The European Union's privacy watchdogs can be pretty harsh when it comes to Web services that collect a lot of data.
With all the privacy concerns (and antitrust questions) surrounding the Google Book Search settlement, I was slightly surprised to see Viviane Reding, the EU commissioner for Information Society and Media, back the Google Books deal.
In case you have been hiding under a rock, or just not reading the coverage on eWEEK, Google Watch and other high-tech news sites, Google Book Search is the search giant's effort to scan the world's books online and let users access them for fees.
According to Reuters:
"Google Books is a commercial project developed by an important player, Reding said in a statement. It is good to see that new business models are evolving which could allow bringing more content to an increasing number of consumers."
Of course, consider the source. As Reuters pointed out, Reding is a former journalist who applauds the book-scanning notion.
It's not like this statement comes thundering from the EU's antitrust or data protection enforcers. The European Commission, the EU's enforcement arm, will hold a public hearing on the Google Book Search deal Sept 7.
Meanwhile, professors from the esteemed Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University supported the Google Book Search plan in papers.
MIT Professor of Economics Jerry Hausman authored a paper along with J. Gregory Sidak from Tilburg University that explores the competitive aspects of Google's deal. Harvard Law School Professor Einer Elhauge argued that the settlement was procompetitive.
The U.S. Justice Department is already scrutinizing the Google Book Search settlement. A District Court judge will decide whether or not to approve it Oct. 7 amid a slew of opposition from Microsoft, Amazon.com, Yahoo, library associations and privacy advocates.
Google meanwhile is glibly carrying on in the face of its opponents.
Yesterday, the search engine said it will offer through Google Books free downloads of more than 1 million public domain books in the EPUB format:
EPUB is an open-source, text-based digital book format that allows the text to automatically conform to the screens of electronic readers, such as the Sony Reader, as well as mobile phones, netbooks and other computing devices.
Amazon.com's Kindle, by contrast, does not support EPUB. Amazon.com is also part of the new Open Book Alliance formed to contest the Google Book Search deal.
Plenty of my peers covered this, so see Techmeme here.
Google clearly expects that its settlement, and subsequent bid to digitize millions of books, will pass muster. So far the opposition to this effort
outweighs is louder than the support.