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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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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.




"Mac OS X is like living in a farmhouse in the country with no locks, and Windows is living in a house with bars on the windows in the bad part of town." -- Charlie Miller














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