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Google adds details to Book Search privacy policy

Privacy advocates had criticized Google's Book Search settlement as incomplete regarding its privacy policy, and Google has responded with additional commitments.

Google has released additional details about the privacy policy it plans to use if its settlement over Google Book Search is approved. Screenshot by Tom Krazit/CNET

Google has released a more detailed privacy policy for its Google Books product, a move demanded in recent weeks by several critics of its settlement with publishers and authors.

The company announced the new policy in a blog post late Thursday afternoon, saying it developed the policy following conversations with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. Google had previously said it was unable to release a detailed policy because the Google Books product was incomplete due to the fact that the settlement allowing its Book Search project to display certain types of books has yet to be formally approved.

However, criticism of Google's lack of detailed information on the subject appears to have forced its hand. "To provide all users with a clear understanding of our practices, and in response to helpful comments about needing to be clearer about the Books product from the FTC and others, we wanted to highlight key provisions of the main Google Privacy Policy in the context of the Google Books service, as well as to describe privacy practices specific to the Google Books service," wrote Jane Horvath, general privacy counsel for Google, in a blog post.

A few highlights of the new policy, the full text of which can be found here:

• Google will not require book searchers to create a Google account if they are viewing pages of books online, browsing books through a university's institution subscription to the book service, or accessing the book service from a public terminal at a library.

• If you want to actually buy a book you'll need to have a Google account, but Google will let users remove records of books they have purchased from their accounts and said it will not pass along information about specific books that were purchased to credit card companies.

• Google plans to release a more detailed privacy policy containing specific language about the various services that will be available when, and if, the settlement is approved giving it the right to offer the service.

It's not clear whether these provisions will be enough to quiet those criticizing the settlement on privacy grounds, but it's a step in that direction. The proposed settlement will be debated at a court hearing in New York in October.