An update on Google Books and privacy

Thursday, September 03, 2009 at 4:25 PM

(Cross-posted from the Google Public Policy Blog)

We're excited about the wide range of support that the Google Books settlement has received. Some people have asked how Google's privacy practices apply to Books and the settlement, and, last month, we published an extensive FAQ.

Since last spring, we've had detailed discussions with a number of groups about our privacy practices within Google Books as well as some of our preliminary thoughts about what privacy protections we want to build into services authorized by our settlement agreement. As part of our outreach, we talked to Federal Trade Commission staff to hear their thoughts and answer their questions on privacy and Books. Rather than limit our conversations to the FTC and other specific organizations, though, we wanted to share the results of our exchange with the wider public by releasing a formal Privacy Policy for Google Books, and by highlighting a letter we recently sent to the FTC on Google Books and privacy.

While Google Books has always been covered by the general Privacy Policy for all of Google's services, we understand that the privacy of reading records is especially important to readers and libraries. We know that users want to understand how Google's privacy practices apply to Books today, and what will happen after the settlement. To provide all users with a clear understanding of our practices, and in response to helpful comments about needing to be clearer about the Books product from the FTC and others, we wanted to highlight key provisions of the main Google Privacy Policy in the context of the Google Books service, as well as to describe privacy practices specific to the Google Books service. We've also described some privacy practices for services created by our proposed settlement agreement, which is currently awaiting court approval.

As we noted in our letter to the FTC, because the settlement agreement has not yet been approved by the court, and the services authorized by the agreement have not been built or even designed yet, it's not possible to draft a final privacy policy that covers details of the settlement's anticipated services and features. Our privacy policies are usually based on detailed review of a final product -- and on weeks, months or years of careful work engineering the product itself to protect privacy. In this case, we've planned in advance for the protections that will later be built, and we've described some of those in the Google Books policy. We have also covered several privacy issues in our letter to the FTC on Google Books. You can read more of that exchange on the FTC's website here.

We take our privacy commitments to our users very seriously. It's important to note that like all of our privacy policies, this one is legally enforceable by the FTC, which has helped us clarify our practices and policies through comments and questions.


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