Group of authors opposes Google book settlement

The proposed settlement does not contain enough privacy protections, the authors say

More than two dozen authors and publishers have filed an objection to a proposed settlement that would allow Google to digitize and sell millions of books, saying that the agreement ignores important privacy rights of readers and writers.

Without stronger privacy safeguards, Google employees, third parties or the U.S. government could obtain lists of the books people have purchased and read, the authors and publishers said in a court filing.

The settlement has no limitations on Google's collection and use of reader information and no privacy standards for data retention, deletion and sharing of that data with third parties, said the court document filed Tuesday by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups.

"If there is no privacy of thought -- which includes implicitly the right to read what one wants, without the approval, consent or knowledge of others -- then there is no privacy, period," Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon said in the court document.

Among the authors objecting to the settlement are Bruce Schneier, author of "Applied Cryptography" and "Secrets & Lies: Digital Security in a Networked World"; Cory Doctorow, author of "Eastern Standard Tribe" and "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom"; Ayelet Waldman, author of "Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes; Minor Calamities and Occasional Moments of Grace" and the Mommy-Track Mysteries series; and romance author Lisa Hendrix.

Authors and publishers whose subject matter has included erotica, sexuality and medical marijuana also are part of the group objecting to the books settlement, which was negotiated between Google and book publishers and authors.

Google can reportedly track how much time an individual reader spends on one page of a book, the authors said in their court filing.

"This granular tracking will create a chilling effect on readers, especially readers seeking, browsing or buying books on controversial or sensitive subjects such as politics, religion, sexuality and health," the document said.

"I believe that the fear of tracking will create a chilling effect on readers, reduce my readership and therefore my revenue from these books," Schneier said in the document.

"Moreover, I write these books in order to participate in the public debate on issues. Reduced readership negatively impacts my expressive interests as an author."

A Google spokeswoman wasn't immediately available for comment, but the company has said it would take major steps to protect user privacy.

"While Google Books has always been covered by the general privacy policy for all of Google's services, we understand that the privacy of reading records is especially important to readers and libraries," Jane Horvath, Google's global privacy counsel, wrote in a blog post Thursday.

Google also released a privacy policy for its Books service on Thursday.

Google will not release information about readers, except for narrow circumstances such as a "valid legal process," the policy said.

In jurisdictions where book records are protected by privacy laws, Google will fight efforts to obtain records, the policy said.

Tuesday morning was the deadline for concerned people and groups to file comments on the settlement with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. A court hearing on the settlement is scheduled for Oct. 7.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags EFFGoogle Book SearchGoogle bookslegal

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Grant Gross

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?