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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.


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