This is an interesting video from the CBC from a few years ago. Even back then Google was considered a huge threat to privacy and personal freedom on the Internet. Things have since gotten worse with Google – I wonder how bad it will get until people finally say “we’re not gonna take it anymore!”
The BBC published an interesting article today about Internet privacy. Google is the biggest of the Big Brothers and collects your information more than any other Internet company in the world – it even rivals some repressive government intrusion on the personal lives of citizens. Google does not give users explicit consent to sell their personal data to third parties, Google does not allow users to opt-out of data harvesting, and Google is not completely forthcoming about exactly what they do with our personal data.
Please read through the BBC article for yourself. The strong desire to protect our personal information on the Internet is definitely not paranoia, it’s simply being smart. Several recent surveys have shown that the vast majority of Internet users are deeply concerned about privacy on the Internet but many don’t know how to protect themselves. The media and governments need to make sure that people are educated about online safety and have strong laws in place to protect innocent people.
By the way – I love the “Big Brother” (or Big Google) eye picture the BBC accompanied with the article 🙂
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.
Oh…my…goodness…you won’t believe what Google has been caught doing yesterday – well, actually, you will if you’ve been following my postings on this site – but it still doesn’t make it any less shocking!
Big Google has been caught, outed, by a Stanford University researcher for spying on all the online activity of Apple users. The researcher, Jonathan Mayer, documented his findings in a blog post he wrote and which the Wall Street Journal picked up. After the Wall Street Journal ran the story Thursday night, it spread like wildfire. Now all the major newspapers and television news programs are informing its readers and viewers about the latest major privacy violation by Google.
As many of you know, Apple has its own browser which it calls Safari. According to some estimates, Safari accounts for 6% of desktop Internet browsing and 50% of mobile Internet browsing. I have explained on here before that websites you visit put a tracking device on your browser to record everything you do on their site. Some of these tracking tools will even stay on your browser long after you’ve left the website that put it there in the first place. These tracking devices are called “cookies”. The word “cookie” might sound all innocent – just like how Google’s use of primary colors for its logo might look all innocent- but they are anything but innocent.
These cookies have the capability to really figure you out. They will record every link you click on, how you are engaging with the website, and even how long you stay on a particular page to gauge your interest in that page.
Apple’s web browser, Safari, blocks cookies from being set on their browser. The company does not feel the need to have those tracking devices, and they don’t think that it’s in the best interest of its users. Therefore, Apple took a responsible approach and a revolutionary approach in not allowing cookies on its browser. Apple was smart enough to care about its users so much so that they even made sure the default setting for Safari was set so that cookies was disabled. Now, this default setting is crucial! That’s because many people do not change their default settings and just keep the browser the same way as it came originally.
A little over a week ago, February 8th, I wrote how Google is an advertising-based business that depends on advertising for over 90% of its revenues. I informed you of a man named Christopher Soghoian, a Washington, D.C.-based graduate fellow at the Center for Applied Cyber-Security Research. He made a speech at a security summit where he said that companies that depend heavily on advertising couldn’t care less about your privacy. For these companies, the profits that come from advertising always trump the protection of consumers. In that same speech, Mr. Soghoian made sure to congratulate Apple because the company takes the “responsible route” when it comes to protecting its users. Apple, which does not depend on advertisers to keep its business strong and profitable, has taken steps to secure its users from intrusive activity spying. You can read my entire post on this by clicking here
Google, on the other hand, has done the complete opposite of what Apple has done. Google’s browser, Chrome, is the only browser that does not block tracking. I have already explained why Google does not think it is in their interest to protect the personal data of its users.
Now – we have learned that Google was not only neglecting to protect its own users on Chrome but Google was also deliberately exposing Apple users to tracking too!! Google employees found a loophole around Apple’s anti-tracking browser and exploited that loophole to expose users to tracking without their knowledge whatsoever. Google figured out that if the Safari browser thought a user was filling out a form on the web it allowed cookies to function because the browser assumed you trusted the site enough to give it your personal data.
This was the way in for Google and now it could start tracking Apple’s users. If you want a detailed explanation on how this actually works, take a look at this illustration by the Wall Street Journal – click here.
After being caught spying, Google had this to say:
“We didn’t anticipate that this would happen, and we have now started removing these advertising cookies from Safari browsers”
Even though Google deliberately circumvented default privacy setting on Apple’s web browser, they release a statement playing dumb – acting all innocent. Please! Save it!
Google often plays dumb when it is caught red-handed, like it did two years ago when its Street View service collected personal information from WiFi networks and when the US Department of Justice busted Google aiding and abetting a con artist to commit his crimes (to learn more on this, click here)
Now, as you can imagine, people are outraged at Google for spying on innocent unsuspecting people. Apple is also outraged and the company said it will take further steps to protect its users from companies like Google exploiting loopholes in its browser to spy on its users.
Members of Congress want to set up new meetings with Google to grill them yet again on privacy violations. Rep. Mary Bono Mack, R-Calif said,
“Google has some tough new questions to answer in the wake of this latest privacy flap, and that’s why I am asking them to come in for another briefing…these types of incidents continue to create consumer concerns about how their personal information is used and shared”
Several other members of Congress have even contacted the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to open a new investigation on Google. This time, even members of the US Senate have weighed in on this latest privacy violation by indicating that Google may also have to answer to the Senate.
Google, you’re a disgrace.
For more information: Wired.com has an article on this story (click here)
USA Today has an article on this story (click here)
The other day, while on YouTube, (and yes, I go on Google’s YouTube to keep an eye out for what Google is up to and what gets posted) Google decided to use its video sharing website to advertise another service the company offers. Right on the front page of the website, there was a video uploaded by Google itself and so I clicked on it.
The video is titled “Google+: New Dad” and it features a new father with his newborn son. The video is in high definition, has light soothing music in the background, lots of shots of the baby, and a man’s voice throughout the video. The video is obviously intended to make us go “awww” and pull on our heartstrings – but after you snap out of the cuteness spell Google put you under, it’s time to face the ugly facts.
The video Google uploaded is advertising its social networking site called Google Plus – more specifically, the photo-sharing capabilities on Google Plus. The video ad tries to lure people to upload their photos to Google Plus by telling people if you lose your mobile phone, which has all your precious photos on it, you shouldn’t worry. If you uploaded those photos to Google Plus, it will still be on there. So if you lost your phone, you can always have access to those pictures from any device.
Now, that might seem all wonderful and all, but let’s examine what this really means for you and your pictures. This is what Google says it can do for you:
“With Google+ Instant Upload, every picture you take on your phone is instantly backed up to a private Google+ album. It’s a simple way to make sure you never lose another memory. Download the Google+ app on your phone “
Private? Hmm, not so fast!
Let’s now look at Google’s privacy policies, shall we? After you….
Please delete metadata? HA! As if people are actually going to do that – I can bet you that the vast majority of people who will forfeit their pictures to Google do know that their photos have a wealth of information stored into them and wouldn’t even know how to get rid of it. Google says,
“The information that’s displayed along with your photo may include attributes such as camera model, exposure, ISO, aperture, focal length, location data and the time and date the photo was taken.”
In addition, when you use Google’s photo service, these are only things they admit they record of you:
“account activity (including storage usage and number of log-ins), data displayed or clicked on (including UI links); and other log information (including browser type, IP-address, date and time of access, cookie ID, and referrer URL).”
Remember, when you upload those photos – you essentially forfeit those photos to Google to use them indefinitely. Here is something else that should freak you out: Google says that your photos “may also be indexed and discoverable in third party services, such as search engines”!
Felix Salmon of Reuters said that Google can tell:
“where and when photographs were taken, and an advanced facial recognition feature that allows Google to identify individuals it has seen in one photo in any photo in the user’s digital library. Integrating just these three services with Google’s core search function could allow Google to locate individuals in virtually any digital photograph on the internet, and so derive where each user has been, when, with whom and doing what. Add YouTube to the mix, or Android smartphones, or whatever other database Google develops or buys – the implications are breathtaking.”
Whoa, talk about Big Brother – or should it now be Big Google?
Fathers, and mothers, keep the adorable photographs of your precious children to yourself and don’t give it away to Google. It isn’t worth it.
The Article 29 Working Party, an independent group which represents 27 data protection authorities from the European Union, and an executive from the European Commission told Google to stop what they are doing to harvest personal data of Google users.
The European privacy groups want to examine Google thoroughly before they can give it any approval. In a letter to the CEO of Google, Larry Page, this is what the group wrote:
“We wish to check the possible consequences for the protection of the personal data of these citizens in a coordinated way,”
“In light of the above, we call for a pause in the interests of ensuring that there can be no misunderstanding about Google’s commitments to information rights of their users and EU citizens, until we have completed our analysis.”
Viviane Reding, who is in charge of data protection for the European Commission, fully supports the investigation of Google to make sure that the company complies with their laws to protect Europeans from violations against their privacy and their personal information.
The European Commission takes privacy very seriously. In fact, they recently set out plans to adopt more effective, comprehensive, and stringent polices to protect the data of individuals. Some steps they want to implement are to give users the ability to demand Internet companies, such as Google, to not sell their personal information to advertisers. They also want companies to delete all data they have of people completely if asked to do so because people should have the “right to be forgotten”.
European countries have already been banning Google. The Norwegian public sector agencies have been banned from using any Google applications due to concerns that personal data of citizens is in serious jeopardy. In 2011, a town in Denmark banned Google applications from being used in schools because of privacy concerns. The German government has taken steps to secure its data from Google and France is particularly worried about leaving its classified information on Google computers.
Europeans are especially concerned about the Patriot Act in the United States, which demands that companies operating within America are to hand over all information to the government if asked to do so. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, an American organization which fights to protect the rights and freedoms of Internet users, estimates that Google is subpoenaed thousands of times a year. You will never know that your personal data has been given away to government agencies because Google does not have to tell you.
Just how creepy does it get? Well let me give you three examples: last summer a British soccer star named Rio Ferdinand visited the White House and snapped some photos of himself with White House staff. He later posted it on Twitter and within a mere few seconds the photos vanished. This is what the soccer star tweeted after his photos were removed: “Whoa….some1 has got into my phone + taken down my pics off twitter….this is deep…is jack Bauer in Washington?!” He went on to tweet this, “Training just done in DC….feels kinda weird…feel like I’m being watched by some undercover jack Bauer type dudes…phone hacked into” . Read about the full story here
In another incidence, which happened just a few weeks ago, two British youth were detained by US Border agents because before their arrival one of them posted something on Twitter that was misconstrued as a threat to the United States. It’s all so ridiculous, amusing, and scary at the same time. It’s just another example that everything you do is being watched closely. You can read the rest of what happened by clicking here
And finally, a member of parliament of Iceland named Birgitta Jonsdottir had her personal information on Twitter accessed by the US government because of her involvement with Wikileaks. You can read the full story here
Twitter was forced to hand over this information but, to give the website the credit it deserves, it seems like they were resistant to this violation of privacy against people but had to comply with US laws.
Google on the other hand is a lot more secretive and knows a lot more information about users. I love what a McGill University student wrote in a student newspaper about Google when she called the company “the biggest of the Big Brothers”. You can read about it here
Google’s chairman Eric Schmidt has said this in the past:
“If you have something you don’t want anybody to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place”
He is absolutely correct – maybe people should seriously think twice about using Google services. The Europeans have already thought long and hard about it and they banned Google in many areas of their life.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) has done a story on Google that I think you should watch. I think the most important take away from the video is around 1:49 into the video when reporter Ron Charles states that young people say they care about privacy but their actions indict something contradictory. And this is not just about young people, it’s really any user of any age.
As I wrote about on the Wall Street Journal posting, Google is counting on the average person to stay ignorant or to simply not care. If Google is going to respect your privacy it will only do so if people care enough to see that they do. You’re not invisible on Google, so do not be so careless about your personal information.
I gotta let you guys read an article I came across in the student newspaper of McGill University in Canada. Mcgill is one of Canada’s most prestigious universities; it is often ranked number 1 in the country for academics.
The student who wrote the article calls Google “the biggest of the Big Brothers” and says that it basically “owns [her] soul” because Google knows just about everything about her. So she has resolved that by the end of February, right before Google implements a new version of their privacy policies (which many have said is going to make it even more intrusive than ever before), she will quit using Google services altogether.
I give this young woman two thumbs up for recognizing what Google is doing and for calling them out on it. More people should follow her example.
I came across an article on the web which shows a very interesting, accurate, and scary graffiti art in New York City. The writer describes how he snapped a photograph of graffiti art that modified the famous logo of Google with two security cameras in the place of the letter O.
Whoever did the art piece has been obviously paying attention to the latest major privacy violation controversy surrounding Google. I will discuss the privacy violations in future posts.
In the meantime, you can read the article by Jeff Roberts yourself by clicking here