Print 30 comment(s) - last by Etsp.. on Dec 28 at 10:02 PM

Consumer advocacy group calls for Google to adopt an easy zero day data retention "opt out" provision

One of the most controversial topics online is privacy.  On the one hand there are the advertisers and content providers (and those who do both) like Google.  They say that keeping user statistics is essential to offering more effective advertising, which in turn is key to generating more revenue and being able to provide users with more content.

However, to some users and consumer advocacy groups data retention, particularly by search engine giants like Yahoo and Google, represents a cohesive invasion of privacy that would not have been possible offline.  They say that the potential for abuse of information such as medical searches is too great and that search engines should cut down on their data retention and anonymize data.  Anonymous data would allow for slightly more effective ads than unresearched advertising, but it would be less effective than user targeted ads.  It’s a necessary loss, say some.

One consumer advocacy group is making waves by demanding the internet's largest information gatherer -- Google -- give users an easy way of opting out of data collection entirely.  Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court and Policy Advocate John M. Simpson sent a letter to Google, asking that the company allow users a way to block Google from gathering information on users' search queries, IP addresses and cookies. 

In its most recent letter, addressed to Google CEO Eric Schmidt, Consumer Watchdog states, "We call on you to offer Google's users such a clearly identifiable "opt out" function on its search engine that is essentially a zero personal data retention policy."

Consumer Watchdog suggests that Google adopt an easy opt out similar to's AskEraser.  It seems unlikely that Google would want to model itself after such a business, however.

Google arranged a meeting in October to try to sooth Consumer Watchdog, but since the pair's interactions have been rife with frustration.  Google implies (PDF) that the group does not understand how its Chrome browser's privacy functions and its Suggest feature work.  Consumer Watchdog has written another letter to Google (PDF) accusing it of misdirection and feigned innocence, saying that Google's letter "rebuts issues we have not raised and misstates our position."

The group has called for an after-Christmas meeting with Google.  However, given their past interaction, it seems unlikely that either party will get what they want this Christmas -- in Google's case Consumer Watch shutting up, and in Consumer Watch's case an opt out concession from Google.

Google currently has cut its data retention time to 9 months.  Yahoo recently one-upped Google by cutting its own data retention time to 3 months.

Yahoo, Google, and fellow rival Microsoft will likely face tough questions when the European Commission has a working party meeting in February on the topic of data retention.  The EC has called for, but not legislated a 6 month data retention period.  The governing body of Europe may look to force the search leaders' hands, which may in turn have a ripple effect on business in America and elsewhere.

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A *crazy* idea
By gmyx on 12/24/2008 10:48:28 AM , Rating: 4
If you don't like their policy - here a radical idea: don't go there! Yeash! I use Google's services (expect main) daily, especially their search history feature.

RE: A *crazy* idea
By Motoman on 12/24/2008 11:00:17 AM , Rating: 4
Exactly. It's like people complaining about the iPhone. If you don't like something the product does/doesn't do, then don't use the effing product! How hard is this people?

RE: A *crazy* idea
By tjr508 on 12/24/08, Rating: 0
RE: A *crazy* idea
By omnicronx on 12/24/2008 3:33:48 PM , Rating: 2
Apparently you haven't read that part of the constitution stating that people have a God-given right to use any service in the exact manner they please.
Uh no? Google is not a government/public service, I don't even think the constitution covers this.

RE: A *crazy* idea
By Etsp on 12/28/2008 10:02:08 PM , Rating: 2
Apparently you haven't read that part of the constitution stating that people have a God-given right to use any service in the exact manner they please. The no-smoking-in-bars advocates seem to be one step ahead of you on this one.
I believe this was sarcasm folks.

RE: A *crazy* idea
By iFX on 12/24/2008 11:00:58 AM , Rating: 2
I agree 100%. I don't like the way Google does business and I don't use any of their products or services. There are alternative services out there that are just as good and better than what Google offers with the exception of their search engine but even that is subjective.

RE: A *crazy* idea
By gmyx on 12/24/2008 11:13:01 AM , Rating: 2
Exactly. I've bothered to get my own domain name and will eventually get my own mail / web server so that I have total control.

I really like some of Google's stuff but other I don't - so I don't use them. They can do what they want with my 'personal' data. I fail to see the big deal - so what if they know I like to frequent tech sites - I get ads about tech that I don't look at.

RE: A *crazy* idea
By GeorgeH on 12/24/2008 2:33:44 PM , Rating: 5
If you don't like their policy - here a radical idea: don't go there! Yeash!

But how many people actually know (or understand) that policy?

Suppose the FDA stopped classifying beef; people "in the know", such as ranchers, butchers, and the like wouldn't care; if they saw bad beef they just wouldn't buy it. The clueless masses, however, wouldn't know the difference - and would suffer for it.

That analogy is a bit of a stretch, but hopefully you see my point. Google has grown so much in the last few years that its user base contains an enormous percentage of "common" folk, and actions like this are primarily for their benefit.

RE: A *crazy* idea
By tjr508 on 12/24/2008 2:59:35 PM , Rating: 1
The FDA doesn't classify beef...

RE: A *crazy* idea
By GeorgeH on 12/26/2008 5:49:36 AM , Rating: 1
Yep, I meant USDA. Thanks.

RE: A *crazy* idea
By BZDTemp on 12/25/2008 4:48:29 PM , Rating: 2
Talk about bad beef you should do some reading on how the US meat industry works. Next I bet you will either become a vegetarian or start insisting your beef comes from outside the country - just the policy of hormones is shocking!

Not that it's much better anywhere else - each time industry and food becomes part of the same equation quality goes downhill fast.

RE: A *crazy* idea
By GregoryCJohnson on 12/25/2008 11:18:07 PM , Rating: 2
Turing test: If they don't notice, did it happen?

Also, you massively underestimate our importance - Nobody cares except to target ads that we might actually want to see.

There are some other issues, but they are better resolved by shifting social norms. (So nobody _cares_ about your BDSM DVDs)

RE: A *crazy* idea
By omnicronx on 12/24/2008 3:26:01 PM , Rating: 2
Ya really, if you are using their service, I don't see any reason why they should not be able to hold your information indefinately. Otherwise perhaps I should start demanding my cell phone and cable company to cease and disist keeping my records more than 6 months. If you are really concerned with Google having your IP and your search history (which is about all they log), then you should not be using the service in the first place.

RE: A *crazy* idea
By dark matter on 12/24/2008 3:36:19 PM , Rating: 2
Your solution is too simplistic. Life isn't absolute black and white. The service Google provides is great, hence the reason it is the number one search engine.

It could be even better if they offered the facility to opt out of Google storing your search history.

Personally I am not happy about the amount of information Google keeps about me. I would prefer it if they didn't and I am all for the opt out. I am not going to throw my toys out of the pram because of it though and stop using Google. The alternatives are not much better (Yahoo - 90 days).

RE: A *crazy* idea
By omnicronx on 12/24/2008 3:50:18 PM , Rating: 2
What data are you so afraid of them keeping?

Google Rep:
Like most Web sites, our servers automatically record the page requests made when users visit our sites. These "server logs" typically include your web request, Internet Protocol address, browser type, browser language, the date and time of your request and one or more cookies that may uniquely identify your browser.

Google doesnt even need to keep your IP, they could care less. What they want is statistical information based on your location browser type, language, date, and how many times visited.

Of course they will use this information to post certain adds during your searches, but the way I see it, you will be getting adds regardless, why not be adds for things you actually search for?

RE: A *crazy* idea
By Quiescent on 12/25/2008 12:42:45 AM , Rating: 2
I completely agree. I use all three gmail, google chrome, and google search. I use other Google products as well. I DO pirate software and have gone to websites like thepiratebay, isohunt, and demonoid on the google chrome browser. Why am I saying this? Because I'm still here. If Google seriously cared that much about our information, I probably would have my tail-end sued off by companies, but not the RIAA, because I don't pirate the music they have under their belts, lol.

RE: A *crazy* idea
By Oregonian2 on 12/24/2008 4:48:39 PM , Rating: 2
If you don't like their policy - here a radical idea: don't go there! Yeash! I use Google's services (expect main) daily, especially their search history feature.

No undesirable features or bugs (or features wanted to be included) should ever be presented to a company either individually or as a group? Just let companies guess what people want?

You're complaining about a group that only wrote Google a letter saying what they want. Good grief. People SHOULD write letters to google to ask what they want.

Google should want people to do this (and act on the requests as they see fit, which of course includes ignoring the request).

RE: A *crazy* idea
By KCjoker on 12/24/2008 7:43:17 PM , Rating: 2
So ironic because even though people can choose not to use Microsoft they still get blasted for similar things yet Google gets a pass.

"There's no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance." -- Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer

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