In Comments to FTC, ARL Suggests Privacy Oversight for Google Books

Yesterday, ARL filed comments with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to suggest that it require strong protection for reader privacy in the Google Books service. You can comment, too, but comments are due by May 2. Go here for an easy way to comment.

Is Someone Reading Over Your Shoulder?

As part of a wide-ranging draft consent order, the FTC plans to require that Google devise a comprehensive privacy program that will govern all of its products and services. Google will be subject to regular privacy audits for the next 20 years to ensure its compliance with the order. Privacy watchdog EPIC, which was a major force behind the inquiry, believes this is the most ambitious privacy settlement the FTC has ever entered into, and they have even created a form for others to submit comments to the FTC on a host of Google privacy issues.

The FTC order is the result of an investigation of the Google Buzz social networking service, which raised serious privacy concerns when Google automatically enrolled its Gmail email users without their consent and revealed their contacts to the public. The FTC found that Google engaged in deceptive privacy practices in the deployment of the Buzz service.

In its comments to the FTC, ARL points out the privacy concerns libraries and other organizations had raised about the proposed Google Books settlement. While the proposed settlement has been rejected by the court, many of the privacy concerns raised in that context are still relevant to the existing Google Books service. The FTC’s order provides an opportunity to ensure that Google addresses those concerns. Read the full (but concise!) comments here.