Dynamiting Safe Harbors

One of the Deputy General Counsels at Google posted about the case of three of their employees being found criminally liable by an Italian court for what a third party posted to Google-owned YouTube. British tech publication The Register posted more in the matter.

Who is liable for what goes online? Google fears that this would kill the participatory web as it would put platform providers in the unwanted role of censor. The implications for public access computing at libraries is not touched upon yet but the realm of imagination leads to scary destinations.

How Googles Algorithm Rules the Web

How Google’s Algorithm Rules the Web

It possesses the seemingly magical ability to interpret searchers’ requests — no matter how awkward or misspelled. Google refers to that ability as search quality, and for years the company has closely guarded the process by which it delivers such accurate results.

Google Books - "My Library" search disappears

Google Books - "My Library" search disappears
For a while, it looked like book search was on an uninterrupted upward slope, improving in pretty much every way at a rapid pace - more books, more competitors, more search options. Then a couple of weeks ago, I logged in and I can no longer restrict my search results to items in My Library.

Is Google Building a Library of Babel?

by Anne O’Sullivan

“The universe (which others call the Library) is composed of an indefinite, perhaps infinite number of hexagonal galleries. In the center of each gallery is a ventilation shaft, bounded by a low railing. From any hexagon one can see the floors above and below – one after another, endlessly...I declare that the Library is endless.”
- Jorge Luis Borges, “The Library of Babel”

The Borgesian library, which is “perfect, complete and whole” and composed of “all books”, is not a far cry from reality in the digital age. Google has openly declared its intention of digitizing all the world’s information, and estimates it will take approximately 300 years to do so. Substitute Borges’ hexagonal galleries for Google’s server farms, and an eerie picture begins to emerge, one that should seem reminiscent from the pages of Genesis to which Borges alludes in his title.

Borges aptly names the library in his story after the Tower of Babel parable, wherein humankind, united by one language, has the hubris to build a tower to reach heaven. God strikes down the tower, and punishes the sinners by confusing their tongues, and dispersing them geographically (hence the origin of languages, and nations). For Borges, the Library of Babel comes out of this tradition; though the Library may contain all books, meaning is only made more elusive by the vastness of what the Library contains. -- Read More

No Ruling At Google Books Hearing: Judge

NY Times: No Ruling At Google Books Hearing
Lawyers for authors, publishers, corporations and governments came to a New York court to challenge or hail a proposed deal over Google Inc's plans to digitize millions of books, but the judge said he would not rule on Thursday.

And from Publishers Weekly: At today's Google settlement fairness hearing, U.S. attorney William Cavanaugh slammed the Google settlement, telling Judge Denny Chin that the class action vehicle was inappropriate, and that the settlement "turned copyright on its head." Though the settlement may or may not offer tangible benefits, the U.S. attorney stressed, "procedural rules cannot be used to modify rights." He also told the judge that the Department of Justice has an active, "ongoing antitrust investigation" open on the settlement, suggesting that if the judge does approve the deal, DoJ intervention still could be a factor.

The Fight over the Google of All Libraries

An (Updated) FAQ on the Google Books Project and the fight over a settlement. Federal judge Denny Chin will have the difficult job of sorting that out Thursday, as he gives the second version of the Google settlement a “fairness hearing.”

Bullet Point: Dear Google, you too need to talk to librarians

Bullet Point: Dear Google, you too need to talk to librarians

I have met too many librarians who take a myopic approach to privacy. That is, privacy is so important to our members that we don’t even let them decide what information to keep or share. We just wipe all our records after some time so they don’t get caught up in the Patriot Act web. What’s worse, we feel that by creating an environment that protects privacy (by eliminating choice) we are protecting the members, when in fact the information they would expose to us is so inconsequential compared to their other activities it almost doesn’t matter.

Google Purchases Aardvark

On Sunday LISNEWS had a story about the search engine Aardvark. Aardvark, a social search company, is developing a new paradigm for Web searches that taps into social networks, not automated formulas, to provide answers to queries.

Today Aardvark has been purchased by Google. Story in the Washington Post.

Google book scanning: Cultural theft or freedom of information?

Google book scanning: Cultural theft or freedom of information?
A proposed partnership between the French government and Google is stoking fears in France that the country's literary treasures will fall under commercial control of a U.S. technology company.

Google Person Finder Helping Haiti's Survivors

Since librarians are good at finding things (and people), you might want to consider adding Google Person Finder to your database.

Here's info on the API, which is now available via open source.

Google has a crisis response group that quickly went into action after the quake in Haiti in January, coordinating with groups internally and externally, including governmental and non-governmental authorities. A crisis response page was soon posted at here.

It was realized there would be a need for a way to find out the status of family and friends who may have been impacted by the quake. As groups began to coalesce around this need, it was discovered that a Person Finder application had been created in the aftermath of the WTC attacks in 2001. Another was created in response to hurricane Katrina. Unfortunately, a quick survey showed these applications could not be revived in a short time.

However, they have since worked out the kinks and created a viable program. Google now cordially invites you to work with them in a coordinated effort to help the crisis relief efforts for the people of Haiti.

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