Google Books: Page by Page, Click by Click, Users are Reading Away Privacy Rights

Google Books: Page by Page, Click by Click, Users are Reading Away Privacy Rights

Kathleen E. Kubis · 13 Vand. J. Ent. & Tech. 1, 185

Abstract

Google Books will likely become the world‟s most extensive book and magazine search and browsing resource, library, and bookstore—combined. However, as users necessarily reveal personal identifying information through their book searches and reading habits, this service poses a significant threat to personal privacy. Because the Google Books Amended Settlement Agreement neglects to meaningfully address user privacy, the only available privacy protections are the limited rights bestowed by the Google Books Privacy Policy and the Google Privacy Policy. Unfortunately, these Privacy Policies protect the interests of Google at the expense of users. The enactment of federal privacy statutes, which include provisions for electronic privacy, underscores the importance of protecting certain types of personal information. Moreover, just as the Constitution has historically protected reading habits and freedom of thought from governmental intrusion, Congress should extend privacy protections for such innately personal data to corporations as well. Additionally, safeguards long-recognized by traditional libraries should be maintained by Internet content providers like Google Books as they provide a functionally similar service. This Note proposes a solution to the privacy concerns raised by services like Google Books: the enactment of a comprehensive federal statute that protects the privacy of personal electronic information. Specifically, such a statute would require: (1) transparency to make consumers aware of what data companies collect and store and what consumers implicitly authorize those companies to do with that data merely by using online products; (2) boundaries on what user information can be tracked and limits on the timeframe in which it can be retained; (3) user access to personal information; and (4) protection against release of acquired information to other parties.