Watchdogs urge judge to reject Google Book Search settlement

Authors, publishers, ACLU and EFF decry lack of privacy protections

A group of prominent authors and privacy advocates, including the ACLU and Electronic Frontier Foundation, is urging a New York judge this morning to reject a proposed deal that would grant Google access to and control over millions of digitized books.

The authors include security expert Bruce Schneier, as well as best-sellers Michael Chabon and Jonathan Lethem.

From an EFF press release:

The settlement, currently pending approval from a New York federal district court, would end the legal challenges brought by the Authors' Guild over the Google Book Search project.  It would give Google the green light to scan and digitize millions of books and allow users to search for and read those books online.  However, Google's system could monitor what books users search for, how much of the books they read, and how long they spend on various pages.

Google could then combine information about readers' habits and interests with additional information it collects from other Google services, creating a massive "digital dossier" that would be vulnerable to fishing expeditions by law enforcement or civil litigants.

"I believe that the fear of tracking will create a chilling effect on my readers and reduce my readership, and therefore my revenue, from these books," said Schneier.  "Moreover, I write these books in order to participate in the public debate on security issues.  Reduced readership negatively impacts my expressive interests as an author."

This morning at 10 a.m. was the deadline for that New York judge to stop accepting comments on the case from interested parties, of which there have been plenty.

The opponents' court filing can be read here.

Google in recent days has been defending its privacy-protection plans for Book Search and touting the support it has received from various organizations and media outlets.

From the Google public policy blog:

We've spent a lot of time with authors, publishers, academics, civil rights groups and other communities this summer discussing how the Google Books settlement will impact them. We've met individually with a number of organizations and participated in their events. And we've hosted our own forums across the country.

Yesterday, we took part in another call with even more groups, including the American Association of People with Disabilities, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the League of United Latin American Citizens, the National Federation of the Blind, the United States Students Association and others, who together voiced their support for the agreement.

Google's gone so far as to create a site chronicling the support, which you can see here.

It's clear this dispute isn't going to settle down any time soon.

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