ALA has a recommendation for the antitrust division of the DOJ
PDF, 1.4 megs; July 29, 2009
like Google as much as they used to
May 4, 2009
One of the ALA's objections is that the Settlement says nothing
about reader privacy: "Privacy is one of libraries' core values; libraries
do not monitor the reading habits of their patrons. Indeed, 48 states and
the District of Columbia have statutes that protect library records from
undue intrusion at the expense of privacy, requiring in general a subpoena
before a publicly funded library can disclose records with personally
The ALA's comments filed with the court conclude that "any user
must have the ability to request this Court to direct Google and the
Registry to disclose their policies for collecting, retaining, disseminating,
and protecting personally identifiable information. Additionally, any user
must have the ability to request this Court to review whether Google and the
Registry are complying with their privacy policies."
the ALA document here
(PDF file, 255 Kbytes, 22 pages)
Why did it take so long for the ALA to recognize that Google
threatens the privacy protections that the ALA has always supported? After all,
to raise this issue with the ALA in December 2004, as soon as Google
announced the Library Project. Nothing was heard from the ALA about Google
and privacy for four long years.
One reason for this is that Google launched an aggressive
outreach program in 2005 and seduced the ALA with corporate
gimmickry. Google loved librarians, so librarians returned the favor.
The ALA was susceptible to this because it is a huge bureaucratic membership
organization, and many in the profession felt outdated and threatened by the
If the ALA had taken a hard look at Google as soon as the
Library Project was announced, and educated its membership about the
privacy issues, then by 2009 it would have been ready to oppose the
Settlement outright. Instead, the ALA's comments on the Settlement include
this pathetic line: "The Library Associations do not oppose approval of
the Settlement." By now this ALA document may be too little, too late.
Almost certainly it would have been if the court hadn't postponed the
issue for four additional months, and if the Justice Department and the
Federal Trade Commission hadn't started looking at antitrust and privacy
issues concerning Google. In the meantime, the ALA should consider submitting
stronger statements with these two agencies within the next four months,
to expiate its sins of omission during the past four years.