Google Answers Critics with Books Privacy Policy

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Google's privacy policies are a consistent thorn in the company's side. Whether it's about G

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oogle's upcoming OS, its Webmail Gmail, or location-revealing Latitude, critics of the Internet giant are always nipping at the heels of some perceived slight or potential error that could release private information into the world. In an effort to ward off future detractors, Google has published a detailed privacy policy surrounding its Google Books settlement.

The policy comes at the behest of the FTC, which wondered what could happen when customers start downloading the millions of scanned books in Google's library. The FTC has "concerns about Google gaining access to vast amounts of consumer data regarding the books consumers search for, purchase, and read."

Google said it wouldn't release an extensive privacy policy until a settlement was reached. "As we noted in our letter to the FTC, because the settlement agreement has not yet be

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Artwork: Chip Taylor
en approved by the court, and the services authorized by the agreement have not been built or even designed yet, it's not possible to draft a final privacy policy that covers details of the settlement's anticipated services and features." But knowing that it'd get a lot of flak for ignoring the rallying cries for protection outside the courtroom, Google did its best to craft a plan. Some of the highlights include:

  • Google will not force a user to log into a Google account when reading pages of books online, browsing through a university's subscription, or viewing through a public library terminal.
  • Buying a book will require logging in, but users can delete histories of books they have purchased, and credit card companies won't get buying histories.
  • In addition to specific privacy provisions required by the Books Settlement, every aspect is also beholden to Google's overarching privacy policy.

I imagine Google hopes that its preemptive policy launch will help silence critics, but after the onslaught of opposition from the likes of the Open Book Alliance, the German government, and Amazon, it looks as though the Google Books Settlement has a long, hard road ahead.

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