northern California and the Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic at UC Berkeley have been having with Google about Google Book Search is whether this exciting new digital library/bookstore is going to maintain the strong protections for reader privacy that traditional libraries and bookstores have fought for and largely won.
That’s it. All we want is for Google to promise to fight for the protections you already have when you walk into a bookstore or library.
[Google] is insisting on keeping broad discretion to decide when and where it will actually stand up for user privacy, and saying that we should just trust the company to do so. So, if Bob looks like a good guy, maybe they’ll stand up for him. But if standing up for Alice could make Google look bad, complicate things for the company, or seem ill-advised for some other reason, then Google insists on having the leeway to simply hand over her reading list after a subpoena or some lesser legal process. As Google Book Search grows, the pressure on Google to compromise readers’ privacy will likely grow too, whether from government entities that have to approve mergers or investigate antitrust complaints, or subpoenas from companies where Google has a business relationship, or for some other reason that emerges over time.
We need more than “just trust us” here.
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