Tag Archives: advertisers

Oxford Student: Beware Of Google

University of Oxford

Back in January, I referred you to an article written by a student at Canada’s McGill University. She wrote the article for the McGill Tribune, which is their student publication. In it she described how Google’s more intrusive privacy policy is very troubling and she then vowed to not use Google again after its new privacy policy took effect.

I love the article because it describes how many people are feeling, and the student author had the courage to voice her opinion against Google’s erosion of our privacy. For more on this, please click here.

The other day I stumbled across another student publication, this time from The University of Oxford. The Oxford Student published an article titled “Beware of the Google-y Eyes” and it’s definitely something worth reading. The article argues many points which I have brought up on this blog, including how Google forces us to choose between two extremes, the deceptiveness of Google’s new privacy policy, the greedy desire to harvest more personal data from us in order to maximize profits, the tracking of our web habits using tracking cookies, the fundamental right of privacy, etc.

Here are some highlights from the article:

“The policy is laced with the false promise of making privacy a ‘priority.’  The deceptive phrasing of the policy may initially take you in, but read in-between the lines and it smacks of disingenuity “

  • So true…..so true….

“The tech giant intends to track our cookies in order to garner knowledge about our web-browsing habits and then sell this valuable information on to advertisers to maximise its profits.”

  • Yep – it’s so obvious.

“The definition of ‘personal data’ in Google’s Privacy Policy is inconsistent with the Directive’s definition and the policy fails to cover all items of sensitive personal data required by the European legislation. The incoherency of the policy also militates against the Safe Harbor’s requirement for clarity.”

  • Yes. This is why the EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding has said that Google’s new privacy policy breaks EU laws. She said she takes privacy very seriously and that she will not tolerate “sneaky” behavior from Google. There is more drama to unfold from this soon – get your popcorn ready!

“The burning question is whether privacy is a tradable commodity which we can impliedly waive in return for these services…Yet, even in this modern age of social networking, there is something deeply unsettling about the thought that this fundamental human right could be rendered otiose in the realms of cyberspace”

  • Privacy is a fundamental human right, indeed! It is absolutely unreasonable for Google to demand that we forfeit our privacy to use their products. Many fear-mongers will tell you that you need give away your privacy or there will be no Internet – well, guess what, we refuse to sell our souls to Google. We refuse to be victims of extortion, we refuse to be gouged and ripped-off by Google! Our personal data is our own and Google should respect that.

To read the full article, please click here

One last thing – I will like to thank the folks at http://www.newsy.com for including this blog in your news report on Google.  Their video is below:

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Yep…Google Plus Is Still A Social Networking Site And Still A Failure

English: stamp with the words "Fail"...

Guess who was out selling a sucky product yesterday?

Google’s vice president of engineering Vic Gundotra is trying desperately to make Google Plus a success, at least to the media. He desperately wants to change the negative public perception of Google Plus by trying to shove the product down our throats until it catches on.

After the Wall Street Journal called Google Plus a “virtual ghost town” because of the dismal user engagement on the social networking site – Mr. Gundotra has been speaking to the media denying that it’s a ghost town. Google believes that Google Plus is a success and they measure that success by “every metric [Google] care about”

Vic Gundotra spoke at a SXSW event yesterday where he tried to explain why he thinks Google Plus is doing well. Yet again, Mr. Gundotra made the claim that Google Plus sees 100 million active users every month. They don’t strictly base this calculation on how many people actually use their social networking site. If you have a Google Plus account and you never actually engage with Google’s social networking site but you use Gmail, YouTube, the search engine, or any other “Google Plus –enhanced” product then Google will count this as engagement on Google Plus too.

They actually use the numbers from other Google owned websites to give Google Plus a boost. They have no problem notifying the media about engagement numbers for YouTube by sharing how many videos are uploaded every day to the site – but when it comes to their social networking site you have to measure its success based on the success of other Google sites. Ha!

Mr. Gundotra even compared their entire social networking site, Google Plus, to a “like” button.  I kid you not! He argues that measuring the success of Google Plus based on those who directly sign in to the social networking site and engage with it fully, is akin to measuring the success of a “like” button. The “like” button is just a bonus tool that gives you more to do but it isn’t a standalone product– well, apparently, Google Plus is just a site that gives you more to do on Google as whole but isn’t a standalone site.

Google is fighting against comparisons to Facebook because they know that if becomes a competition against two social networking sites, Google will inevitably lose. So Google’s strategy is to not even compete with Facebook – at least not overtly. This is why Google doesn’t even like calling Google Plus a social networking site, they prefer instead to call it a “social layer”. Again, this is Google trying to claim that Google Plus isn’t a standalone site, but one where you can use a social tool to enhance your Google experience as a whole.

When Google Plus was compared to Facebook, a Google engineering director whose team built Google Plus responded by saying this:

“I disagree. When you say, ‘It offers the same functionality as Facebook’…what It are you referring to? See Facebook has Facebook Music. What is our music feature called? Oh yes…Google Music. Facebook has messaging. Ours is Gmail. Facebook has chat. Ours: Google Talk. See the difference is that we think ‘Google’ is the ‘it’. All of Google. Every part. You think it’s just ‘plus.google.com’. That is the difference.”

So, by this way of looking at it, I guess what Google is trying to say is that Google itself is the entire social networking site. You share videos on YouTube, you share messages on Gmail, you look for stuff on the search engine, etc. These are all things Facebook has in equivalence somewhere on their site too. Therefore, what Google Plus really becomes for Google is a way for Google to retrieve your legal name (they force you to use your legal name), your address, your contacts, your photographs, and other sensitive data about you. This way, Google can fulfill its mission to combat against “the faceless web” and start selling your personal data to advertisers for bigger profits.  Google Plus isn’t about getting more social -it’s about making it easier to monetize your personal data.

This is why Google Plus fails – it doesn’t focus on social interaction and engagement. As long as Google has key personal data about you, they couldn’t care less if you engage with Google Plus for hours or three seconds. As long as they know your personal information, who your friends are, and what you’re “liking” (or “+1-ing“) all over the web – then it’s all good.  This is what Mr. Gundotra said,

“You can think of Google+ as Google 2.0. In the new version of Google, we know your name, we know your circles and we make (our) services better… Everything is being upgraded. We already have users. We’re now upgrading them to what we consider Google 2.0”

The more Google knows about you the better it is for Google. This is why Google is so envious of Facebook. Unlike Google, Facebook has a treasure trove of personal data which advertisers love. Google wants a slice of that coveted data and they are willing to say and do anything to get it.

Google will deny and lie to change public perception. The truth is that Google Plus is a social networking website – they can call it a “social layer” till the cows come home, but we all know the truth. The truth is that Google Plus is indeed a virtual ghost town. Even the man interviewing Mr. Gundotra at the SXSW event, who’s a Silicon Valley venture capitalist and fan of Google Plus, admitted that Google Plus is basically dead inside. Mr. Gundotra countered by saying

“Make sure you’re using it correctly”

Perhaps, instead of blaming the users, Google should have made sure to build it correctly. If people are not using Google Plus correctly it’s because you didn’t build it correctly. Google Plus is an utter failure and Google’s true motives are plain as day.

For more information:

All Things Digital, “Google’s Vic Gundotra on Why Plus Isn’t a Minus” – click here

Mashable, “Google+ Executive to Critic: ‘Make Sure You’re Using It Correctly’” – click here

googleexposed, “Google Fails To Convince The Public That Google Plus Isn’t A Failure” – click here

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Pew Research: Most Internet Users Disapprove Of Targeted Ads And Personal Data Harvesting

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...

A report released today by The Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project found that majority of Internet users are against “personalized” targeted advertisements. Majority of people are also against the censorship and “personalization” of search results which eliminates objectivity of search results.

The results in the report are based on data from telephone interviews conducted between January 20th to February 19th. Google announced changes to its privacy policy on January 24th.

The report found that search engines are more popular than ever. Most people who use the Internet use a search engine to find information they’re looking for. 73% of Americans use search engines, which grew from 52% ten years ago. Unsurprisingly, most people said that they use Google for much of their searches.

However, the Pew survey probed respondents on how they feel about search engines and other websites collecting personal data about them for different uses – a very clear majority of them said that they disapprove. Google announced on January 24th that it would start combining personal data about its users from its many products and services. Google plans to eliminate “the faceless web” and get to know their users better. They hope that by eliminating anonymity, they can start selling clearer profiles of us to advertisers. Advertisers want to target personalized advertisements at us – so that we are more likely to purchase products from them.  

Google also started eliminating objectivity from its search results, which means that everybody sees different search results depending on their interests and past searches. If one person searches for Ford cars in Texas and another person in New York searches for Ford cars – they might not get back the same search results. This allows Google to show you what it wants – Google basically controls what you see, hear, and know about. This is deeply concerning to majority of people, especially considering how ubiquitous Google has become recently.

The survey found that 65% of respondents said that it was a “bad” thing if search engines collected information about searches and then used it to influence the outcome of future searches.  Only 29% said they have yet to see anything wrong with it and think it’s a “good” thing.

An overwhelming 73% of respondents said that they are against search engines harvesting personal data about them because it’s an invasion of privacy. Only 23% said they are “okay” with it.

68% of respondents disapprove of targeted advertisements because they don’t like their personal data harvested and analyzed. Only 28% of are “okay” with targeted ads.

Unsurprisingly, the survey also found that vast majority of Internet users are completely unaware about the different ways that personal data can be collected of them, how much data is collected about them, and what they can do to limit the collection of data. Only 38% of Internet users say that they are generally aware of ways to protect themselves – most of them do this by deleting their web history.

Pew’s associate director of research Kristen Purcell in a telephone interview said:

“If we ask this question again a year from now, it will interesting to see if awareness is higher”

It does not shock me one bit that most people don’t know how they are being tracked all over the Internet and the many tools they can use to block much of the tracking. This is exactly why Google and the advertising industry are so vehemently against default settings on web browsers that would block third-party spying and tracking cookies.  Google is fully aware that most Internet users don’t know better and this survey just reaffirms what we already knew to be true.

Other recent reports from privacy advocacy groups – such as the UK based Big Brother Watch- found that most people were unaware of Google’s changes to its privacy policy and full implications of it. Only 12% were actually knew about Google’s new privacy policy. Most people are still in the dark about what Google is really doing. Regardless, this new report by Pew clearly indicates that the vast majority of Internet users are against tracking.

As the public get more educated on what Google is up to and they find out ways to better protect themselves, then we will all be better off for it. Mass education of the public is absolutely critical in order keep Google and other tracking companies at bay. The more knowledgeable the public are the better choices they will make for themselves.

To read the full report by Pew – please click here

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Rebuttal: Apple vs Google – The War Over Third Party Cookies

Matthew Yglesias is a writer for Slate. He published an article today entitled “Me Want Cookies! Apple vs. Google: the war over third-party cookies.” He argues, counterintuitively, for less Internet privacy because he thinks it’s ultimately against the best interest of the public. You can read his full article by clicking here. The rest of my post below offers point-by-point rebuttals against some of what he wrote:

 “There is a new front in the titanic war between Google and Apple for control of the Internet: browser privacy”

  • Excellent. When companies fight over privacy, the ultimate winners are the consumers. It would be horrible if companies colluded together to diminish privacy or if they simply didn’t care. If companies want to fight over privacy controls, then may the best “man” win! No doubt consumers will overwhelmingly support the company that wants to increase their privacy versus the one that wants to decrease it.

“Google had devised a clever means to “trick” Apple’s mobile Safari browser into allowing the installation of third-party cookies.”

  • I wouldn’t describe an unethical, legally reprehensible, and deliberate circumvention of privacy settings on Apple’s web browser as “clever”. Are you kidding me? I’m sure the people who filed a class-action lawsuit against Google for violating their privacy and security settings would disagree with you.

That sounds—and is—shady, but iPhone users may feel better about it when they learn that third-party cookie installation is standard on the browsers you’ve been using on your computer for years.”

  • Yeah, so? What’s your point? Just because something negative and harmful was accepted before doesn’t mean it should be permissible forever. Not too long ago, everybody used to smoke everywhere until we learned about the dangers of second-hand smoking. As people catch on and new discovers are made, there will be a progression. That’s why browsers now block uninvited third-party intruders from latching on to your browser like a parasite. That’s also why we are starting to develop Do Not Track buttons for all browsers.

“The option to turn them off has long existed, but this is one of these default settings that almost nobody uses in practice.”

  • The setting to turn off tracking might have technically existed buried somewhere deep into the browser – but research has shown that people often do not change default settings on their browsers. It’s not because they don’t want more privacy, it’s because they don’t know better. Google knows this all too well. The default settings for all browsers should be at maximum security and privacy – if anybody wants to then expose themselves to tracking, be my guest. Giving those who don’t know better a helping hand by protecting them from tracking is the ethical and correct thing to do

“The main use of third-party cookies is targeted advertising”

  • Right, and there are over 800 companies who spy on you all over the Internet. Some of these companies sole business purpose is to track you for all sorts of reasons, not just for advertising. With increasing rates of identity theft and the mass amount of information these companies are harvesting of us it’s getting disturbing and alarming. We don’t even know what exactly they know about us and what they are doing with that information. We don’t know how long they hang on to our personal data or how exactly it was obtained. There is so much secrecy and mystery to how these trackers function, and this is intolerable.

“What Apple did with Safari was flip the default—assuming that users did not want third-party cookies”

  • No. Wrong! Apple did not flip the default, Google did! Google assumed that Apple users would actually prefer to be tracked and then deliberately bypassed their browser security without their knowledge. And, by the way, John Battelle founded the online advertising network Federated Media Publishing – obviously he supports Google.

“Google as a privacy-invader sometimes come across as a bit churlish and short-sighted, as if I were to announce with great fanfare my discovery that happy-hour specials are just another money-making plot from the bar industry.”

  • The public has a right to know about every privacy violation by Google. In addition, it never hurts to remind people that Google makes over 90% of its revenues from advertising. You are not Google’s customer, you’re Google’s product. The advertisers will always be number one priority to Google and this means that what it best for Internet users is always in the background.

“Google is not a charity, but it has built a remarkably successful company by giving products away for free.”

  • Wrong. Google’s products and services are not “free” – far from it. We don’t pay with dollars, we pay with our privacy. Google harvests our personal data and then sells it for huge profits. And we’re being gouged by Google! The trade-off is not fair. Google likes to fool people into thinking that they get to use their services for “free” so that they let their guard down. Google even falsely advertises its Google Apps for Education service as a charity – but it isn’t. Students have to pay the ultimate price.

“More efficient advertising creates incentives for firms to expend more resources on improving the real quality of their services.”

  • Sure – but that doesn’t mean advertisers need to know my name, address, and the name of my best friend’s dog to improve their services. I’m not convinced that collecting more personal data of us and watching our every move improves services. No thank you!

“Right now big advertisers are wasting an awful lot of money… In a future of ubiquitous ad targeting, Ford and Geico will stop wasting marketing money on me”

  • I wouldn’t want to live in that future. Who wants to live in a world where the only things you see, experience, and hear is stuff some company thinks you should see, experience, and hear? This to me is censorship. I have bought many products from companies whose ads really caught my attention – and it’s not because I always needed or wanted their stuff. Censorship leads to people living in their own little world and it discourages new discovery. Also, the person I am today and my lifestyle of today might not be the same five years from now. Why would I want ads for a lifestyle that is now part of my past? What worries me is that personalization will result in companies telling you who you are by reaffirming your identity with what you see, experience, and hear. I actually don’t respond well to so-called “personalized” ads. Personalized ads are creepy and annoying. It’s like giving that person at school, who has a crush on you, a simple smile and then all of sudden they won’t stop following you around everywhere and they keep asking you out for a date. Um…no thanks and get lost.

“And some of those ad savings will allow Ford and Geico to offer cheaper products”

  • That’s a bit of a stretch

“If the privacy benefits as such were the big draw, we’d expect to see more evidence of users opting-in to these settings.”

  • No, people should opt-out of more security and privacy. If Google services are so great and if privacy is so overrated, then Google should convince people to lower their privacy settings of their own volition (and not deliberately bypassed by Google). I sure wanna hear that sales pitch. Creepy mutated ads don’t work, they turn people off. There are many ways of figuring out your audience and improving the effectiveness of ad campaigns – this does not require we sell our souls to these advertising companies to achieve this.
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Help! Google Has Fallen And It Can’t Get Up!

Can you hear that?

That sound…what is it? Oh, right! It’s the sound of crickets chirping.

Last week, The Wall Street Journal exposed embarrassing numbers for Google’s failed attempt at social networking. As a few of you already know, Google launched “Google Plus” last June to rival Facebook. Google Plus is pretty much a copy and paste of Facebook in the look and design of the site. Though, Google lacks many interesting features Facebook has and it lacks the gigantic numbers. While Facebook sits mighty high with over 800 million users from all over the world, Google Plus has a mere 90 million users (and that’s being generous).

You might think that 90 million is still pretty good – but is it really? It turns out that Google Plus may have managed to get 90 million users signed-up, but that’s just about the only thing most users are doing.

The engagement levels on Google Plus is quite pathetic – a dismal. It’s a virtual ghost town. The Wall Street Journal looked at statistics provided by comScore and saw that between September 2011 and January 2012 Google Plus users spent an average of – get this – three minutes per month on the site. In comparison, Facebook users spent an average six to seven hours on the site every month. It’s not even close.

Oh and do you remember Myspace – of course you do – well even their user engagement beats Google Plus by almost three times as much. Keep in mind that Myspace has an audience of about 27 million users smaller than Google Plus.

This embarrassing revelation serves Google right for lying. This is what happens when you try to boost up your sign-up numbers to give off the appearance that you’re successful, when you’re actually not.  In the first few days of its public launch, Google Plus spiked by 1,200% – but it quickly plummeted days later by 60%. Google loves to emphasize user count numbers to the media, but they are hesitant to disclose traffic numbers and the number of items people on the site share each day.

The CEO of Google, Larry Page, failed to tell the media the whole truth when he uttered this nonsense in January:

“Google Plus users are very engaged with our products. Over 60% of them engaged daily and 80% engaged weekly”

If journalists didn’t listen closely, they might have been really impressed with those numbers – especially considering that even Facebook doesn’t have over 60% of its users engaging on their site daily. If you noticed, Mr. Page said “our products”. Now, why would he bring up other Google products when the subject of the talk is supposed to be about Google Plus? Oh that’s right, it’s to bump up those numbers!

Google forces people to sign-up for a Google Plus account even when they don’t want it because Google thinks that if you use any one of Google’s products it means you want all of Google’s products. So if a person did a search on their search engine, Google will count that as engagement on Google Plus too –seriously haha. This is why their numbers are so bloated – it’s absolutely artificial and false. This is a great example on how Google misleads the public.

Even though everybody caught Google’s lies and exaggeration, Google still lives in its own little world. The vice president of product management for Google, Bradley Horowitz, said that “we’re growing by every metric we care about”. Ha-ha….okay…whatever dude….if it makes you happy.

However, not all Google employees are excited about Google Plus – at least not to the self-described “lowest leaf workers”. Steve Yegge, a Google engineer, accidently posted a 5,000 word rant ripping apart Google Plus and calling it a “pathetic afterthought” – ouch! Mr. Yegge inadvertently aired his frustration on his Google Plus page to all his followers when it was only meant to be seen by a few co-workers. He later apologized to his bosses – but he was just stating fact.

One of the things that frustrated Mr. Yegge was the fact that Google Plus fails to have good applications running on their site. Much of Facebook’s successful can be attributed to its games and apps – but Google fails big on this. Google doesn’t have nearly has much developed apps and the ones that they do have are showing underwhelming activity among users.

John Schappert, the chief operating officer of games maker Zynga, said Google Plus has “been slow on the uptick with users right now”. The company started offering games on the site since August 2011 and has seen nothing but disappointment. Zynga, however, performs very well on Facebook and they have a solid partnership.

But it isn’t just game companies that feel that users are not engaging with their applications, even companies who set up pages on Google Plus hate the site. Companies love setting up pages on Facebook so that people could “Like” their page and follow the messages the companies post. They love getting instant feedback from their customers and conversing with them. It’s a totally different story on Google Plus, though. For example, Intel Corp. has about 360,000 Google Plus followers who are quitter than a mouse – but the company has about 9 million fans on Facebook and you can’t get them to shut up.

Google Plus is a massive failure and its dismal record so far is even more pronounced because the company has a huge stake in its social networking site. That’s because Google is no longer just a place that sends you off to another site as quickly as possible – Google now wants to keep you on their site for as long as possible. Google is now known a “sticky portal”. It’s also one of the biggest reasons why they changed their privacy policy earlier this month. Google is on a mission to combat “the faceless web” (as a Google spokesperson admitted) and this means they want people sharing their personal information on Google Plus. If they could succeed in doing this, they could attract a lot more advertising dollars by selling your personal data. Advertisers love getting personal data so that they can target “personalized” advertisements at you. Google earns over 90% of its revenues from advertising. You are not Google’s customer, you’re Google’s product.

Google is so desperate to make Google Plus a success that they are even warned their employees that 25% of their bonuses would be tied to the success of Google Plus. I guess it’s more sleepless nights for those employees.

Google Plus is not the only failure for the company – Google’s other social networking site named Orkut is also underperforming. Before the launch of Google Plus, the company had Orkut and it used to do quite well in some countries around the world (although the vast majority of Americans never heard of it). Brazil has the fifth largest social networking population in the world and Orkut used to the number one destination for Brazilians – hmm, not anymore. Facebook has had a rapid growth of 192% yearly in Brazil. Facebook is now number one in Brazil, which is an upset for Google because most users of Orkut come from Brazil.

Other failures for Google so far include: Google TV, Google Music, and even its Chrome web browser has fallen recently.

Ah, karma – the beauty of it. Google has truly fallen in the hearts and minds of its users. Its days might truly be numbered.

For more information:

The Wall Street Journal, “The Mounting Minuses at Google+” – click here

MarketWatch, “Google’s arrogance exposed in Google+” – click here

BBC, “Facebook overtakes Google’s Orkut in Brazil – Comscore” – click here

Mashable, “Google Engineer Accidentally Posts Rant About Google+” – click here

PCMag, “Will The Real Google+ Engagement Figures Please Stand Up?” – click here

The Guardian, “Time spent on Google+ dwindles while Pinterest draws growing user interest” – click here

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Japan Sends Google A Warning Message And Reminds The Company Of Its Laws

English: Google Logo officially released on Ma...

Image via Wikipedia

 Today, Google got a closer look at our personal data when its new more intrusive privacy policy officially kicked in. This new privacy policy allows Google to combine all your personal data from across all of Google’s many products and services. Google says that this will give you a better experience, but nobody is really buying that. Everybody knows that Google wants to make it easier to sell your personal data to advertisers. The better Google can figure you out and create a “faceless web”, the easier it is to sell that treasure trove of data to advertisers who want to target more personalized advertisements at us.

Although Google is watching us closer – several privacy advocacy groups, attorneys, and international government regulators are watching Google much closer too. The list of those deeply concerned now includes the Japanese government.

In what is being described as a rare show of public warning from the Japanese government – the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry and the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications sent a memo to Google warning the company that Japan takes the online privacy of its citizens very seriously. Japan did not necessarily ask for an explanation from Google, but said that they just wanted to remind the company of Japanese laws.

Japan is concerned about how Google is handling personal data of its users and whether or not that personal data is getting into the hands of third-parties (i.e. advertisers) without the full consent of its users. In their memo to Google, Japan outlined two specific laws in particular that it thinks could potentially be broken by Google’s new privacy policy.

Japan isn’t the only Asian country to express their concerns to Google. In February, South Korea said it too was keeping a close eye on Google now.

Google, you have been warned. You may be watching us more closely now, but we’re watching you too.

For more information:

PC Word, “Japanese Government Issues Google Rare Public Reminder of Privacy Laws”  – click here

TNW, “Japan warns Google that its new privacy policy may violate data protection laws” – click here

ZDNet, “Japan expresses concern over Google’s new privacy policy” – click here

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Federal Court Dismisses Lawsuit But Says Advocacy Group’s Concerns Against Google May Still Be “Legitimate”

Yesterday – Friday, February 24th, 2012 – a federal court denied the Electronic Privacy Information Center’s (EPIC) motion for temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, while it granted the US Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) motion to dismiss EPIC’s lawsuit.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson said that her hands were tied and that she really couldn’t do anything because the consent order between the FTC and Google is not subject to judicial review. The judge said that the FTC has the sole authority to take actions as it sees fit for violations of consent orders.

The consent order Google agreed to last October contained nine parts – EPIC raised three relevant parts in particular that it says Google violated:

“Part I prohibits Google from misrepresenting (a) the extent to which it ‘maintains and protects the privacy and confidentiality’ of personal information, and (b) the extent to which it complies with the U.S.-E.U. Safe Harbor Framework.”

“Part II requires Google to obtain ‘express affirmative consent’ before ‘any new or additional sharing by [Google] of the Google user’s identified information with any third party . . . .”

“Part III requires Google to implement a ‘comprehensive privacy program’ that is designed to address privacy risks and protect the privacy and confidentiality of personal information.”

Google’s new privacy policy will combine all your personal data from every service Google offers (YouTube, Gmail, Google search, etc.) into one detailed profile of exactly who you are. Google wants to get to know you better, to figure out exactly who you are. A Google spokesperson once said that their mission is to eliminate “the faceless web”.

What Google is basically trying to do is that they want to sell your personal data to advertisers. Advertisers love getting more detailed information of us because it makes it easier to target personalized advertisements at us. Keep in mind that Google makes over 90% of its revenues from advertising.

You are not Google’s customer, you are Google’s product. Therefore, think of it this way:  when Google introduces its new more intrusive privacy policy at the start of next month – think of it as them reorganizing and relabeling their inventory to make it more appealing and easier to sell.

EPIC contends that Google is in clear violation of the consent order and that the FTC has mandatory nondiscretionary legal duty to punish Google. EPIC argued that the court can compel the FTC to punish Google because it unlawfully withheld or unreasonably delayed action that it should have already done by now.

However, the judge felt that there was still nothing the court could do because Congress has not given it the jurisdiction to fully oversee federal agencies and force them to take actions. She cited pass decisions to back her ruling and said that ultimately it is up to the FTC to evaluate whether or not Google violated the consent order.

With that said, though – the judge made sure to emphasis that her ruling should not be interpreted as an opinion about the merits of EPIC’s challenge to Google’s new privacy policy. Judge Jackson said the court has not made any decisions on whether or not Google’s new privacy policy violates the consent order; the court simply cannot force the FTC to take any action:

“EPIC – along with many other individuals and organizations – has advanced serious concerns that may well be legitimate, and the FTC, which has advised the Court that the matter is under review, may ultimately decide to institute an enforcement action. So neither EPIC, nor Google, nor any party with an interest in internet privacy should draw any conclusions about the Court’s views on those matters from this opinion.”

After the ruling, EPIC said that it would appeal the decision on judicial review and ask a federal appeals court to rule that courts can require federal agencies to enforce final orders.

You can read Judge Amy Berman Jackson’s full ruling – click here (PDF file)

For furthur background and to read related posts I wrote on this issue – click here

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Google Has Too Much Influence In Washington And Abroad

 The same day the White House unveiled a proposal to give consumers more rights and privacy on the Internet – it was revealed that Google hired a government insider to head its lobbying efforts in Washington. Google revealed, in a statement released Thursday, that Susan Molinari, a former New York congresswoman and a once rising star in the Republican Party, will be the vice president for public policy for North and South America. She will be replacing Alan Davidson, who stepped down in November 2011.

Ms. Molinari, a Republican, was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1990, but stepped down in 1997. She worked in television for a period and has been a lobbyist since 1999. She is married to Bill Paxton, who was also a Republican representative from New York and is currently a lobbyist at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. Ms. Molinari has extensive ties to the Republican Party establishment, according to The New York Times. Over the years, she has donated a quarter of a million dollars to Republican candidates.

Just this past summer, Google hired an additional 12 lobbying firms to represent it – they did this after an investigation on breaches to user privacy was launched by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC). That FTC probe eventually resulted in Google paying out millions, admitting to violating the privacy of its users, and agreeing to a 20 year consent order in which the company will regularly file assessment reports with the FTC.

Google is one of the biggest spenders among corporate lobbyists – spending $9.7 million on lobbying in 2011, nearly double the amount the company spent the previous year (an increase of 88%).

Ms. Molinari’s appointment to her new job at the company is a calculated strategy by Google to try to win over Republican support at Congress. According to the newspaper, The Hill, Google has even also been working hard to get former Republican lawmakers to join the company as lobbyists.

Google obviously wants to control how Congress votes and passes its bills by making sure to strategically place Google employees to influence outcomes. By hiring people who already know how to skillfully navigate waters at Washington and who have influence over important people there, Google can make sure it sways things in its favor.

This is especially important for Google and its advertising partners, to completely stop or significantly water-down proposed and future legislation that gives Americans more rights over their online personal data. If laws that limit Google from collecting our personal data are passed, then this is a disaster scenario for the company. You have to remember that Google makes over 90% of its revenues from advertising! Any law that prevents Google from harvesting our personal information to sell to advertisers will result in huge losses for the company. Google will fight tooth and nail to halt any legislation that gives Americans more protections online.

Google has hired other Republicans over the years as well. Google is trying to distance itself from a perception that it’s too close to the Obama administration and, in general, the Democratic Party. Former CEO and current executive chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt, has very close ties with the Obama administration. He is a major party donor to the Obama presidential campaign. In addition, Mr. Schmidt was a member of Obama’s transition advisory board and a member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. He had also been considered for several other positions, including a cabinet position within the Obama administration.

Over 80% of Google executives have donated money to support Obama and other democrats. This isn’t much different from how other Silicon Valley tech company workers spend their money. In 2008, the industry gave then-Senator Obama more than $9 million dollars to support his campaign for the presidency. This was three times what the industry raised for any other politician. It is expected that contributions for to Obama’s 2012 campaign will exceed that number and President Obama is depending on it. These Silicon Valley tech companies now spend more money to support Obama than Hollywood does. President Obama depends on Google and Google depends on President Obama.

The Daily Beast has a great article called “President Obama Courts Silicon Valley’s New Digital Aristocracy“, which discusses this further – click here

In a 2011 report, the advocacy group Consumer Watch compiled a report that details how Google benefits from close ties with the Obama administration. Consumer Watchdog received evidence to back their report through Freedom of Information Act requests – click here (PDF file)

According to the Washington Post reporter, Cecilia Kang, experts have said that lawmakers in Congress are suspicious of Google and feel that it has received too much favoritism from the White House. In response to this – Google is hoping that if it implants high-profile Republicans in Washington, it can start winning support in Congress. Already, there have been several bipartisan efforts made by several lawmakers to put more restrictions on Google and Google has already been grilled recently by a congressional committee made up of both Democrats and Republicans. If Google can divide Republicans by winning over some support of Republican representatives in Congress, the company can eventually conquer Congress. If successful, Google can destroy bills and/or render bills ineffective in helping the average Internet user by watering it down.

Google has already succeeded with this type of political manipulation in Britain. Privacy advocacy groups in Britain have recently accused Google of meddling to stop more stringent privacy laws. Google was able to convince a British government department to ask an independent regulatory authority to reverse its hard-line stance on Internet browser security. For further details on this – click here

So, how the heck was it possible for Google to convince the British government to do what it wanted?

Well, one major reason can be credited to a woman named Rachel Whetstone. If you recall, I first wrote about Ms. Whetstone a few days ago on my site when I gave you a breakdown of her ridiculous convoluted statement after the whole controversy surrounding Google deliberately circumventing privacy settings on Apple’s Safari browser – click here

Anyway, Ms. Whetstone, who is Google’s vice president of communications and policy, is married to Steve Hilton. Mr. Hilton is the Director of Strategy for the British Prime Minister David Cameron. Both Rachel Whetstone and Steve Hilton were godparents to Prime Minister Cameron’s eldest son (who sadly passed away three years ago at just 6 years of age).

Opposition parties have accused the British government with having too close ties with Google and a prominent Conservative entrepreneur has even called Google a parasite that drains revenue. There was also the infamous “review” of British IP laws, initiated by Prime Minister Cameron, and nicknamed by others as “the Google Review”. According to reporting by The Register in the UK,

“…it was introduced with a quote attributed to the Google founders by Prime Minister David Cameron. According to Cameron, the Google founders had said they could never have founded Google in the UK, because of copyright law here. There was one slight problem: the founders had never said anything of the sort, and the claim was finally traced to Google’s European public policy director Richard Sargeant – who had led the lobbying for reform of copyright in Google’s favor”

Google will do anything to wiggle its way into any government and influence any politician. If Google can influence politicians, it then can have influence on governments. Google can control the way laws are developed and it controls which laws to dump out completely. Google has enormous power and persuasion. A single company with this much international power and influence is a deeply concerning and, quite frankly, scary.

Call up your representative in Congress and tell them to not let Google control how they vote. If important, comprehensive, and stringent Internet privacy laws for Americans have any chance of succeeding in Washington –  it will be absolutely dependent on Google failing!

Susan Molinari’s tenure is slated to begin in mid-March with the official title of “Google’s vice president of public policy and government relations for the Americas.”

For more information:

The Register, “Labour targets Tories’ Google problem” – click here

The Hill, “Google hires former Rep. Susan Molinari to lead Washington office” – click here

The New York Times, “Google Gets a High-Profile Lobbyist” – click here

TPM, “Why Google Hired Former Rep. Susan Molinari” – click here

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