Tag Archives: New York Times

Federal Agency Fines Google $25,000 For “Deliberately” Impeding Investigation

Seal of the United States Federal Communicatio...

It was reported yesterday that the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) fined Google $25,000 for not cooperating with an investigation over Google’s massive invasion of privacy involving its Street View service.

The FCC said that Google “deliberately impeded and delayed” its investigation. Google made it very difficult for investigators to gain access to employees and hid important evidence. Google did not answer emails and the company even tried to hide the identities of the employees involved in the privacy violations from two years ago.

In 2010, Google’s Street View cars collected very private information from unencrypted home computers. When Google was caught doing this it apologized and said that it didn’t deliberately try to capture private data. Soon after the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigated and sided with Google’s explanation that it was a mistake. Although the US didn’t take the massive privacy violation seriously, European countries were more concerned.

Now the FCC has come out and exposed Google’s refusal to cooperate with the investigation. This is really embarrassing for a company that claims it’s so transparent about everything it does and is cooperative with regulators. This is not the first regulators have complained about Google’s secrecy, arrogance, and unwillingness to cooperate with investigations. The French data protection agency currently investigating Google’s new privacy policy said that Google neglected to contact them before implementing their controversial and intrusive privacy policy.

The $25,000 Google is now forced to pay will do nothing to the company’s bottom line. Google raked in about $40 billion last year. Over 90% of Google’s revenues come from advertising – this means that Google makes money by selling your personal data to advertisers. This is the reason Google consolidated their privacy policies into a singular policy – it makes it easier for the company to figure you out and it’s more profitable. A Google spokesman said that the company is on a mission to combat against “the faceless Web”.

Google paying a $25,000 fine is like an average person paying a one cent fine – but don’t get too hung up on the amount of that fine. The biggest hit Google received from this new report by the FCC is its reputation. Most people think way too highly of this company and if more reports like this come out to expose Google’s dirt then the better it will be for the general public.

I love what Christina DesMarais, PCWorld, wrote in her article:

“…if Google’s uncooperative behavior is true as the FCC maintains, the obvious question is, ‘What is Google hiding?’ Consumers and advocacy groups have often criticized Google’s seemingly insatiable appetite for personal information, such as its recent consolidation of its privacy policies so as to have a better view into user behaviors and preferences. Because of the amount of attention those privacy concerns have garnered, you’d think a policy of transparency on Google’s part would bode well with those who have doubts about whether or not the company can be trusted with increasing amounts of personal data.”

Things that make you go hmmm…

For more information:

The New York Times, “Google Is Faulted for Impeding U.S. Inquiry on Data Collection” – click here

PCWorld, “Google Hit With $25K Fine, But FCC Finds Street View Data Collection Not Illegal” – click here

CNET, “FCC nails Google with $25K fine for dragging heels in StreetView probe” – click here

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Update On Domestic Abuse Case Will Be Posted Tomorrow

Hi guys:

Tomorrow I will be posting an exclusive article on my blog with more information about the domestic violence controversy surrounding the family of a major face of Google – Marissa Mayer. I have already posted on article about the case but the new article will give you more details about what allegedly happened.

It’s going to be really interesting, to say the least. Make sure you take some time to visit the blog tomorrow. In the meantime, take some time to get to know who Marissa Mayer is and what she does at Google.

Three years ago, The New York Times published an article titled “Putting a Bolder Face on Google” and it’s a fantastic read. It focuses on Marissa and really let’s you know more about her character. Here are some interesting quotes about her in the article:

“Mayer, who is Google Employee No. 20…A popular guest on TV news programs and talk shows, a Google-booster often quoted in print, and a rapid-fire presence on San Francisco’s social scene, she is the rare executive who has become — at least in the sometimes cloistered world of computer geeks — a celebrity”

“Ms. Mayer, 33, plays a pivotal, serious role at Google…She is one of the few Googlers with unfettered access to and influence over Mr. Brin and Mr. Page”

A 2009 Gawker.com article described her as “the best known Google executive outside the search engine’s CEO, Eric Schmidt, and its billionaire founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin”

Ms. Mayer has even dated the current Google CEO Larry Page at one point. This is a woman very much part of the identity of Google and a recognizable face of the company.

I’m leaving you a video of her on the Martha Stewart show and I will see you back here tomorrow

For more information:

New York Times – click here

Gawker – click here

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Google Fails To Convince The Public That Google Plus Isn’t A Failure

English: Google+ wordmark

A couple of days ago, I wrote about how Google’s latest attempt at social networking with the launch of Google Plus is a massive failure for the company. To catch up on that post, please click here

Okay, so yesterday Google responded to the embarrassing news about Google Plus by denying that it’s a virtual ghost town. Google vice president for engineering, Vic Gundotra, gave an interview with the New York Times. In this interview, Mr. Gundotra doesn’t really say anything new that we haven’t already heard from CEO Larry Page. I guess they haven’t learned from mistakes, so they will continue using the same lies to try to boost up their numbers. When one is desperate, they are willing to say and do anything.

Mr. Gundotra said that he has never seen anything at Google grow so fast as Google Plus. Hmm, perhaps – but has anything plummeted as fast as Google Plus? It’s true that Google Plus sign-up spiked by over a 1000% on the day of its public launch, but it soon almost completely died after a few days. After people satisfied their curiosity and saw that the product is absolutely useless, they hightailed out of there. It burned out so quickly.

Mr. Gundorta refused to give the New York Times any useful data that would indicate good health for Google Plus. He gave nothing to counter the Wall Street Journal’s reporting about the dismal user engagement on the site and said nothing about how people intertwine Google Plus has part of their daily routine.  This is what the New York Times wrote,

“About 50 million people who have created a Google Plus account actively use the company’s Google Plus-enhanced products daily, Mr. Gundotra said. Over a 30-day period, he said, that number is 100 million active users”

Google Plus-enhanced products”? WTF? What this means is that if somebody signs-up for a Google Plus account and that’s the only thing they ever do – it’s fine. As long as they are also still using other Google products and services, then it will still count as engagement on Google Plus. So if you use YouTube, you’re using Google Plus; if you use the search engine, you’re using Google Plus; if you use Gmail, you’re also using Google Plus.

Does Google think the public was born yesterday? Do you think we’re that stupid? Ha-ha. Only a really desperate company would try to boost up their numbers on a failed site by counting activity on a totally different site.  Just face it, Google Plus is yet another attempt at social networking that’s failed – and this one is a colossal failure.

Mr. Gundorta made sure to point out what Google is most proud of, which is “ad engagement” on all Google websites. He claims that socially recommended ads have a higher click-through rate, and this has been successful for Google. If a friend recommends a microwave to you, then research shows that you are more likely to click on an ad about that microwave. This is true; you are more likely take something more seriously if a friend recommends it to you. However, this doesn’t mean that Google Plus is successful in the least. All it means is that Google wants you to sign-up for a Google Plus account, give Google your friend contact list, and then start “+1-ing” (Google’s version of the Facebook “Like” button) anything you enjoy anywhere on the Internet. Those +1 buttons are pretty much everywhere. Google will then take that information and use it to serve your contacts advertisements. You basically become like a celebrity endorser of products – except you won’t have a multi-million dollar contract.

It’s so sad that Google cares so much about monetizing our personal information for huge profits and not, first and foremost, creating a great social atmosphere. Look, the reason why Google Plus sucks so much is because it’s a lousy product. Nobody I know uses Google Plus – nobody says “Hey, what’s your name on Google Plus? How can I find you on Google Plus? Let’s chat on Google Plus”. Ha-ha.

Google Plus is indeed a ghost town and nobody cares to ever use it. Even if Google can share your “+1s” with your friends to achieve higher click-through rates for ads – it won’t matter if there aren’t people “+1-ing” in the first place. Nobody is sharing anything on that lonesome site, which is why Google is hiding the real engagement numbers that matter.

Mr. Gundotra said,

“We have started the social engines at Google and we’re about to step on the gas”

Aww, how determined. Take your time stepping on that gas, Google. You already had about 9 months – take another 9 months if you must.

For more information:

New York Times, “Countering the Google Plus Image Problem” – click here

Mashable, “Google+ Enhanced Ads Are Up to 10% More Effective, Says Google” – click here

SFGate, “So THAT’S What Google+ Is Really About: Advertising (GOOG)” – click here

Atlantic Wire, “Google Fails to Convince People That Google+ Is Popular, Again” – click here

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European Regulators Say Google’s New Privacy Policy Is Confusing ‘Even For Trained Professionals’

 The fight between Google and European authorities is getting even more intense!

Earlier this month, in my post titled “Europeans increasingly rejecting Google due to lack of privacy“, I informed you of a group that sent a letter to Google asking the company to delay their new privacy policy. The Article 29 Working Party is made up of data protection authorities from the member states of the European Union.

You can read my earlier post – click here

After the group found out that Google had plans to change its privacy policies, they politely asked Google to “pause” their plans to carry out the change because they needed a sufficient amount of time to fully investigate Google. Europeans take their online privacy very seriously. They wanted enough time to complete their analysis to make sure their citizens were protected from any violations or exploitation of their personal data.

However, despite the efforts of the European data protection authorities, Google sent back a letter telling them that the company would not stop their plans to implement their new privacy policy. Google claimed that they already gave the European regulators enough time and that they met with them before the change to its privacy policies was publicly announced. Google basically told the group “No and get lost!”

Google was well aware that the Working Party didn’t really have authority itself to enforce its recommendation.

Oh no you didn’t!

Hold on, not so fast!

Well, fast forward almost 4 weeks later and the European privacy regulators are back with a vengeance! The Article 29 Working Party decided to give its French data protection member the lead task to investigate Google. The scathing preliminary result of that investigation was released yesterday to the media. The French privacy agency is called the National Commission for Computing and Civil Liberties (CNIL) – and they did not mince words. In a letter addressed to Google (dated February 27th, 2012), the French agency is brutally honest with their assessment:

“The CNIL and the EU data protection authorities regret that Google did not accept to delay the application of this new policy which raises legitimate concerns about the protection of the personal data of European citizens.”

CNIL found that Google’s new privacy policy is actually not more transparent and comprehensive. They suggest that Google is actually being deceptive with their new privacy policy because it does not give users the whole truth. It isn’t enough to tell users the bare minimum about what the new privacy policy will mean to them, you have to tell users exactly how their personal data is going to be used. The French agency is concerned about what Google is hiding from its users.

I previously wrote about how Google has a problem telling its users the whole truth. For more on that – click here

“By merging the privacy policies of its services, Google makes it impossible to understand which purposes, personal data, recipients or access rights are relevant to the use of a specific service. As such, Google’s new policy fails to meet the requirements of the European Data Protection Directive”

They said that said Google’s new privacy policy actually raises more fears and concerns about the company’s actual practices. They question the lawfulness of Google’s intended changes to its privacy policy.

“The CNIL and the EU data protection authorities are deeply concerned about the combination of data across services and have strong doubts about the lawfulness and fairness of such processing. They intend to address these questions in detail with Google’s representatives”

Furthermore, the group made sure to address Google’s lie about meeting with European regulators before they unveiled plans to change their privacy policy:

“Contrary to public statements by Google representatives suggesting that data protection authorities across the EU had been ‘extensively pre-briefed’, not all authorities were  informed, and those that were informed only heard about the changes a few days before the announcement. They saw the contents of the new privacy policy at best a few hours before its public release, without any opportunity to provide any constructive feedback”

Oh SNAP! Ha-ha…Google must be really red-faced right about now.

And, for your information, the French authority has the power to fine companies up to 300,000 euros (or about $400,000) for each breach of privacy. It can also ask a court to stop the company from violating privacy laws. Other European countries can enforce their laws in similar ways too.

The French agency concluded that Google’s privacy policy is too vague and difficult to understand, “even for trained privacy professionals“.  They said they will send a full questionnaire to Google before mid-March and they reiterated their recommendation to Google to stop their plans in introducing their new privacy policy.

Hey Google, don’t try to pull a fast one on European privacy protection groups – they can knock you out, ha!

To read the full letter CNIL sent to Google, click here (PDF)

CNIL’s website – click here

For more information:

New York Times, “France Says Google Privacy Plan Likely Violates European Law” – click here

The Telegraph, “Google privacy overhaul ‘unlawful’, say regulators” – click here

BBC,Google ‘fails to meet EU rules’ on new privacy policy” – click here

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Google Needs To Tell Its Users The Whole Truth And Nothing But The Truth

In response to the increasing pressure on Google to become more transparent with its policies and protect its users, Google often claims that it does not want to violate your privacy. After congress, EU regulators, the news media, privacy advocacy groups, and average everyday users strongly voiced their concerns over Google’s plans to combine all the personal data it has of you into one unified profile, Google responded by saying that they aren’t collecting any additional information of you. Google claims that they are simply just combining your data from across its many services so that users get a better experience online.

This claim is obviously a load of garbage – nonsense. Although, Google loves to spew out the same old PR talking points to defend consolidating our personal information – the fact is that it certainly does not make for a better user experience at all. What it does do is that it makes for a better and clearer picture of exactly who you are so that Google can sell that information to advertisers. The newest craze in advertising is the obsession with personalized and targeted advertising. The days advertisers used to blast out their ads to the general public are pretty much over with. Now they want to get more efficient with how they position their advertisements by making sure that the people who see a particular ad are the right people who are supposed to see it – people who are more likely to purchase the product. That’s why Google, the biggest advertising-based business in the world, wants to know every little detail about you. A Google spokesman even admitted that the company’s desire is to combat “the faceless web”.

Your personal data is as good as gold to Google. The more they can gather of you and make it more efficient to organize that data, the easier it is to monetize it.

It is important to note that protecting our privacy should not be simply limited to ensuring that certain bits of us do not get exposed. The protection of our privacy, especially in the context of this emerging virtual world, should also be about knowing how our information is shared and to whom. In 2010, Danah Boyd, a fellow at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, wrote an article called “Why Privacy Is Not Dead“. She writes,

“The reason for this disconnect is that in a computational world, privacy is often implemented through access control. Yet privacy is not simply about controlling access. It’s about understanding a social context, having a sense of how our information is passed around by others, and sharing accordingly. As social media mature, we must rethink how we encode privacy into our systems.”

Ms. Boyd wrote that before the launch of Google Plus, but it can definitely be applied to Google too. She’s absolutely correct. We need to not only be worried about whether or not Google is collecting more information of us, in an attempt to control just how deep Google can intrude into our lives, but we should be equally be concerned about how Google is disseminating our information and who gets to see our data.  

Also, keep in mind that the combining of data IS collecting more information of us. Google does not necessarily need to dig deeper into our lives to know more about us – the intrusive act of piecing together bits and pieces of us to create a completed puzzle image of us IS, indeed, new information. Therefore, the act of consolidating our personal data is an attempt to retrieve more information about us and further destroy any trace of anonymity.

So the next time you read about or hear another Google employee spewing out the same old lines about how we shouldn’t worry because they aren’t collecting any additional information of us but only combining information – you should be concerned. Red flags should immediately be going off.

The way Google uses information of you and what they collect of you should be made crystal clear. All we get from Google now is ambiguity, confusion, and disingenuous comments. Google needs to come clean and speak the whole truth and nothing but the truth – and yes, lying by omission is still a lie!

I highly recommend you read all three of these fantastic articles below. They all relate to one another. All three articles bring up another important point against the combining of personal information. The consolidation of our personal data does not let us modify our behavior based on where we are.  In life, we don’t just have one persona, we have multiply personas. The way you speak and act changes to adapt to different people and environments. Combining our information is an attack on personal freedom; it limits how one can express herself/himself and how one can reinvent herself/himself:

Slate’s “The Real Problem With Google’s New Privacy Policy” – Click Here

Danah Boyd’s “Why Privacy Is Not Dead” – Click Here

New York Times “T.M.I.- I Don’t Want To Know” – Click Here

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