Google's Auto-Link-Feature rises legal
Google has included a feature on its newest toolbar, (Toolbar 3 Beta) that
adds links to websites viewed when using the toolbar (the so called
Auto-Link Feature). For now, Auto-Link works in four categories: street
addresses (whisking you to Google Maps by default, but you can switch to
MapQuest or Yahoo Maps); ISBN numbers (linking to Amazon.com); package
tracking numbers (pointing to DHL, FedEx, United Parcel Service and the U.S.
Postal Service); and vehicle identification numbers (hyperlinks to
CarFax.com.) Why only this collection of items? Because they can be reliably
identified and have only one correct match. Google won't try to link
"Stephan Ott" to any website as there are more people with the name out
there and the author of Links & Law might not be the person most webusers
are looking for (although they should :-)
Search Engine Journal has a very good example of the consequences this might
have: If a web-user was to try to purchase a book from Barnes and Nobel, the
second largest online bookseller, while using the new toolbar, a link to
rival Amazon.com would be added to the view's version of the Barnes and
Noble site as soon as the book's ISBN appeared.
AutoLink rises some legal questions: Does Google have the right to add links
to pages authored by others thus modifying the content. In my point of view
too much fuss about nothing: Users can decide whether they want to use the
new feature and Google's technology will not override existing links. Users
can disable AutoLink with a single mouse click.
(For a closer look at the legal issues see Goldman, Eric:
Google's AutoLink tool, Eric Goldman Blog).
AutoLink does not involve financial or advertising deals so far and is
designed simply as a convenience