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Friday News: What Google’s New “Privacy” Policy Means for You

Google has changed some of its policies regarding how it is collecting data from users. A couple of good links on the subject include the WSJ write up and the EFF write up at the USA Today.


In sum, Google is tracking every move you make and connecting it together. If you watch a Youtube video, google logs this and then analyzes it against the searches you’ve made and the emails you send. To avoid this, you must be logged out and by default, Google logs you in. To make sure you are logged out, look at the black bar at the top right corner. If it says you are logged out, you should be.

Of course, with these companies, who knows. The FTC head has indicated that they’ll be watching these monoliths like Google and Facebook as it relates to the privacy of user data.


Maggie Stiefvater may believe that bloggers are non professionals writing non reviews and therefore are not afforded respect by authors, but Reed Business who owns and runs Book Expo America apparently disagrees. It has purchased the Book Blogger Convention and beginning in 2012, the Book Blogger Convention will be part of BEA.


Speaking of non reviews and bloggers, this one author and publisher are seeking a contractual arrangement with reviewers. Insane Hussein posts a copy of a Book Reviewer contract. Sign it and you give the author/publisher various rights to use the review in whatever way they wish. Not so bad, right? But then there are the terms. The review must be graded on an unbiased 1 to 5 scale. It must answer five questions. It must be 400 words or longer exclusive of the answers to the five questions.

No book is worth that trouble. Not one.


Julian Sanchez takes a look at the dollar loss claimed by the entertainment industry as a result of piracy. The numbers are so outrageous as to be laughable yet most of Congress (and many in the entertainment industry) take these numbers as truth.

[H]ere’s the upshot: The $200–250 billion number had originated in a 1991 sidebar in Forbes, but it was not a measurement of the cost of “piracy” to the U.S. economy. It was an unsourced estimate of the total size of the global market in counterfeit goods. Beyond the obvious fact that these numbers are decades old, counterfeiting of physical goods imported in bulk and sold by domestic retail distributors is, rather obviously, a totally different phenomenon with different policy implications from the problem of illicit individual consumer downloads of movies, music, and software. The 750,000 jobs number had originated in a 1986 speech (yes, 1986) by the secretary of commerce estimating that counterfeiting could cost the United States “anywhere from 130,000 to 750,000? jobs. Nobody in the Commerce Department was able to identify where those figures had come from.


Does that mean online piracy is harmless? Of course not. But the harm is a dynamic loss in allocative efficiency, which is much harder to quantify.

Source: How Copyright Industries Con Congress.


For the UK and UK rights territories (which I think includes Australia and New Zealand), Piatkus is starting up a digital only line to release digital versions of popular books

The first titles will be released on Valentine’s Day, 14th February, with e-books including Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake, 11 Scandals to Start to Win a Duke’s Heart, 10 Ways to be Adored When Landing a Lord by Sarah MacLean, and Winning the Wallflower by Eloisa James, as well as paranormal romance novella Eternal Blood by Laura Wright.

Novels will be priced £2.99, with novellas available at a lower price point. The imprint will also publish into omantic suspense, historical romance, paranormal romance and fantasy fiction, and contemporary women’s fiction genres.

Prices look good to me. UK readers?


Remember how Apple just became the most profitable company in the world and is sitting on about 400 billion cash? Right, well, its devices are made in factories that treat people like animals. See NYTimes.

Employees work excessive overtime, in some cases seven days a week, and live in crowded dorms. Some say they stand so long that their legs swell until they can hardly walk. Under-age workers have helped build Apple’s products, and the company’s suppliers have improperly disposed of hazardous waste and falsified records, according to company reports and advocacy groups that, within China, are often considered reliable, independent monitors.

More troubling, the groups say, is some suppliers’ disregard for workers’ health. Two years ago, 137 workers at an Apple supplier in eastern China were injured after they were ordered to use a poisonous chemical to clean iPhone screens. Within seven months last year, two explosions at iPad factories, including in Chengdu, killed four people and injured 77. Before those blasts, Apple had been alerted to hazardous conditions inside the Chengdu plant, according to a Chinese group that published that warning.

NYTimes tweeted yesterday asking the question whether consumers would be willing to pay more for a device made in the US under humane conditions. Another person tweeted back and asked if Apple would be willing to have a lower margin than 44% to produce devices under humane conditions.


There’s an article in Bloomberg’s Business Week that is worth a read because it is gossipy and insider-y about Amazon’s once rosy relationship with publishers and how it all fell apart when Amazon knifed them in the back and started selling digital books at a sub $10 price point. Larry Kirshbaum, the head of Amazon’s NY Publishing arm, once well liked, is now reviled according to Mike Shatzkin. Does Larry mind? I doubt it. I’ve heard that Kirshbaum’s checkbook is virtually bottomless and authors only hesitations might be their doubt that Amazon can get its books into brick and mortar stores. Amazon has signed a deal with Houghton Mifflin to print their books and distribute them but will Barnes & Noble agree to do so? After all, BN responded by pulling all the comics off the shelves when DC Comics made an exclusivity deal with Amazon. It won’t carry the digital versions of any of the Amazon publications. But if Amazon were to sign someone like Janet Evanovich or Steven King or the like, could BN say no?


File this under “Skeptical” file, but Anobii is saying that DRM should be eliminated. The reason that this might be important is that Anobii is “backed by big publishers.

In a speech this afternoon at the Digital Book World Conference in New York, Berlucchi argued that digital rights management technology, or DRM as it is known, prevents more readers from buying e-books and may actually encourage piracy of copyrighted material.

Industry observer Mike Shatzkin, who is also chairman of the Digital Book World Conference called the argument “significant” because Anobii is partially owned by the UK arms of three major publishing companies, HarperCollins, Penguin and Random House.

As I’ve said before, elimination of DRM would actually help to loosen Amazon’s grip on digital book sales because you could shop anywhere and use a Kindle.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Cathy Burkholder
    Jan 27, 2012 @ 14:46:08

    People interested in the issues with Apple might also want to listen to/read the transcript of the “This American Life” Episode, “Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory.

    Part 1 is by this huge apple fan who gets curious about where his apple stuff comes from and decides to travel to China. What he finds there, and how he uncovers it, is fascinating. Part 2 is about “This American Life” staff fact checking and trying to put it all in context. It’s given me more food for thought on this topic than most of the other articles on the topic combined.

  2. MD
    Jan 27, 2012 @ 14:53:33

    Great news, as far as I am concerned. The price is lower than most Kindle titles currently on (they are in £4-£5 range), and I would find it really enticing. Will be cheaper than doing used, too.

  3. becca
    Jan 27, 2012 @ 15:10:40

    Google’s lack-of-privacy policy has stopped me using Google+ entirely, nor will I use Chrome. I will do some Google searches but I’m thinking of switching to another search engine entirely.

  4. Ros
    Jan 27, 2012 @ 15:17:27

    YES!!!!!! I’d totally pay £2.99 for that kind of title. That’s awesome news.

    Also, as well as my initial squee at being able to buy these books, it’s really great to see a publisher taking initiative to deal (even if in a limited way) with the problems of geographical restrictions. I hope that Piatkus will be acquiring global digital rights for all their books from now on and publishing them in this way.

  5. Lou
    Jan 27, 2012 @ 15:43:18

    I think it’s great, and the prices are pretty damn good. It’s about time that publishers in the UK are finally providing a online (or any) avenue for the romance genre. And hopefully as more titles are released over here, I would love for there to be book conventions such as the ones in the US.

  6. Julia
    Jan 27, 2012 @ 15:49:27

    That Businessweek article is fascinating! But your link is broken.

    Here’s a correct link for anyone who wants it:

  7. HelenMac
    Jan 27, 2012 @ 16:30:08

    £2.99 is a billy bargain for those novels!

  8. LVLMLeah
    Jan 27, 2012 @ 16:35:10

    Here’s a link to Mail Online UK article about Google’s privacy settings.

    They have a link on it that will take you to the page on your Google settings in which you can turn off cookies and see how Google sees you based on your history.

    If you Opt in just to see what your profile is, it’s easy to Opt out again after looking at the profile of who Google thinks you are based on your browsing/Google accounts.

    You can also see the your ad profile. Mine came up that they didn’t have anything on me, so they haven’t been tracking me. But I clear out all history and cookies after each session. And now I will use a different browser just for Google things that I have to sign in for, like Reader and use another browser for search. That way they can’t track me as well.

    But also I never signed up for Google+ knowing how insidiously invasive it would be.

    It’s sad that we have to keep playing these stupid games to keep some privacy.

    About the Reviewer contract? WTF? I would never sign such a thing. And, I would probably be turned off of ever buying one of their books.

    Apple story has made me think hard about wanting to buy a new Apple product. Unfortunately, I think ALL electronic companies are doing the same if not worse.

    Here’s the Daily Show’s video on the Chinese Factory conditions. It’s disturbing, really.

  9. Jane
    Jan 27, 2012 @ 16:40:27

    @Julia Thanks, link updated. I had too many https there.

  10. kara-karina
    Jan 27, 2012 @ 17:15:08

    I would definitely buy ebooks for £2.99. This is a great price. Also I’ve noticed that on Amazon UK (comparing to US) prices for ebooks are always lower than for prints. Every time I look at Amazon US the prices are always the same for both formats.
    Can I also mention something that drives me mad on Amazon UK although it’s off topic? You can’t gift kindle books, which is plain stupid. Technically you can gift a book for kindle if you live in US to any email address in the world with amazon account – so easy for worldwide giveaways. But not here in UK! They are losing so much potential income! The only website where I can gift ebooks at the moment is Smashwords. I’m not even mentioning the pitiable amount of websites where you can buy digital books for UK, and it’s so much worse for the rest of the world. Digital publishing has a long way to go to become a viable option for a worldwide reader and reduce the piracy with such insensible rules.

  11. Ridley
    Jan 27, 2012 @ 17:18:05

    Huh. Google thinks I’m male based on my internet history.

    Privacy issues aside, this mechanic is kind of fascinating. I’d be curious to know how they determine a user’s gender. Apparently my lurking on hockey blogs and reading newspaper sports sections marks me as male, but my presence on romance book blogs, Jezebel, gardening sites and clothes/shoe sites doesn’t make me female.

  12. Keishon
    Jan 27, 2012 @ 17:34:53

    Google thinks I’m male and 65 years old. I find that hilarious. I’m probably gonna dump Google one day but I make sure I am signed out from Gmail. I deleted my Google Plus profile a long time ago as well.

  13. Gwen Hayes
    Jan 27, 2012 @ 17:35:35

    The inhumane treatment of factory workers makes me sick. I cannot believe we have come this far as a society and this stuff still exists.

    I think the only way to not support companies doing bad things is to live off-grid and stop participating in commerce completely.

    Lloyd Dobler had the right of it. “I don’t want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don’t want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don’t want to do that.”

  14. Elizabeth56
    Jan 27, 2012 @ 18:04:47

    Google’s take: I’m male and 35-44 years old. As a 55 year old woman, I’ll take the second part. This is based on my shopping for electronics and food. How can they have missed my many trips to the romance sections of BooksOnBoard, BN, or Amazon? I feel typecast. I guess it’s also my not shopping much for girly stuff (whatever that is), and reading science fiction since forever.
    I can skew their results even more, by choice. There is potential here for seeing if I can get younger still.
    Memo to self: consult 24 year old son.

  15. Ros
    Jan 27, 2012 @ 18:37:13

    Huh. Google doesn’t seem to think anything about me. I think I’m relieved. But maybe just a little bit offended.

  16. Shiloh Walker
    Jan 27, 2012 @ 18:49:53

    Well, I’m getting ready to delete G+. Don’t use it much. Wonder if it’s time to think about dumping gmail.

  17. Gennita Low
    Jan 27, 2012 @ 18:53:16

    I highly recommend the one-man monologue play, Mike Daisey’s The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs. He actually visited the factory in China and although this monologue/play is funny, that particular part is truly disturbing. Here is a review: .

    Steve Jobs, when he was asked by Obama at a dinner about bringing jobs back to the US, had replied, that they “are never coming back.” An executive then proudly gave an account on how, when Apple needed to correct a design overnight, the supervisor of the company in China had woken up 8,000 workers from their dormitories and after giving them tea and a biscuit, these workers had worked overnight to get thousands of the new Apple product ready for shipping. Left unsaid was that American workers would never work like that (without compensation). Said executive also never mentioned how much these workers were paid month. Most had never even seen the finished product.

    Just Google (after signing out of your gmail, ha) the article. It made me very sad.

  18. Keishon
    Jan 27, 2012 @ 19:12:02

    @Gennita Low: I read that article a few days ago. It is sad and unfortunate.

  19. Sunita
    Jan 27, 2012 @ 19:24:49

    @Ridley: @Keishon: Hey, Google took 10 years off my age and gave me a Y chromosome! Keishon, I’m suddenly younger than you. Huh.

    I’d already opted out of everything personalized that I could on Google, but it’s not enough to stop a lot of the data-gathering. What they’re doing is less acquiring new information about us than it is consolidation of and new uses for what they’ve already been collecting. But that’s a step too far for me too. I really don’t want to be bombarded with ads for, say, Columbus OH’s night life just because I happen to be going to a conference there.

    I’ve spent time over the last couple of days breaking up with Google. It’s time-consuming but doable. I’m not nuking everything, but I’m cutting down the number of Google apps I use and spreading my personal information across competing companies’ software and clouds.

  20. Darlynne
    Jan 27, 2012 @ 19:26:37

    My favorite comment at Insane Hussein about the reviewer contract requirements: ALL YOUR REVIEW ARE BELONG TO US. O_O

    I read the NYT Apple article this morning and was dismayed at the tone of many of the comments. Yes, China has to choose to make things better for their workers. Yes, it took outrage over horrific accidents in the US to force changes in working conditions and worker rights. There is something very shameful in Apple’s case, however, because much of what occurs is in their control. “Out-of-site-out-of-mind” is no longer true or acceptable: the world really is watching and, I hope, paying attention.

  21. Moriah Jovan
    Jan 27, 2012 @ 19:33:49

    @LVLMLeah: I don’t have cookies enabled and I have Ad Blocker. For some sites, I disable Ad Blocker because I know they depend on that revenue.

    I killed my Google+ account a while back for several reasons, not the least of which was privacy.

    I’ve never used GoogleDocs except when forced to by other people who didn’t know how to share the information any other way.

    I have two gmail accounts, neither of which I use to communicate with actual people about anything. I’ve never liked the idea of gmail and never got an account for my REAL email. *whew*

  22. Darlynne
    Jan 27, 2012 @ 19:50:23

    This Christmas, I was shopping for puzzles and books for my nieces at Amazon and B&N, and ultimately bought at B&N. A few minutes later, I was looking at and in a banner midway down the page, between channel offerings, was an ad for B&N via AdChoice, which displayed all four items I had just purchased, in effect, the contents of my shopping cart. And I knew the information came from there because one of the items had only been viewed at B&N, not on Amazon.

    I completely freaked out and followed all the links around the web to opt out of every single marketing program I had never consciously opted into, AdChoice, Google and others I can’t even remember. Some things, Microsoft marketing specifically, can’t be opted out of or I haven’t figured out how and B&N never did respond to my loud and angry email.

    So, yes, do opt out or at least be aware of just how closely you’re being tracked.

  23. lucy
    Jan 27, 2012 @ 22:12:10

    I heard from someone else that google has been doing that for awhile now, but only updated their privacy policy recently. Hhhmn, I’m apparently male to them, which I find sexist of them, but at least they got my age range right.

    For books, DRM is not that annoying for me since Calibre automatically removes it when I add new books. Although it would again be a pain if Calibre stopped removing DRM. It’s more annoying for video games and software; I’ve heard of quite a few people who had to download illegal versions because the DRM made their legal versions not work properly.

  24. Wahoo Suze
    Jan 27, 2012 @ 22:32:58

    Heh. Google thinks I’m male, and age 25 – 35. I guess because I spend a lot of time on gay porn blogs? ‘Cause they’re very often wildly entertaining.

    Anyway, I tend to google things I see on tv or when I’m surfing, and I think “Huh. What’s that?” So my profile doesn’t bear any resemblance to me an my interests, oddly.

  25. Kaetrin
    Jan 27, 2012 @ 23:28:28

    Hooray for the 2.99UK ebooks from Piatkus. They’ll make squillions.

  26. SAO
    Jan 28, 2012 @ 01:21:34

    I wish someone did a study on the geographical distribution of piracy. I live in Russia and help out with used book sales and there is a tremendous hunger for English language books. We actually have a number of bookstores with an extremely limited number of English books and a few English bookstores (with skyhigh prices).

    Look at a random selection of statistics for English as a second language: 30% of Romanians speak English, 11% of Bhutanese, 76% of Cypriots, 57% of Slovenians, 15% of Kazakhs. What do you think the market is for English language books is in those countries? How many have a single English bookstore outside the capital? What do you think the prices are?

    However, it’s a poor assumption that any of these people can just order from Amazon. The Russian internet ordering system is completely different from the US and few Russians are comfortable giving debit card details on-line. Not all of them have Visa or MC and almost none have American Express. It’s just not true that if something works in America, it will work anywhere.

    So, you have a great demand for English language books and a very small to non-existent legal print supply. You don’t have a working system for legal on-line sales and so, what caused the lost sale? Not the pirate sites.

    My husband and I wanted a Tomtom map of Turkey as we were going on vacation there and renting a car. We couldn’t figure out how to buy a legal copy. There was no Russian site and neither the UK nor US nor German sites would sell to us. If there was a Turkish site, we didn’t know, not being able to navigate enough Turkish to get to it. What caused the lost sale? Not the pirate sites.

    Piracy of videos in Russia was cut tremendously when Hollywood licensed a Russian company to distribute their videos. Not only was Russia now getting current movies, but the prices were reasonable and the dubbing good. But, also, the Russian company was policing the pirates and making sure the gov’t cared about them.

    What a lot of the anti-piracy rhetoric that the US gives to other countries boils down to, you spend your resources protecting American companies’ revenue. Is it any wonder it’s not a priority?

  27. Devon Matthews
    Jan 28, 2012 @ 02:38:14

    This information gathering has gotten way out of hand. If you want to see something disturbing, type your name into a Google search and then click on “images.” I did that about a week ago and was startled to find every picture I’ve ever posted on my blog, plus pictures of my kids and pets all grouped together. After reading this post, I’ve gone and changed my default browser, if that will do any good. Which I doubt.

  28. Joy
    Jan 28, 2012 @ 10:50:13

    About that reviewer contract, I couldn’t help but wonder…what’s in it for the reviewer? I certainly don’t see a quid pro quo in the contract; nor do I see a way that a publisher/author could legally *stop* a reviewer from reviewing a book on whatever terms the reviewer likes. I can only think of two incentives, none of which are spelled out in the contract:

    1. A free review copy before the release date
    2. A huge chunk o’ cash.

    I would not sign that contract without both incentives. Note that this would be a review for hire, in effect. It seems to me as if the publisher is trying to get a review for hire, without the pesky business of actually paying.

  29. eggs
    Jan 28, 2012 @ 15:17:53

    @Devon Matthews: When I put my IRL name into google images I get stacks of photos of other people but not a single one of myself or my kids, even though I have plenty of these on the internet (too many according to my husband).

    I’ve been fooling around online since the late 1980’s and I’ve been ‘eggs’ since the 1990’s. All my family and friends know that’s who I am online, so it’s not like it’s a super-secret identity or anything. But here’s the thing: google ‘eggs’ in images and see what you get. It’s not difficult to just pick one name for online and stick with it forever. It enables the people who know you IRL to find you and the people who know you online to find you, but keeps the Great Sorting Algorithm in the Sky from putting the two together.

    Also: apparently there is a very famous sex industry worker in the US who shares my IRL name. Funny googling this morning!

  30. kara-karina
    Jan 28, 2012 @ 20:55:16

    SAO, I sign under each word. I spent first 24 years of my life living in Russia, and know that there is almost no opportunity to buy an english book in the shop, it’s very pricy to buy it online and export it from US and there is no digital market in Russia, hence the piracy. People can’t get these books any other way unless they live in Moscow or Saint Petersbourg and/or have above average salary.

  31. jody
    Jan 30, 2012 @ 10:02:40

    The knee jerk reaction to pirate “lost” revenue is ridiculous and assumes every customer is ready, willing and able to pay retail for the same product. That’s simply not so. Ask any minimum wage worker sporting a knock-off designer purse.

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