Privacy group voices opposition to Google Books deal

Group wants assurances that personal browsing information won't be hoarded for evil purposes.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has jumped into the Google Books controversy. The privacy watchdog group wants pressure put on Google to build significant privacy protections into its Book Search service. The group says the service gives Google access to new personal information.

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At what point should Google cry uncle and decide that Google Books is not a good idea? The deal is being investigated for possible antitrust issues by the U.S. Department of Justice, for possible copyright violations by the EU's European Commission, has caused librarians to raise their voices in protest and now has the ire of the EFF.

The EFF's gripe is that Google could track which books a particular user browses, according to a post on the organization's blog Thursday. EFF activist Hugh D'Andrade wrote:

"If you suspect you may have a serious disease, you can go into a bookstore and browse for books about your illness, find one that's useful, and buy it with cash," D'Andrade wrote. "And you can rest assured that your insurance premiums won't increase as a result, because there is no way your insurance company can find out about your choice of reading material."

Of course, Amazon is the forerunner of tracking users' browsing habits, so it would seem the same objection would apply to any online bookstore. It seems a thin excuse for the EFF to officially oppose the Books deal, as if the folks there scratched their heads to come up with something privacy related so they can voice official opposition to a deal that no one but Google seems to like. The deadline for public comment on a proposed settlement, between Google and book publishers and authors, is Sept. 4.

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