An e-book reader is one of the easiest and coolest devices to have these days. There is a wide choice of devices to choose from, extensive collections in numerous languages, and it's easy to point-and-click and download so that you're good to go. Along with the convenience these electronic reader devices offer, it's environmentally cool with savings on paper, physical space and the ability to to suit your own taste with font styles and layout choices. It's perfect. And then along comes Google with an upgrade.
Google's vision to electronically publish books and make available to everyone on the surface seemed to excite the masses, with access to information on unprecedented levels and scale that have never been attempted. The concept of a global library at your disposal is potentially the ultimate disruptive knowledge transfer abilities in history.
Google's version of how this can be accomplished is one that has transitioned from one of praise to that of serious concerns. Enter the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC). Never an organization far from scrutinizing any company on how they conduct themselves, EPIC has had Google under its radar practically since day one of the unveiling of Google Books. As the negotiations continued throughout 2009 to the present day, EPIC has consistently voiced serious concerns on how the agreement has ignored several key issues concerning privacy of potential users of the service. Today's press release is no exception.
In federal district court in New York, EPIC President Marc Rotenberg urged Judge Denny Chin to reject the revised settlement now before the court in Authors Guild v. Google. Mr. Rotenberg said that the settlement would "turn upside down" well established safeguards for reader privacy, including state privacy laws, library confidentiality obligations, and the development of techniques that minimize privacy intrusions. Mr. Rotenberg warned that the settlement would eviscerate legal safeguards for library patrons, commercialize access to information, consolidate Google's control of the Internet, and put in place an elaborate system of user authentication and watermarking. "A person at any library or any university in the United States that attempted to retrieve information from Google's digital library would be uniquely tagged and tracked. There is simply no precedent for the creation of such power."
Judge Denny Chin hearing extensive arguments let everyone know right off the bat that ruling on the agreement will not be completed today.
"To end the suspense, I'm not going to rule today at this hearing. There is just too much to digest."
EPIC's arguments warrant serious consideration by the court. Copyright issues can be fairly negotiated between Google and authors. EPIC believes that component is but a small part of the overall program that Google Books unleashes. At stake is the monitoring of our reading habits, what information sources we use, what's popular and even how often we read. This data translates into information that has commercial value and has potential to influence in what we read and have in our collection of books. This may lead to future consequences that surprise us. A hypothetical example is what we read becomes analyzed and (eventually) be revenue generating by making specific items available - at a surcharge. These surcharges will be aimed specifically at you and you alone. Google will have information that reviews what your specific reading taste are, and if you want more books related to Google analyzed reading habits, Google potentially has the ability to strategically market and sell books and services that cater and maximize potential future purchases you make.
Judge Chin might want to buy an iPad with all the options to go through all the materials - oh wait, it doesn't accept PDF files....Oops...