EFF, ACLU, Samuelson Clinic and authors Cory Doctorow and Jonathan Lethem are worried about privacy. According to a blog post by the EFF, the group is concerned that monitored book search and habit-based tracking could deter readership.Early this morning a coalition of authors, publishers and privacy advocates filed an objection to the Google search settlement case and surprisingly it had little to do with copyright or market control. Notable objectors such as the
According to the EFF, "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."
While groups such as the National Writers Union oppose the settlement on the grounds that Google is violating author rights, and Yahoo and Microsoft oppose the settlement for fear of a price fixing cartel, the latest objection adds new perspective.
The argument reminded us of John Battelle's "database of intentions" - an aggregated list of personal search results, page visits and bookmarks. He explains that while the database of intention lives in a number of places, four major players including Google hold the bulk of this information. He wrote, "This information represents, in aggregate form, a place holder for the intentions of humankind - a massive database of desires, needs, wants, and likes that can be discovered, supoenaed, archived, tracked, and exploited to all sorts of ends."
While this may seem like a paranoia today, it wasn't long ago that rumors surfaced of US intelligence authorities monitoring net usage to gain electronic evidence against members of al-Queda. In response, Darwinder S. Sidhu's 2007 report outlines how the majority of polled Muslim-Americans believe that their Internet activities are being monitored.
The latest Google privacy objection argues that this fear of being tracked is enough reason for consumers to change their behavior. For the complete filing download the PDF
If you thought your casual reading might have a slim chance of being subpoenaed, would you change your reading habits? Let us know in the comments below.