Monthly Archives: March 2012

Google Wants To Know More About You But Wants You To Know Less About Google

Image representing Eric Schmidt as depicted in...

Image by Charles Haynes via CrunchBase

Google’s executives don’t like when people invade their privacy – but they have no problem doing it to others. Google loves to sell our personal information to advertisers and harvest our personal data indefinitely, but the privacy of Google employees should not be messed with.

I came across this interesting article from Gawker the other day and it describes how Google’s executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, hates it when the media focuses on his personal life. Let’s get one thing straight here, this blog is not a tabloid – I couldn’t care less about the personal lives of Google employees. However, I find it hypocritical and ironic that a public figure like Mr. Schmidt gets so angry about details of his personal life leaking out.

Back in the summer of 2005, CNET published an article about privacy and Google. The CNET article included publicly available information about Mr. Schmidt and this apparently hit a nerve with Google. Google reportedly blacklisted CNET reporters for an entire year. You see, if you make Big Google mad then you better be ready for some major backlash.

It’s really interesting to read through that CNET article from seven years ago. You’ll notice how some things never change. Even back then people were complaining about lack of privacy and how Google collects tons of sensitive data about us. The one major difference between now and seven years ago is the trust people had in Google drastically dwindled. Google is no longer seen as the trustworthy and altruistic company – the “do no evil” type of company. Gone are the days Google could do whatever it wanted without much scrutiny. People are on to Google now – the public knows better.

I love how that CNET article ended – “Trust is hard to earn, easy to lose and nearly impossible to win back”.

For more information:

Gawker – click here

IBTimes – click here

CNET – click here

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Mat Honan: The Case Against Google

Today’s must read article comes from Gizmodo’s Mat Honan who published a post titled “The Case Against Google”. It’s a pretty comprehensive and an excellent article which reminds you of just how much Google has changed and fallen. Google is no longer the same company it once was and it’s willing to say or do anything to maximize its profits. I urge you to go and read Mat Honan’s article in its entirety. Here are some of the highlights:

  • The bottom line: People don’t trust Google with their data. And that’s new.”

 

  • Google is a fundamentally different company than it has been in the past. Its culture and direction have changed radically in the past 18 months”

 

  • But there’s a remarkably simple explanation: Search is no longer Google’s core product.”

 

  • There is only one path to that answer, and it goes straight through your privacy. Google can’t deliver this kind of a tailored result if you’re using all kinds of other services that it doesn’t control. Nor can it do it if you keep your Google services separated. You have to do all the things you used to do elsewhere within the confines of one big information sharing service called Google.”

 

  • Google wants to know things about you that you aren’t already telling it so you will continue asking it questions and it can continue serving ads against the questions you ask it. So, it feels like it has to herd people into using Google+ whether they want to go there or not.”

 

  • This explains why Google has been driving privacy advocates crazy and polluting its search results. It explains why now, on the Google homepage, there’s a big ugly black bar across the top that reminds you of all its properties. It explains the glaring red box with the meaningless numbers that so desperately begs you to come see what’s happening in its anti-social network. It explains why Google is being a bully. It explains why Google broke search: Because to remain relevant it has to give real-world answers.”

 

  • What happens if, ten years from now, Google drastically changes again? Will you still be able to wipe yourself from Google’s drives? Will there be a massive, or incremental policy shift? Will it secretly keep bits of you, just as it has secretly tracked bits of you, against your wishes? If Google is already going back on some of its initial promises, what comes next? If it can break one, can’t it break them all?”

 

  • Google is far bigger now, and far less susceptible to the whims of the public. But I hope that, to some extent, it is still listening. Because the case against Google is for the first time starting to outweigh the case for it.”

 

  • If it can’t keep its promises, if it can’t avoid resorting to trickery, if it can’t keep itself from subverting the power of its search engine for commercial ends, and on top of all that if it can’t even deliver the highest quality search results at a default setting—the most basic thing people have come to expect from Google, the very thing its name has become synonymous with—why should you trust it with your personal data?”

 

Read more – click here

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Google, Please Keep Your Hands Off Our Personal Data

Hey Google, let me let you on a little secret – how to treat an Internet user right:

If you wanna touch our personal data – ASK! Get our full consent!

Smiley from the sMirC-series. tongue

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Users Sue Google At A Federal Court In New York

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...

Google’s customers are fighting back against the company for changing the way it does business without the full consent of its users. Consumers feel betrayed, disturbed, and wronged by Google when the company decided to consolidate its several privacy policies into one policy.

Google’s new more intrusive privacy policy took effect on March 1st, 2012. This policy now allows Google to combine your personal information from all of its products so that the company can figure you out better. The company wants to eliminate “the faceless Web”, which means that you have less privacy and Google has more of your personal data.

The new privacy policy (which many say equals to no privacy at all) allows Google to more easily sell your personal data to advertisers. Of course, the more Google knows about you the more valuable that data is to advertisers. Google makes over 90% of its revenues from advertising.

The potential class action lawsuit against Google was filed today in a federal court in New York. The persons who filed the lawsuit are seeking monetary damages from Google for deception and are complaining that their privacy has been violated by Google.

If you recall, back in late February 36 US attorneys general sent Google a strongly worded letter saying that they have strong concerns about Google’s new privacy policy. The attorneys general urged Google to reconsider implementing their “troubling” privacy policy, or at least give users an “opt-out” option. Google refused to let users opt-out of increased data harvesting and said that if users are really concerned they can commit the ultimate opt-out by not using any Google product at all.

But the attorneys general said that ditching Google’s products altogether is easier said than done. They wrote:

“This invasion of privacy will be costly for many users to escape. For users who rely on Google products for their business – a use that Google has actively promoted – avoiding this information sharing may mean moving their entire business over to different platforms, reprinting any business cards or letterhead that contained Gmail addresses, re-training employees on web-based sharing and calendar services, and more. The problem is compounded for the many federal, state, and local government agencies that have transitioned to Google Apps for Government at the encouragement of your company,and that now will need to spend taxpayer dollars determining how this change affects the security of their information and whether they need to switch to different platforms.”

Millions of people bought into the hype and lies Google sold us for many years. Many of us thought that Google wasn’t like other companies and that it could do no evil. But Google is far from being a good, altruistic, and ethical company. Google will say and do just about anything to maximize its profits – even if it disadvantages users.

Earlier this month – a British man named Alex Hanff sued Google at a small claims court to compensate him for a new smartphone. Mr. Hanff said that he no longer can use Google’s phone after the company changed its privacy policy. He said that the changes are a “significant infringement” to his rights and that he gave Google no consent to collect even more personal data about him.

Google is facing lawsuits from all sorts of different places and for a variety of reasons. It’s also facing increasing pressure from international regulators. This is all bad news for Google, but good news for the average consumer. Keep putting the pressures on Google.

For more information:

Financial Post – click here

googleexposed – click here

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Big Google Wants To Listen To Your Phone Calls Too

Android Robot. Français : le logo d'android 日本...

 Google is about to get a lot creepier.

Remember when major companies like Microsoft and consumer advocacy groups warned people that Google reads your emails to serve you ads? Well – now Google has plans to listen to your phone calls too on Google powered smartphones to serve you ads in real-time.

Google has new technology that will allow it to hear the background noise during your phone calls. If you’re making a call while it’s raining outside, Google will pick this up and will serve you ads for umbrellas. Creepy to the max!

Google will do anything to line its pockets with more advertising dollars and consumers will have more of their privacy diminished. Google makes over 90% of its revenues from advertising. You are not Google’s customer, you’re Google’s product. They sell your personal information to advertisers so that they can rake in about $40 billion every year.

Read more – click here

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The FTC Has A Strong Case Against Google

Federal Trade Commission

The Stanford privacy researcher who first uncovered Google evading the default privacy settings for all users of Apple’s Safari web browser believes that the Federal Trade Commission has a “slam dunk” case that Google violated its privacy agreement with the government.

The facts in this case are unusually clear cut,” Jonathan Mayer, a grad student in computer science and law and a researcher at the Stanford Law Center for Internet and Society, in a phone interview with TPM.

Read more – click here

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Future Posts Will Be Short And Sweet

Hi guys:

I want to let you know that for the next couple of weeks or so, I will not be adding lengthy posts to this blog. Although I love giving you my opinion on the latest issues surrounding Google, I just can’t find the time to do it.

Therefore, expect to see short and sweet posts instead. These posts might include a bit of introduction and a link to a great article that discusses the subject further. It might also include video only posts. I’m doing this because my schedule is busier than normal and this means that I have less spare time to devout to this wonderful blog.

But please be assured that I’m not abandoning exposing Google to the world. I will still keep a close eye on everything Google is up to and keep you in the know. If big new breaks during this time, I won’t be able to resist writing a lengthy post!

All in all, you will still get the same material you’re used to but it will be concise and to the point – until I can get my busy schedule freed up!

Thanks and see you soon!

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Is It Legally Impossible To Go After Google Over Privacy Violations?

English: Gavel

Yesterday, I informed you that Google is facing a lot of legal trouble. When Google deliberately bypassed browser security of Apple Safari users, the company has been hit with countless lawsuits. Many Apple users are furious with Google for exposing them to spying and collecting their personal data without their permission. You can’t blame them for wanting to get some legal assistance to send a Google a clear message that privacy is a fundamental right you just can’t violate.

However, it seems like these people have an uphill battle. What Google did is wrong and despicable, but it will be extremely difficult to go after them legally. First of all, Google is a massive company with deep pockets and it’s heavily surrounded by lawyers. In addition, past legal cases have shown that courts often don’t do anything about breaches of online privacy. There have been people who sued Internet companies before and majority of them end up losing. The law isn’t currently on the side of the average user because the law doesn’t recognize online privacy as it should! Americans are completely vulnerable to these Internet companies and they can’t even seek protection from their courts of justice!

I read an excellent and informative article by Gerry Silver, a lawyer who specializes in IT litigation. In his article, titled “’Do Not Track’ – Online Privacy Litigation Now and in the Future”, Mr. Silver admits that people who seek court relief to tackle online privacy concerns are pretty much wasting their time. The courts do nothing about Internet companies, like Google, harvesting our personal data and using it for their own purposes – whatever it may be.

People have tried various ways to seek out some sort of justice from the courts to protect their online privacy – but it has all resulted in limited to no success.  Lawsuits have been filed claiming that Internet companies violated various laws, most commonly including:     

  • The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act
  • The Wiretap Act
  • Stored Communication Act
  • Deceptive Act or Practice/ Unfair Competition Statutes
  • Trespass to Chattels
  • Contract-Based Claims
  • Right of Publicity Claims

 Many of these claims against the Internet companies fail because the courts force victims to prove their personal data has significant monetary value. They can’t claim damage on personal data because it doesn’t have real value apparently. Often times these third-parties that track you all over the Internet are not considered uninvited intruders – even though they steal your personal data without your full consent, they are off the hook if a website’s terms of service give them permission.

Many people don’t even know that there are hundreds of tracking companies that steal their personal data all the time. This collection of data is done completely without the permission of users and the vast majority of people are in the dark about tracking on the Internet to even voice their concerns against it.

It’s a real shame that the courts can’t really do anything about online privacy because the laws don’t go far enough. People have nowhere to turn but to pressure their representatives in government to pass comprehensive legislation that gives Americans more rights over their personal data. Mr. Silver writes that the new consumer online Privacy Bill of Rights (unveiled by the White House last month) is a good first step in getting Americans the desperately needed help to fight back against Internet companies – but it doesn’t go far enough.

“The institution of the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights and legislation arising therefrom may provide users with more control over what personal data companies collect and how they use it… However, Internet companies will still be able to use the information as part of their own market research and product development. Also, future compliance with the “Do Not Track” button appears to be voluntary at this point, meaning advertisers or other Internet companies may decide to attempt to override it.”

The White House proposal is still in its early stages, but if this proposed consumer Privacy Bill of Rights amounts to nothing meaningful for Americans then it won’t change the lack of support shown to victimized Americans and the dismal situation in the courts. More Americans will still go through lengthy and expensive legal tug-of-war with these Internet companies and Americans will always end up losing. Currently, Internet companies have everything in their favor and Americans simply don’t have enough protections.

English: Author: Irish Tug of War Source: (OWN)

Put the pressure on government representatives to act in favor of the average Internet user. Let them know that you’re serious about your online safety and that your personal data is yours alone. Privacy is not a privilege, it’s a right! The Internet companies and Google are ripping us off. They are taking, stealing, and milking us dry of our personal data! Say NO!  People need to care enough to make changes in government, then the government will make necessary legal changes, this will result in a safer Internet for all!

The Apple users suing Google have a strong case against Google – and their case differs from the typical Internet privacy related cases. Google actually used code to deliberately trick their browser into accepting tracking cookies, this code allowed Google to bypass the security setting of their browser which was set to prevent third-party tracking. Apple users had no idea this had happened to them until it was exposed by The Wall Street Journal’s report last month. This is an obvious violation of privacy and it has gone too far! Hopefully, these Apple users suing Google can ultimately triumph! It’s a difficult thing to do, but you gotta keep fighting from all angles until we finally breakthrough.

For more information:

Gerry Silver, “Do Not Track – Online Privacy Litigation Now and in the Future” – click here

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Google Faces More Privacy Scrutiny And Legal Trouble

Good news, folks!

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Google is now facing new investigations over privacy violations. One month ago, Google was caught red-handed stealing personal data from the computers of Apple Safari users. Google used a code to trick Apple’s web browser into accepting tracking cookies, which would then track users on the Internet. Of course, Apple users had no idea this had happened to them and Google knew exactly what it was doing. The code Google used to bypass Apple’s web browser security had been known about for a number of years – Google made the unethical decision to exploit the security vulnerability very deliberately.   

Google was caught by a Stanford University researcher named Jonathan Mayer. He exposed Google by explaining in detail how the company was able to circumvent the Safari browser security to the Wall Street Journal. After being exposed, Google tried to play all innocent and stupid – “oh I’m sorry, I swear I had no idea my little code would do such a thing. Oops, oh well. Get over it”.

People didn’t get over it, immediately after the story was published by the Journal several lawsuits were filed against Google. The lawsuits have seemingly never stopped piling up! I have lost count how many times Google has been sued by their victims.

Anyway, there is word now that the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – OMG, yes, FTC finally! – is seriously looking into whether Google violated privacy agreements.  The FTC has been in a deep sleep for a while now and hasn’t really said anything against Google. This is the first time we are hearing the FTC is actually taking real steps to correct transgression and triumph over ‘evil’.  The FTC can levy fines of $16,000 per violation, per day. This might not seem like very much punishment, especially for a company like Google, but Google victimized millions of people. There are millions of people who use Apple’s Safari web browser. If calculated appropriately and comprehensively, it can add up against Google very quickly.

But – Google was forced to pay up half a billion dollars before by the US Department of Justice for aiding and abetting a con artist to commit his crimes. That hasn’t stopped them from taking part in unethical behavior. Perhaps Google needs heavier legal penalties to prevent them from victimizing innocent people in the future. Google just doesn’t get it.

Google can sometimes be handled with kid gloves, but European regulators don’t play nice with Google. European Union data protection authorities are already investigating Google for its new intrusive privacy policy which took effect on March 1st. Their investigation now also includes the bypassing of Apple’s web browser security. It will be very interesting to see what they officially conclude!

We’ll just have to wait and see what develops. Stay tuned – to be continued!

For more information:

Wall Street Journal, “Google in New Privacy Probes” – click here

MercuryNews, “Google faces scrutiny from states” – click here

paidContent, “Lawsuits Mushroom Over Google Browser Tracking” – click here

MarketWatch (Press release), “Consumer Watchdog Applauds FTC, EU…” – click here

googleexposed, “Google Tricked And Lied To Apple Users...” – click here

googleexposed, “A Breakdown Of Google’s Statement…” – click here

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Australians Do Not Think It’s A G’Day For Internet Privacy

English: Australian flag seen flying in Toowoo...

Last week I published a post here about the Pew survey which found that the vast majority of Internet users hate targeted ads and are very concerned about their privacy. Well, if you thought that survey wasn’t enough, there is a new one out this week.

This time it’s from Australia and the survey results are very similar. Australians are very concerned about their privacy on the Internet – many of them feel that they are in the dark about what Internet companies know about them and what they’re doing with their personal data.

The survey was conducted for the University of Queensland by Dr. Mark Andrejevic between November 17 and December 14, 2011. Keep in mind that Google announced its plan to launch its more intrusive privacy policy in late January of this year.

Australians are overwhelmingly in favor of more privacy legal rights and they want effective regulations to help them safeguard their personal data from Internet companies that want to steal their data. More than 90% of them support regulations that would allow them to control how their personal data is captured and used – and they also want collection of data to be completely transparent. If Internet companies, such as Google, are going to collect personal data about users then they need to collect only absolutely necessary data – nothing more. Many of these companies harvest a lot of data and keep it for the future until they can find a way to monetize it. Australians also want an opt-out option of data harvesting – something Google has flat-out refused to do. Google said that if users don’t like how the company is doing business, they can hit the road and not use any of their services. Dr. Andrejevic said:

“In the online world, users are increasingly being asked to consent to the collection of detailed, personal information in exchange for access to online services. But most of us have very little idea about what information is being collected and how it’s being used so we cannot provide informed consent”

 Australians support something like the European “right to be forgotten”, which will allow Internet users to request their personal data be permanently deleted from company servers. “Deleted” doesn’t mean companies can simply just transfer that data to another file on their servers, they will be legally required to wipe that information off their system for good. Right now, Google and other Internet companies don’t respect this right to be forgotten. Even though Europe has strong laws to help protect their people, many of these companies have ignored these laws – especially companies that aren’t based in Europe.  However, the EU announced a major revision to its laws and they’re going to make it tougher. It will be much more difficult for Google to ignore EU laws.

Dr. Andrejevic said that this issue of personal data and Internet privacy isn’t going away any time soon. As more of us spend more time on the Internet, there is going to be a greater need for stronger protection. Right now though, there is still a great imbalance and secrecy surrounding how companies like Google operates. Google knows so much about us but we know very little about Google.

The survey found that 56% of Australians do not approve of targeted ads based on personal information. A larger majority – 64% – do not approve of censorship of their searches (or “personalized” search) based on their personal information.

75% of respondents said they wanted to know how companies collect their personal data and in what ways they use it. If they felt too suspicious and wanted to avoid the collection of personal data, 69% of Australians refused to go on a website or application because it collected too much information.

97% of Australians said they should be allowed to take legal action against companies like Google in the case of serious breaches of their privacy.

“The issue of personal information is likely to increase in importance as more people spend more of their time using devices and applications which capture ever more detailed information about their lives, their activities, and their communications, Dr. Andrejevic said”

It’s abundantly clear that Australians care very much about their online privacy. Let’s hope that Australian officials get the message and will help protect the rights of their people. Companies like Google shouldn’t be allowed to do whatever it wants on the Web. It’s time to revisit Australian privacy law.

Dr. Andrejevic will present his findings at a public lecture at University of Queensland Art Museum on Thursday April 26th, 2012.

For more information:

University of Queensland – click here

The Register, “90% of AU net users want ‘do not track’” – click here

BBC, “Do you have the right to be forgotten online?” – click here

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