Sunday, August 16, 2009

Podcast [3 min. 44 sec.]: Google Deal With Publishers Raises Privacy Concerns; NPR, 8/13/09

Podcast [3 min. 44 sec.] via NPR; Google Deal With Publishers Raises Privacy Concerns:

"Novelist Jonathan Lethem says Google should be "congratulated" for its effort. Lethem adds, "This is the moment to take a look and say, 'Why isn't it as private as the world we're being asked to leave behind, the world of physical books?' "

Lethem wonders whether future readers will have the same kind of relationship with books that he had. "When I was on this very private, very eccentric, intense journey as a younger person, it was crucial that it be a solitary practice," he says. But if future readers have reason to think they're leaving a digital trail, he adds, it might deprive the reading experience of its intimacy.

Lethem is one of several authors — including Michael Chabon and Cory Doctorow — who have signed on to a campaign to pressure Google Books to offer greater privacy guarantees for its readers. The effort was organized by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

"They know which books you search for," says Cindy Cohn, legal director for the foundation. "They know which books you browse through; they know how long you spend on each page."

It's the same kind of information that's produced by someone surfing the Web. But Cohn believes books should enjoy greater privacy.

The EFF and the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California want Google to keep reader data for less time than normal Web searches. Ideally, they say, the data should be deleted after a month. "

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