Google Snoops on Family History

Google project to scan books exposes author's family to the world

By Jackson West
|  Tuesday, Jul 28, 2009  |  Updated 11:36 AM CDT
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Google Snoops on Family History

Aine D / Flickr

You might want to check if any books you've written are the UW Madison library -- because it will probably end up on Google Books if it is.

In an incident that illustrates Google's overreaching intent to index all of the world's information, a man in Nova Scotia, Canada is crying foul over his work being found.

Douglas Fevens compiled a thorough, 177-page family history, and with the help of his mother had a mere two hundred copies printed to give to relatives.

One of those copies somehow ended up at the University of Wisconsin-Madison -- which is participating in project led by Mountain View, Calif.-based Google to digitize its collection of books.

While searching the Web, Fevens stumbled across an excerpt of his book on Google Books, where the scanned books are published and indexed.

"No one informed me they were going to be scanning my book in," Fevens told Madison's Capital Times.

Google weathered criticism by authors over its policy of making digital copies of books, and eventually settled a lawsuit over the practice.

The terms of the settlement gives authors until April 5th, 2011 to claim the rights to books scanned by the company.

A ruling on the settlement is due in October. As for Fevens's family history, it has been removed by Google Books.

Photo by Flickr user Aine D.

Jackson West wonders why, for a company so committed to free-market capitalism, Google is rather blasé about private property.

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