Google-Watch uncovers U of Michigan-Google contract

[via Siva Vaidhyanathan]

Daniel Brandt at Google-Watch used the Freedom of Information act to compel the University of Michigan to reveal its previously secret contract with Google to allow Google to digitize its library. Here’s his take on it:

This agreement raises some issues:

Google gets to do anything it wants with the public domain material it digitizes, and U of M cannot do anything with this material other than use it on their own website, assuming that measures are taken to prevent crawling, scraping, or other types of automatic retrieval. As for copyrighted material, Google decides what is “fair use” and what isn’t, and U of M is out of the picture.

(Well, Google cannot directly charge for access through Internet search, but they are free to monetize it the way they’ve moneitzed web searching. They can sell or license their any or all of the collection to their partners.)

The only place where I saw the word “privacy” in the agreement is here:

“4.5.2 Google shall maintain on its website a privacy policy that governs collection and use of information that Google obtains from a user of the Google Search Services.”

That is absolutely worthless. We know this because every privacy policy Google has published on their website is absolutely worthless. Every single one is full of loopholes, assuming you can find anything concrete in them to begin with.

This was interesting:

“6.3 Confidentiality (Exceptions) Google understands that U of M, as a public institution, is subject to the Michigan Freedom of Information Act, and any disclosure of Confidential Information required by that statute will not constitute a breach of this agreement.”

The whole agreement was confidential. The U of M is the only one of the five libraries that is not private, and subject to government regulation. Clearly, Google was hoping that no one would notice. They were almost right — it was nearly five months before I decided to search for “freedom of information” and “university of michigan.” Shame on me, and even more shame on everyone else. But the most shame on Google and the U of M, who should have taken one look at the situation and decided to skip all the confidentiality language from the start.

This is, after all, clearly a public policy issue. Remember, Google is on a mission from God to organize all the world’s information. That’s just about as public as you can get.

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