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Google Book Settlement "absolutely silent on user privacy" -- Part XIV -- Privacy vs Publicacy Series

"The settlement as it exists now is absolutely silent on user privacy" said Angela Maycock of the American Library Association at a Google Book Settlement panel per the San Francisco Chronicle.

  • This should not be surprising because privacy is simply the flip side of the anti-competitive concerns surrounding the Book Settlement.

I posit that privacy protections were not included in the Book Settlement for two big reasons -- the first reason is more privacy related and the second reason is more competition related. 

First, Google is a big adherent of the Web 2.0 movement that believes that transparency is a more important value than privacy.

  • I coined the term "publicacy" (the opposite of privacy) last year in congressional testimony to describe the heretofore unidentified anti-privacy point-of-view/movement that maintains society is generally better off with all information being transparent and accessible via the Web than having secrecy and privacy. 
    • Moreover, to the extent that people or entities view their private information as their own property to control as they see fit, publicacy proponents see that privacy-as-property-view as an impediment to their "open and free" vision for an Internet where no one should have to ask permission or pay for information via the Internet. 
  • While Google has long provided lip service to privacy issues, the fact that it never occurred to Google to include privacy provisions in the Book Settlement, when privacy concerns of the library community are so prevalent, deep-seated and well-known, is further evidence that privacy is not very important to Google and that they really seek more publicacy.

Second, the other reason privacy was not included in the Book Settlement is that Google knows the real value to Google of the Book Settlement is it provides Google a significant permanent anti-competitive advantage. 

  • While Google can claim it is providing consumers better access to books, what it is trying to gloss over is that it is creating a unique and exclusive ability to access and mine the private data that is generated by mass usage of the Book registry. 
  • Google is well aware of the market power that comes from having information that no one else has.
    • Just this June in a UK Wired article, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said: “One day, Larry and Sergey and I were sitting in a room, and Sergey looked at us and said, ‘It’s obvious what our strategy should be. It’s to work on problems on a scale that no one else can.’”    
    • Google's Chief Economist, Hal Varian told Wired:
      • "...a new era is dawning... and its all about harnessing supply and demand. 'What's ubiquitous and cheap?' Varian asks. 'Data.' And what is scarce? the analytical ability to utilize that data."  

In closing, the issues of privacy and antitrust are highly-related and inter-leaved in the disposition of the Google Book Settlement.

  • If there is no expectation of privacy in the settlement, and Google also has exclusive ability to mine the private data about book usage that consumers do not want collected, the settlement is both anti-competitive and anti-privacy.


Privacy-Publicacy Faultline Series here:

  • Part I: The Growing Privacy-Publicacy Fault-line -- The Tension Underneath World Data Privacy Day 
  • Part II: Implications of User Location Tracking
  • Part III: Extreme Publicacy -- Does Privacy Stand a Chance?
  • Part VI: Why FTC’s Behavioral-Ad Principles Are a Big Deal
  • Part V: Privacy prevailed in Facebook's privacy-publicacy earthquake
  • Part VI: Do People Own Their Private Information Online?  
  • Part VII: Where is the line between privacy and publicacy? 
  • Part VIII: "Privacy is Over"
  • Part IX: "Interventional Targeting? "Get into people's heads" 
  • Part X: "Latest publicacy arguments against privacy"
  • Part XI: "The Web 2.0 movement is opposed to the privacy movement." 
  • Part XII: "No consumer control over the commercialization of their privacy?"
  • Part XIII: "Does new Government cookie policy favor publicacy over privacy? "