Big Google is Watching You

Google Scholar is a very helpful resource. Say you need to find an obscure or out-of-print book. Well, punch it into Google Scholar, type in your ZIP code, and, shazam, a listing of libraries shows up. Even so, given that Google is the top dog search engine and has been criticized for its very serious privacy concerns, one wonders why Google would introduce a feature that bears such a striking correllation to related attributes within the PATRIOT Act.

The PATRIOT Act authorizes the Department of Justice (and its related entities) to keep track of booklists that citizens check out at libraries or buy from bookstores, presumably based on the silly logic that anyone who reads A Catcher in the Rye (which would include a sizable cluster of high school students) is going to transform overnight into Mark David Chapman.

But Google Scholar fits the bill so exactly that one wonders what relationship the company might have with the government. If Google’s infamous cookie (which resides on a system until 2037) remains in play through Google Scholar, the big question is why does Google need this data? To service its users or to profit while compromising an individual’s privacy? What happens when a teenager trying to come to terms with his sexual orientation looks for a book on the subject to see if his urges are biologically normal? None of these very sizable concerns is addressed in the FAQ.

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