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  (Source: Ardash Vijay/Google+)
Nation's privacy regulators say they would like Google to better explain itself

For a while the online trend privacy-wise was towards greater anonymization, and shorter storage of data.  Today things seem to be going in the reverse direction, with companies like Google and Facebook actively working to reduce user privacy for profit.

Google Inc. (GOOG) the world's largest provider of internet search, web video (YouTube), and email (Gmail) is preparing to roll out a sweeping (and alarming) new cross-product privacy policy.  Under the new policy, Google will do away with separate privacy agreements and individual collection of data in its various products.  In its place will be a single mass monitoring/data mining apparatus, which will collect sensitive information including location, interests, age, sexual orientation, sexual habits, relationship status, religion, political views, health concerns, employment status, and more.

But the advent of "Googley the Privacy Slayer" has been potentially delayed by threats from French authorities.  The European Union nation's National Commission for Computing and Civil Liberties (CNIL) sent an open letter [PDF] to Google asking the company for more information about precise technical details of its plans.

The letter to new Google CEO Larry Page complains that the policy seemingly "does not meet the requirements of the European Directive on Data Protection, especially regarding the information provided to data subjects."

The European Union as a whole is very concerned about the new policy.  It has launched a probe into Google's actions.

Data Mining
Google is looking to mine your sensitive personal data to a greater extent
than has ever before been possible. [Image Source: Amazon.com]

French authorities -- and EU officials in general have a laundry list of concerns:
  1. The proposed changes lack transparency.
  2. Mass application of an ambiguous privacy policy covering dozens of the world's most used online services is troublesome.
  3. Government officials were not given clear warning about the changes.
  4. Users were not given clear warning about the changes.
In the U.S. Attorneys General for various states are expressing similar concerns and criticism [PDF].

Google, however, has insisted that no matter what the government or users say, it will implement the policy on March 1, which it insists is legal.  The policy has the potential to bring Google huge new profits via the sale of user data to "trusted" parties and via improving Google's in-house advertising.

For those wishing to opt out of the Orwellian new monitoring scheme, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has published a document detailing how to do so, in addition to explaining why the alarm at these changes is justified.

Sources: CNIL [complaint letter], EFF [how to opt out], The New York Times [more coverage], Rhode Island AG



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New?
By nafhan on 2/29/2012 4:07:16 PM , Rating: 5
quote:
Under the new policy, Google will do away with separate privacy agreements and individual collection of data in its various products. In its place will be a single mass monitoring/data mining apparatus...
Am I the only who assumed that the "single mass monitoring/data mining apparatus" has been in place for years? Other than explicitly stating that, yes, this is what they're doing, how is the privacy policy change really making a difference?

It seems to me, if you're concerned about this having an impact on your privacy, you shouldn't have been using Google for EVERYTHING in the first place. Also, this still is not as bad as FB from a privacy perspective. FB has convinced a billion people to give them this information and manually categorize it for them.




RE: New?
By JasonMick (blog) on 2/29/2012 4:09:50 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
Am I the only who assumed that the "single mass monitoring/data mining apparatus" has been in place for years? Other than explicitly stating that, yes, this is what they're doing, how is the privacy policy change really making a difference?

It seems to me, if you're concerned about this having an impact on your privacy, you shouldn't have been using Google for EVERYTHING in the first place. Also, this still is not as bad as FB from a privacy perspective. FB has convinced a billion people to give them this information and manually categorize it for them.

The government(s) is(/are) only upset when the corporations get the Orwellian surveillance powers they have enjoyed for years now. ;)

Big Brother Bush/Obama == GOOD!

Big Brother Google == Bad!


RE: New?
By icrf on 2/29/2012 4:07:29 PM , Rating: 5
That's exactly what I thought. The government has a problem with privacy and civilian surveillance? Really? Pot, Kettle. Kettle, Pot.


RE: New?
By FaaR on 2/29/2012 4:19:47 PM , Rating: 2
Difference being of course, that private companies are accountable to nobody, and was elected by nobody also.

While one does not justify the other, this lack of accountability and democracy does make private sector surveillance more serious IMO.


RE: New?
By tng on 2/29/2012 4:27:55 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
private companies are accountable to nobody, and was elected by nobody also.
Wow, are you that blind?

How many 3-letter government agencies have a complete file on you that would give them all of the evidence they need to just lock you up without a trial, charge, legal advice, or notification? I would suspect since the advent of the Patriot Act quite a few of us have such a file.

The people that you elect are not the people in charge of the surveillance, no matter what you and they would like us to think. Google gathering data on us is really probably much more innocent than what the government does.


RE: New?
By nafhan on 3/1/2012 10:00:23 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
private companies are accountable to nobody
They're accountable to: their customers, their shareholders, and the governments in the countries in which they operate. I'd say that's more accountability than most government agencies have.

Realistically speaking, they can both get away with quite a bit more than they I feel comfortable with, though.


RE: New?
By mcnabney on 3/1/12, Rating: 0
RE: New?
By RedemptionAD on 3/1/2012 1:04:14 PM , Rating: 2
Just mad someone might be in their Kool-Aid? and the people Google may be monitoring might be them??? Isn't turn-a-bout fair play?


RE: New?
By TSS on 3/1/2012 1:54:19 PM , Rating: 4
The government's only upset because they aren't getting a slice of the action. Remember Obama protested the NDAA not because of unlimited detention of americans, but because the NDAA didn't go far enough.

I'll take google over the government any day. Atleast they've got a vested interest in keeping me happy. The government will get their money anyway, or i'll go to jail....


RE: New?
By Gondor on 3/1/2012 3:09:16 AM , Rating: 2
Give this man a 6 !!!

This is precisey what I've been telling people all along. There is another aspect that English-speaking computer users might be completely oblivious to but it is relevant for non-English speakers: not only does Google collect all sorts of data, it also has an automated translation service that is being improved on a daily basis by victims themselves.

So not only can Google monitor your activity (contacts, contents of your e-mail & of your G+ messages etc.), they can even do it if you communicate in any other language, no matter how obscure you thought it might be.

Then there is also Picassa (with access to embedded location and time information in addition to pictures themselves) and Google Docs (with whatever the victim chooses to put into his/her documents).

And yes, this hasn't happened recently, it's being going on for years.


Not unforseeable
By Motoman on 2/29/2012 3:18:43 PM , Rating: 5
It's not like you couldn't see this coming...

Google, Facebook, et al provide services that are free to the end user...services which are horribly expensive to provide.

They make money on advertisers. Advertisers pay them, ostensibly, for getting their users' attention and convincing them to buy their stuff.

The less effective an advertising campaign is (i.e. lower hit rate), the less valuable it is...and the less the advertiser is going to pay for it. If you can make the ads have higher hit rates, the value goes up...and the advertiser will pay you more.

Add in that public companies are always driven by their shareholders to grow...being flat, even if profitable, is not good enough for shareholders, and it's clear that such companies are perpetually going to be in a cycle of trying to find more ways to squeeze more money from their advertisers.

The only way you can get more money from an advertiser is to show them higher hit rates. The only way you can get higher hit rates is to better target the viewer of the ads. The only way you can better target your viewers is to use what you know about them to figure out what kinds of ads they're likely to respond to.

...and naturally, end users are generally (blithely, usually) just filling up FB, Google, et al with all kinds of information about themselves...either proactively based on what they post on their FB page, or inactively just simply by what kinds of things they search for on Google.com.

The one and only resource these companies have is the information you give them - whether actively or inactively. It's the only value you, as a user, have to them.

...so it kind of amazes me when people start whining about what these free-to-use services are doing with the information they gather. How do you think the free service is made available to you to use in the first place? And what did you think was going to happen, anyway?

Yes, we need to make it clear via regulations what can and can't legally be done with end user data, whether actively or inactively given...but we also need to not be idiots and just assume that FB et al are just going to give away free services like these at their own cost, out of the goodness of their hearts, and without an intention to make a profit.




RE: Not unforseeable
By FaceMaster on 2/29/2012 4:13:54 PM , Rating: 2
Meh, better than Yahoo taking over ;)


RE: Not unforseeable
By icrf on 2/29/2012 10:17:23 PM , Rating: 3
I've found it put most simply: "If you're not paying for it, you're not the customer. You're the product being sold." Wild expectations to the contrary are naive.

http://verydemotivational.memebase.com/2011/09/28/...

I don't care what Google does with my data internally if it helps me see fewer ads for wrinkle creams and tampons and more ads for knives and home theater equipment. I'd really rather them not make my information available to third parties, as I have less knowledge of who they are and their intentions and security practices.

Actually, what scares me most isn't that Google has it, it's that once they have it, the government can gain access to it. Despite being a law-abiding citizen planning nothing nefarious, my search history looks like I'm into all sorts of questionable things. I keep seeing court cases where prosecutors use search history to show that someone was researching chloroform used to kill their kids or something. I've googled much worse out of random curiosity.


RE: Not unforseeable
By Motoman on 2/29/2012 10:36:26 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
"If you're not paying for it, you're not the customer. You're the product being sold."


A close cousin to the poker player's saying "If you sit down at a table and can't tell who the sucker is, get up. It's you."


RE: Not unforseeable
By Natch on 3/1/2012 7:36:29 AM , Rating: 2
Of course, this is still only effective IF the person in question is willing to click on the ads (no matter if they picque the interest or not).

The simplest solution I've heard, concerning whether you want Google to have a personal history on you or not is to simply LOG OFF your account. Go, check e-mail (Google plus, etc), then log off, and continue your browsing. They will still likely collect information, if you do a Google search at that point......but it will be ANONYMOUS information, NOT tracked back to you.


To paraphrase the late Mr. Carlin
By bodar on 2/29/2012 3:49:54 PM , Rating: 5
"Bullsh-t, that's OUR f-ing job!"




French Big Brother
By Ramtech on 2/29/2012 3:53:00 PM , Rating: 2
The French are potentially monitoring every French citizen with help of HADOPI and now they are complaining about Google policies

I guess they don't like competition




RE: French Big Brother
By kleinma on 2/29/2012 4:12:02 PM , Rating: 2
The govt just wants to make sure you are not going to blow something up and pay your taxes. Google and FB simply want to sell your information so THEY can make money. You are the cattle. There is no such thing as a free lunch.


Hmmm....
By Joz on 2/29/2012 2:56:56 PM , Rating: 3
Back to paper mail, me thinks.

lol




By sparkuss on 2/29/2012 10:44:20 PM , Rating: 1
That EFF link refers to Google accounts, which I have never had. I have to GET an account to TELL the account to stop tracking history?




By sprockkets on 3/1/2012 9:04:31 AM , Rating: 2
You can't be tracked unless you have an account (makes you wonder why all the rage). For that matter, what tracking they can do, just use their opt out or do not track cookie and you are set.


Did you read it?
By Trisped on 3/1/2012 7:02:16 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
The policy has the potential to bring Google huge new profits via the sale of user data to "trusted" parties and via improving Google's in-house advertising.
Did you actually read the policy? I know I did. Google makes it very clear in the "Information we share" section that they do not share your information unless you consent, the person managing your account consents, legal reasons, or Google is having a third party process it (.."in compliance with our Privacy Policy and any other appropriate confidentiality and security measures."). What is not clear? That Google is sharing your information between products to create a smarter, more connected system? Well I guess we should stop turning phone numbers in your text messages into links and not let you search for terms in your emails.
And yes, I think (and have since the early 90s) that better targeted ads are a good thing. I am tired of auto loan, weight loss, and other products I will never use cluttering up my life. Tell me about the new game that is similar to the one I already play, or where the best place is to get a good deal on the groceries I buy every week. Just don't tell the advertisers who I am (let me be an ambiguous number).
quote:
For those wishing to opt out of the Orwellian new monitoring scheme, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has published a document detailing how to do so...
That is right, unlike every other company, Google lets you opt out and continue to use their services (although without the data sharing they would be the same as everyone else's, ignorant and less effective).

I can understand the hype, the confusion, the concern. I cannot understand why experinced Tech news journalists cannot read the Privacy Policy and understand what Google is saying.

If anything, this lack of understanding will probably result in one of those 3MB privacy policies with bold , CAPITALIZED, italicized, and underlined legal speak which only a lawyer would dare claim to understand. I like those, I don't feel bad not reading them because they are so long and complicated no one else does either.




By shaidorsai on 3/2/2012 12:33:57 PM , Rating: 2
One easy way to counter Google, Yahoo, and Bing tracking your online activity is to turn their own search engines against them using a Firefox plugin called TrackMeNot. TrackMeNot works by sending random searches in and obscuring your actual searches in a pile of fluff. I have it set to 10 random searches per hour and I have noticed a steep decline in ad's that match things I shopped for.




Disgusting
By ICBM on 2/29/2012 5:14:26 PM , Rating: 1
Governments shouldn't have the right to monitor us the way they do, yet we are forced to submit.

Google can force....wait a a minute. Google can't force us to do anything. We have choosen to use Google services and we have to click accept on their new policy.

The market approach is, just use a different service which doesn't violate privacy concerns. Google will lose hits and business, and either go out of business or change their privacy tune. Sounds great in theory, but who seriously wants to waste time with another search engine? The fact of the matter is Google is that good. Do they have a monopoly? No. They are simply the best by a wide margin, so no one wants to waste time with a competitor.

I do find what Google is doing pretty disgusting. I think they could/should be leaders in the privacy area. However to get more targeted, effective adds, I suppose you have to head down this dark path.

So what can we do?




By Magnus909 on 2/29/2012 10:17:53 PM , Rating: 1
There's nothing new here.
The "Massive user monitoring" Jason refer to I suppose is the aggregated data about certain target groups (e.g men between 31-45) that has been going on for a long time.

This is not the same as targeting, for example, the person "Jason Mick". It's just cookies that try to place a certain username (not identity) in a target group
The free services that we all know are made free by advertising, built on user behaviour patterns (when searching, using email, youtube etc) and it has been so for many, many years.

It is a different thing when the government is spying on you, listening in on phone calls, e-mails and so on for suspicious behaviour for a certain identifiable person.
That isn't what google is doing, but it sounds like some people think that this is what they are doing.

And it is extremely easy to opt out of it, either completely or just for some of the services.
You could, for example use different accounts for different services, thereby circumventing the percieved threat of the mass monitoring.

And besides that, most readers here probably use adblockers, flashblockers and so on and don't see any ads at all. But we are apparently in a small minority (about 5% or so) and that is good since the web is built on advertising (that the rest just put up with).

This is exactly what governments wants: Us being scared of a lot of bad things on the net, like google, facebook, file-sharing (could be child porn), bullying on social networks and so on.
They must protect us against this "Evil" and are allowed to put forward strict laws that makes it possible for them to regulate internet globally with idiotic law, like the new privacy laws in the EU, which could make it impossible for some US web sites like the "TWIT" podcasts to be open to Europe, since they could be fined some great amount. Leo Laporte said that they would just block EU citizens since they otherwise would be in danger of paying big fines.

This ludicrous fear of the big bad wolf must stop, it isn't google or facebook that is the problem today. The real problem is the old industry. The film studios, music business and the likes which are lobbying hard on regulators all over the world wanting a much more regulated and less free web. That combined with the other big problem, the governments that wants to control people on the net by regulating the net makes a really dangerous combo.

In that web, you wouldn't have the choice between being more or less open, but with todays internet you can choose to use google services and participate in their "Massive User monitoring" or you can opt out of it.
That is a great difference!
We do not want more regulation that robs us of this great choice!




Excuses
By melgross on 2/29/12, Rating: -1
RE: Excuses
By sprockkets on 2/29/2012 7:49:21 PM , Rating: 3
How the Fck did you manage to post that ridiculous strawman/troll crap 3 times, then end up getting rated 0, -1, then 3 for it?

Go troll appleinsider if you are bored. (He's a forum moderator there in case you don't know).


Excuses
By melgross on 2/29/12, Rating: -1
Excuses
By melgross on 2/29/12, Rating: -1
"Can anyone tell me what MobileMe is supposed to do?... So why the f*** doesn't it do that?" -- Steve Jobs














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