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|Google Accused of Hypocrisy on Privacy|
Google Accused of Hypocrisy [news.bbc.co.uk]on Privacy
|Google has been accused of "hypocrisy" over its stance on personal privacy. |
In court documents defending a lawsuit brought against its Street View mapping tool it has asserted that "complete privacy doesn't exist."
But, points out the US National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC) it responded to a Californian politician's concerns about its growth by saying that it "takes privacy very seriously".
"Google's hypocrisy is breathtaking," said Ken Boehm, chairman of the NLPC.
"complete privacy doesn't exist" : "takes privacy very seriously"
These two statements don't contradict each other. It's like saying "guns kill people" and "people should be careful with guns". You can take privacy seriously but at the same time acknowledge facts.
It's worth noting that, like many organizations with neutral- or noble-sounding names, the NLPC appears to have a strong political agenda. It shouldn't be surprising that Google--which is hardly a darling of the conservative movement--should have run afoul of an organization that has been praised by Rush Limbaugh and gone after Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Jesse Jackson, and labor unions. See the NLPC History [nlpc.org] page before making any assumptions about the NLPC's impartiality.
Google is the "black hole of data" to me. They collect what they can get. It's not making me comfortable. As long as they use the data to display crappy text ads to me, I could not care less (I don't click them anyway). But what if they decide to launch a cool Web 2.0 service that lets people suddenly see which videos I am watching? Which searches I am performing?
Google = Privacy nightmare waiting to happen (see AOL)
John Battele recently shared an interesting observation:
|A major threat is not Google or DoubleClick; it's government or other entities gaining access to the data Google and DoubleClick have access to through legal or other methods. We'll need a few big dust-ups before we focus on this as a society. |
I couldn't agree more. Privacy, in its complete form as many people conceive it, has been little more than a myth for decades -- and arguably for generations. We cannot put the personal privacy genie back in the bottle. We can only become more aware as a society of the current reality -- and then work to establish legal protections.
But right now the issue is not yet in clear focus for society as a whole. Even worse, it's caught up in the emotional disinformation of a spin war. Companies like Google, or your web host, or your ISP, need laws that protect their data from coercive acquisition.
|"complete privacy doesn't exist" : "takes privacy very seriously" |
These two statements don't contradict each other. It's like saying "guns kill people" and "people should be careful with guns". You can take privacy seriously but at the same time acknowledge facts.
I don't fully agree with the analogy. Guns, like cars, are inanimate objects. People sometimes die in situations where guns or cars are involved, but it's not simply because the gun or car decided on its own to kill someone. A human is required to pull the trigger or operate the car in an irresponsible manner, for example. Guns and cars are used daily without people being killed.
Likewise, "complete privacy doesn't exist" doesn't tell the whole story or facts. No one has a picture of my home, on either a private or public road, until someone takes that picture and shows it around - or publishes it online.
I'm impressed. 6 posts into a thread of this nature and no one brought up Google's motto yet... Do no evil.
They definitely crossed a clear line on this one. Might be a definitive moment.
If Google takes a photo of my house from an airplane = fair game.
Trespassing down a private road, entering a fenced private complex = doing evil.
I wonder if the people driving the cars are bonded?
I suspect they could be charged and arrested for trespassing if someone did discovery to find out who was driving? Might be easier to go after the individual than the corporation and let the corporation set standards afterwards.
when in court you must use EVERY possible argument to win. So even if these statements are contradictory, winning now matters. Google can always 'blame' the lawyers for the misunderstanding ;)
|no one brought up Google's motto yet... Do no evil. |
Again from the John Batelle interview:
|Kutchera: Is it possible for large companies to maintain a goal of "Don't be evil?" |
Short and sweet. It was cute little tagline for a start-up, but it's a liability for a monster company. It's almost impossible even to agree on a definition for "evil" when things get to the current scale.
|As long as they use the data to display crappy text ads to me, I could not care less (I don't click them anyway). |
you still even see the text ads? ebay's slow %#@% banner ads forced me to install adblock plus into firefox some time ago...
no more crappy google ads are even seen by me now :)
George Orwell's 1984 predictions are modest compared to what is going today on Google & Yahoo. Watch and store your most private information, (Google toolbar). The new frontier is shaping our way of thinking. Like presenting “relevant” news, (Google decide what is relevant news, party, or presidential candidate). Relevant search (Google decide what is relevant again). Your ideas are not relevant to Google; you do not exist on internet. Your company is not relevant on Google you get busted. Yahoo decide to release confidential data about a Chinese dissident and he is going to prison for 10 years. Few years from now we will have dead penalty in Iran based on Internet surfing habits. I am amazed of the level of complacency. Even more amazing is totaly legal.
|George Orwell's 1984 predictions are modest compared to what is going today on Google & Yahoo. |
If I were you, I'd worry more about the government than about Google or Yahoo. (The NSA is watching you. Be sure to wave and say "Hi!")
I am saying "Hi!". Should I do it twice, for Google also.
|I'm impressed. 6 posts into a thread of this nature and no one brought up Google's motto yet... Do no evil. |
Evil is like beauty - it's in the eye of the beholder!
I don't see what the big deal is about street view, or how it violates privacy. They're only driving down roads that any other vehicle can get to as well, so what's the privacy violation? If you give someone your address, they can drive down your street and take a picture of your house. So what? It's not like it's a live shot.
I've yet to hear one legitimate argument as to why there SHOULDN'T be a Google street view. It's one thing if you're in a gated neighborhood and they find their way in through trickery or bribing the guard or whatever, but I'm not exactly sure that's happened. If it has, that would have to stop. But as for everything else... I just don't see what the problem is.
I'd also add that I think the tool is going to help the real estate market come back once realtors start utilizing its potential. When I was buying houses the most frustrating thing was finding a great looking house in an online ad, and then you drive to it and the neighborhood is crap. A tool like this will let you check out the neighborhood and surrounding areas without having to waste your time driving out there. And right now with so many houses on the market at low prices, there is a LOT of inventory to look at if you're ready to buy. Most of the streets in my area (Tampa) have already been mapped, including most of the neighborhoods, which makes it a really useful tool when you want to check out an area.
How about a Job interview. You give the address and the future employer has a peek to your house. The grass is yellow and the front is a mess. His conclusion, I can shave 5%, he must be really motivated to get the Job. Guess what he is right.
Do you know how to find homeowners in distress ?
Browse Google street view, look for yellow grass.
I am sure the respective homeowners are thrilled to get investors, asking them all the time how is going with the foreclosure.
|I don't see what the big deal is about street view, or how it violates privacy. They're only driving down roads that any other vehicle can get to as well, so what's the privacy violation? If you give someone your address, they can drive down your street and take a picture of your house. So what? It's not like it's a live shot. |
This only makes it easier for Home Associations to nail residents who aren't keeping yards up to THEIR standards. Or municipalities looking for properties to bulldoze, even if occupied. STREET VIEW is wrong on so many levels...and yet, so dang few will see that until it bites them in the you know what.
There's privacy, there's privacy in your 'hood, there's privacy regarding your country, and Giggle doesn't seem to get that.
|Even worse, it's caught up in the emotional disinformation of a spin war. |
|Do you know how to find homeowners in distress ? Browse Google street view, look for yellow grass. |
|This only makes it easier for Home Associations to nail residents who aren't keeping yards up to THEIR standards. |
Ever checked out the "bird's eye" view at MS Live Search Maps? Makes it even easier to check out someone's house than Street View does.
Have you considered how much satellite photograph quality is going to improve in the next five years?
The days when you could hide your lack of lawn maintenance from the world at large ended a long time ago.
Privacy is inseparable from trust.
Therein lies the rub.
[edited by: Webwork at 1:55 pm (utc) on Aug. 3, 2008]
I would like to give another great application of Street View. You would like to refinance your home, and why not, your house is well maintained and is looking great in Appraiser Photos and Comps. A sharp underwriter will have a Street View, on the same street there are 2 properties not maintained.
Underwriter conclusion the loan is higher risk = Higher interest rates or he will just pass the loan. (This is just a few thousand dollars more a year, not big deal)
Hey great product, this days lenders will just love it.
[edited by: AlexBroker at 2:34 pm (utc) on Aug. 3, 2008]
Google Street View wouldn't be possible without cameras and the Internet. They're the real culprits. Let's put the blame where it belongs: on George Eastman and Al Gore.
An interesting development from the Register ...
Street view gives you no opportunities that driving down a street doesn't give you. If you give a potential employer your address, he could drive to your house and check out your grass if he so desired. Just because it's easier these days doesn't mean it's any less ridiculous to do so.
Your privacy is YOUR responsibility. Public roads are certainly allowed to be photographed, and I'm sure someone could find a legal precedent for that if they looked hard enough. Google definitely has the right to record what you're searching for when you use its site, just as any store could put a camera every two feet to watch every customer browsing if they so desired, just as any store can associate all of your purchases with the credit card you used and use that information to create a profile on you and, more importantly for them, the things that you and average other average people are likely to buy.
If you want privacy, pay with cash for everything, don't maintain a bank account, don't shop at stores with cameras, don't use the internets, and certainly don't talk to people. Ever. People talk to one another and all sorts of dirty little secrets could get out if you talk to the wrong ones.
There's certainly measures you can take on the internet to minimize the amount of information that can be linked back to you. Refresh your IP address often and clear your cookies even more often. You can use a rotation of anonymous proxy servers and you can throw salt into your search history.
Bottom line: if you don't want your information getting into the hands of others, don't give it to them. The house I live in may be visible from the street, but only so many people know I live there.
|Street view gives you no opportunities that driving down a street doesn't give you. |
I once had a fair idea of who was "driving down my street" and I knew there were all sorts of eyes keeping a watch on who might have been "driving suspiciously": myself, my neighbors, the police, the town employees, my mail carrier, the landscapers, etc. I also knew that the thief or other bad actor had to take into consideration that their identity, their face, their car make and model, their license plate or whatever might be remembered by someone or caught on any of the surveillance cameras and therefore they might be less likely to drive down my quiet street.
Now, the whole world can "drive by" - anonymously - through a proxy server. It will eventually - probably soon - be revealed that thieves are planning break and entry jobs based upon targets selected using Google's satellite and street images. Rape? Ditto. Kidnapping? Ditto. Murder? Ditto. Why should we imagine that only petty thieves will exploit this wonderfully-useful-for-criminal activity information? Why "case the joint" and risk being seen when you can do it anonymously, online, for free? Buy, hey, it's just information and who amongst us hasn't made good and nosey use of it? Besides, aren't well all entitled to information?
Of course, after each such criminal act, we will read/hear from Google the latest version of "It's not the gun that kills but the person with the gun". Something like "Hey, we're really sorry for Jane Doe, but it's just information we provide. Information doesn't kill. People kill. Okay, well, maybe information helps people plan the killing but . . It's not our fault they used our resources."
BUT, Who is keeping any eye on the stranger exploring my street, right now, for easy or interesting targets? Google? Does Google allow people to search anonymously, through proxies? Yes. Does Google keep information about who was searching my street? That's up for grabs. I thought I read that the EU doesn't want Google to keep such information. Heaven forbid, it might be used in a murder investigation. Who does the detective ask "Did you see anyone unusual in the neighborhood?" when the person visiting visits from 100 miles away?
Google keeps separating information from people, makeing information available without resort to all the channels that used to be in place for oversight about who was accessing that information, who might be trusted with such information, whose face was attached to the questions, etc. No more "Hey, Webwork, some guy was asking about you . . your . . !" No more checks and balances. "Hey, it's just information we're giving out!"
Privacy is inseparable from trust. Trust and/or trustworthiness is a matter of judgment. Google keeps creating systems to deliver personal information to all manner of strangers we would otherwise have never encountered and about whom we are unable to fashion judgments of trustworthiness. They deliver it to the whole damned world, in street level view and satellite view. Amongst other views.
Google keeps mucking with the system of checks and balances that were once built into forming judgments concerning the exposure of personal information - deprivitizing of personal info, so to speak - in that it continues to push our once "limited exposure" to more and more people about whom we know nothing or with whom we share entirely different values.
It won't be that a death or other harm will flow from information. It will be that it flows from the absence of systems of trust that used to play some role in how "information got out". It will be from the absense of "eyes on" that used to monitor who was accessing your personal information by driving down your street.
Google is throwing acid on the social glue, including built in systems of human oversight, that used to control and provide oversight to the flow of information and Google is taking NO responsibility for the outcome of their great social experiment. "Hey, it's just information."
Matters of concern about privacy are inextricably bound to concerns about trust. We en-trust personal information, not absolutely but in context. I expose information to neighbors, not the whole world, because I am prepared to trust those neighbors to a necessary and often unavoidable degree. We live in the same neighborhood, in some degree, because we share common values, etc. - so I "expose" my informaton to people "whom I have evidence upon which to form a judgment of trust". I also have back-up systems in place in case they prove less than trustworthy, like my other neighbors who keep an eye on things. There is a certain societal - real life, in place - balancing to guard against a violation of that trust.
Google is tearing at all manner of threads in the social fabric, particularly those woven of privacy and trust, and doing so in a great experiment for which it will not doubt take no responsibility but for which it has the mission of returning a profit to its shareholders. Maybe, in that context - no responsibility for what people do with the newly accessible data but clearly all being "built around a business" - maybe in that context Google ought not to be heard complaining if it finds itself under increasing regulatory scrutiny and control - as a public utility.
Maybe it ought not to be Google who decides if it's a good idea that the whole world can see whether there's an iron gate on the front of my business or what it is that is in my backyard or how easy it might be to conceal one's self whilst taking a closer look inside the rear window to my house.
Privacy and trust. Trust and personal safety. Anonymnity and personal safety. All intertwined. All being mucked with by Google on a daily basis, on an unprecedented scale.
[edited by: Webwork at 4:09 pm (utc) on Aug. 4, 2008]
|Now, the whole world can "drive by" - anonymously - through a proxy server. It will eventually - probably soon - be revealed that thieves are planning break and entry jobs based upon targets selected using Google's satellite and street images. Rape? Ditto. Kidnapping? Ditto. Murder? Ditto. |
Sure, just like phone directories and telephones make it easy for burglars to find out who's at home. Should phone directories and telephones should be outlawed?
Let's not forget cars, vans, and trucks. Should motor vehicles be outlawed to foil burglars and other criminals?
Technology always brings challenges. Spam wouldn't exist without e-mail, "black hat" SEO wouldn't exist without search engines, and phishing schemes wouldn't exist without online communications. Does that mean e-mail, search engines, and the Internet are inherently evil and not in society's best interests?
There are other sites with even scarier services available.
Google could disappear right now and the privacy issues mentioned in this thread would not go away.
As signor_john says, the issue is technology, not any particular company's implementation of it. People are always afraid of the implications of improved communications and data availability.
And maybe they should be. And maybe we would all be a lot happier without all the technology we have these days... but that doesn't change the fact that it's here to stay.
Look John based on your logic; one should be able to buy nukes at Wal-Mart. Why restrict the free flow of nukes, hey nukes do not kill, people kill.
I do not want my house on Google Data Base, I do not want my surfing habits in Google Data Base, I do not want my health records on Google Data Base and to be honest with you, I want Google off my butt.
Is fine with me if NSA is spying on me, by law they are supposed to protect me, I can accept and understand an invasion of privacy in exchange for my safety. But under no circumstances I accept an invasion of my privacy for commercial applications. My point is simple, take out my home, my backyard, my street of the data base, my surfing history, and my health records of Google Data Base.
Today we have thermo graphic cameras why not start giving thermo images on the internet. For 20 years we have laser based microphones, one can listen to a conversation in a house from 500ft., just direct the beam to the neighbor window. Why not put this information in a data base and distribute it, it is public.
My privacy is one the most important asset and you have to come with very serious reasons to get access, in the mean time hands off.
Today I am able to have a restricted phone number, not listed, same should be available for all commercial public Data Bases. I should be able to remove my home and myself from all commercial Data Bases.
If the information is so beneficial I will be the first to enroll.
|Look John based on your logic; one should be able to buy nukes at Wal-Mart. Why restrict the free flow of nukes, hey nukes do not kill, people kill. |
Google isn't selling nukes. Google is sharing information that's freely available to the public.
The fuss here about Google Street View reminds me of the teeth-gnashing that occured when telephone Caller ID was introduced. For a few people (such as telemarketers and heavy breathers), Caller ID had disadvantages, but its advantages for the many outweighed the disadvantages for the few, and it became widely accepted by the general public. I think the same will be true of Google Street View.
Here's just one real-life example of GSV's usefulness: My daughter and her husband are moving to San Francisco. When they look at apartment or real-estate listings before they move, they'll be able to look at Google Street View to get an idea of what the neighborhood is like around a given address. If there's a biker bar or an all-night drum and cymbals shop next door, maybe they'd rather live somewhere else. Now, if you're the apartment landlord or the real-estate agent, maybe you want to play down the fact that your listing is next door to a biker bar or an all-night drum and cymbals shop. But on balance, the public interest is served by having that information available on Google Street View.
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