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Ciderhelm
09-07-2008, 04:05 PM
I'm going to put this out here as a debate point for people. Why? I don't have another place to put it, and it'd make an interesting debate. For full disclosure, I use Google for searching, e-mail via Gmail, Firefox for my browser, and the TankSpot visitor statistics via Analytics.

Please keep religion and government-related politics completely out of this.


Premise
Google abuses our trust and is pushing too far into privacy without consequence. It is one of the more dangerous technology monopolies.


Google's Position
Google is an advertising company. They are estimated to produce over 99% of their income through their advertisement programs, and they actively seek to advance their advertising revenue through new user programs such as Gmail and Analytics. They also seek to expand their control over the market through business alliances.

Thus, Google has a reason to defend their advertising revenue. The release of Chrome coincides with this -- it is widely recognized as being released with the intent of reducing number of users for Internet Explorer 8, which will help users who want to block advertising.

Advertisements are not the debate. Privacy is.


Privacy
Google first came to be popular -- as a company rather than a search engine -- due to their strong stances on privacy and other semi-political issues. They promoted a new kind of company with their motto, "Don't be evil."

We've given them a blank check based on how they acted 10 years ago. What have they done in return for that good will?


Requested that site owners using Analytics share their site statistics publicly for research and comparison. This happened with me, in regards to TankSpot.
Attempted to get access to a wide variety of medical records, a service that was neither helpful nor necessary given that hospitals have been developing their own patient networks.
Attempted to launch a serious competitor to Paypal, which would have given them access to a large variety of financial records and bank accounts.
Went one step beyond simple satellite imaging and main-street business pictures to unnecessary invasions of privacy -- in England, did Google really need street-level pictures of suburban homes without any effort to remove identifiable faces?
Has still not resolved a dispute with the European Union regarding the reasoning for keeping track of user searches for two years.

There are other concerns having to do with free and open access to the internet. There have been widely-publicized political and religious websites, blogs, and movies from around the world that Google has seemingly treated with bias.

The danger lies in their clear shift away from their original philosophy and how that will affect the future decisions they make in regards to personal information. Both Microsoft and Apple have gone to excruciating lengths to outline their privacy policies, yet Google is given a free pass for having one of the most vague policies of any major internet company.


Closing
This is a company that, while it intends to do good, is far too active beyond the bounds of what is appropriate in the context of what they promoted in the past. While I hope they continue their philanthropy on projects like the X Prize, they need to get back to what they're good at. With serious competitors such as Cuil, formed from original Google engineers who broke off, and a dated and exploitable page-ranking system, Google would do good to worry about Google.

Rain
09-07-2008, 05:02 PM
I love "google is evil" theories. Mostly because they are pretty much possible.

Here's my take on it:

While I do think privacy is an issue, i don't think that most arguments that come up against google are valid.

Google wasn't a very good search engine in the days of Altavista and Yahoo. I was as good as webcrawler (and you never heard about webcrawler, right? Then yeah).

Their "don't be mean" policy is, indeed, what made them famous. They had a decent search engine, that didn't flood the users with ADs, javascripts and other stuff. It was just a clean search engine.

And for that, I praise and always will praise Google.
People complain about google's search engine and sponsored links. I have friends that constantly bitch about google's search results always being of some site that sells stuff, of some site that only has whatever you type as a result so you click their site.

While i do agree that this happens, it's not as bad as some people believe. Most of the time, i get my search results on the first page (ok, sometimes not the first hit, but it's always in the first page). All i have to say about people bitching about the exploitability of google's search engine is "learn to create search strings".

About the other subjects:


Requested that site owners using Analytics share their site statistics publicly for research and comparison. This happened with me, in regards to TankSpot.Is that a forced option, or you can chose not to do it?
Because, technically, that information (afaik), will list who (which ip/country) accesses your site at which time. How many times was accessed and which file was accessed, etc etc etc.

If it's a forced thing (like, you HAVE to make this information public), i can see a problem. If it's an option, what's the point? Google can make up statistics of what's the biggest percentage of countries that access their tracked websites. It's useless information? Yeah... what could do they do with such information that's so outrageous to be asked to make public?


Attempted to get access to a wide variety of medical records, a service that was neither helpful nor necessary given that hospitals have been developing their own patient networks.Yeah, i never understood that one either... so nothing to add.. :D


Attempted to launch a serious competitor to Paypal, which would have given them access to a large variety of financial records and bank accounts.Yes... so?
That actually would give them more income, thanks to taxes charged on transactions. Paypal has access to the same information Google would have. Bank accounts (if you're in America and attached your bank account to your payupal account), your CC information. Why paypal is not a problem, but google is?


Went one step beyond simple satellite imaging and main-street business pictures to unnecessary invasions of privacy -- in England, did Google really need street-level pictures of suburban homes without any effort to remove identifiable faces?Indeed. But, if a dude is drunk sleeping outside of his house, how much of a privacy is that?
Why isn't he sueing all his neighbours aswell? Last time i checked, the streets are public. Google is not going inside our houses, taking pictures from outside of our windows, or going into private condos.


Has still not resolved a dispute with the European Union regarding the reasoning for keeping track of user searches for two years.Statistics? To find out that you searched for "tranny sex" would require google to keep track of all your searches (which it does), keep track of your ip and time of your search, then contact your ip to figure out who was using that ip at that specific time.

And then call your house to say "you're looking for tranny pron lol". If the ISP gives him that information.

Gmail is another thing. Everybody freaked out when gmail was offered. People were saying "but then google will have access to all my personal information on my email". Well, hotmail is from microsoft, yahoo mail is from yahoo, your isp mail is stored in ISP servers... so.. what's the difference?

I do understand that, if you put all that information together, you could have something on some people. That's why I believe every google conspiration theory is possible. All the information is there.
I just think people are overreacting.

I do believe that information is power (and that's why i'm overexplicative on everything i say/type). But if you think that google centralizing all that information is a problem, don't use GMail, don't use Google.

I sure as hell am not using Chrome (which, btw, copies all your passwords from your Firefox "saved passwords" thing, but asks just "do you want to import your browser's settings?"). But Firefox also has my passwords stored, and they could upload that information to their servers at any time without any of us knowing.

Ciderhelm
09-07-2008, 05:17 PM
Is that a forced option, or you can chose not to do it?
Because, technically, that information (afaik), will list who (which ip/country) accesses your site at which time. How many times was accessed and which file was accessed, etc etc etc.
To be honest, none of us know. Do a search on Analytics. The Privacy Policy is so broad that, without opting in to the specific program, Google could be sharing information on every single visitor, including where they came from and where they went to, to advertisers on this site. For us that's not a concern because we don't use Google AdSense.


That actually would give them more income, thanks to taxes charged on transactions. Paypal has access to the same information Google would have. Bank accounts (if you're in America and attached your bank account to your payupal account), your CC information. Why paypal is not a problem, but google is?
Same reason some people took issue with Microsoft in the past.

Google controls a large percentage of what people and where people go when they're looking for a service. The only thing they don't control is how people pay. It becomes a full internet monopoly at the point they do that, rather than just an advertising one.



Indeed. But, if a dude is drunk sleeping outside of his house, how much of a privacy is that?
Why isn't he sueing all his neighbours aswell? Last time i checked, the streets are public. Google is not going inside our houses, taking pictures from outside of our windows, or going into private condos.
England has different privacy rights than the United States (or, presumably, Brazil). There is a strong legal argument against Google that is going forward. Nevermind the drunk guy sleeping outside; The notorious issue in England right now is that criminals are using it to profile homes which are likely occupied by a single female, making them prime targets for crime.

The double standard here is what bothers me. Google doesn't satellite map huge portions of countries such as China, yet they're borderline breaking basic privacy laws in countries like England. Is it really worth making a political stand if you're only willing to do it in countries where you know you won't be censored?

Bonerot
09-07-2008, 05:32 PM
Google is innocent until proven guilty in my mind. The company has a great deal to lose by violating our privacy. When they release our private information to the world the backlash may well ruin the company. Google can not afford to be evil because you can just leave. There is no single product they make that can not be replaced with another on short notice.

Microsoft however, has actually been sleazy and will do anything it can get away with. When it gets caught it then tries to bully it's way out. Microsoft is Evil, no doubt about it. The worst part is that you really don't have much of a choice. Apple is also evil.

Apple is actually fairly evil too, just not as evil as Microsoft. They are just as happy to lock you in to whatever products they make and leach the money from your wallet as fast as they can. You have no choices here, if you like Mac products you are locked into their vertical market.

Satrina
09-07-2008, 05:39 PM
Canada's Privacy Commissioner has already given official notice to Google, informing them them that they must either remove Canadian citizens from street view images, or comply with our PIPEDA law and get express permission from the person before making the image available in a public forum.

There are all kinds of fun conspiracy theories out there with Google and the NSA.

I do network/Internet security and privacy for a living. It gives you an interesting perspective on privacy, that's for sure.

orcstar
09-07-2008, 05:43 PM
(paranoid)
Google Data centers all over the world.
Obtaining massive amounts of "dark fiber".

Google also wants to control the lines you use for internet......
(/paranoid)
But I still use gmail, google search, video etc.......

Rain
09-07-2008, 05:47 PM
To be honest, none of us know. Do a search on Analytics. The Privacy Policy is so broad that, without opting in to the specific program, Google could be sharing information on every single visitor, including where they came from and where they went to, to advertisers on this site. For us that's not a concern because we don't use Google AdSense.

That information would actually be benefical to you, since it would show you more specific ads of stuff you would be inclined to click. It's the equivalent of sitting on a public place listening to people talking about insurance problems and try to sell insurance to them. The good thing is much easier to ignore ads on the intertubes than ignore a real person talking to you. (it was a lousy comparision, but i guess you get the point).

They're just using information you provided in the first place (did you go to about:blank and pasted the link, instead of clicking on a link in a page, which makes the HTTP header created by your browser have a Referrer URL attached to it?) to tailor the ADs better to the viewer, which created a better chance of the viewer clicking on that link, which creates a pagehit for the advertiser, a click for the person that displays the ads on their page, and a possible sale for whoever is advertising. Nobody forces you to click the ads, nobody forces you to buy something on the advertised page, nobody forces you to use GooglePay to do it.


Same reason some people took issue with Microsoft in the past.

Google controls a large percentage of what people and where people go when they're looking for a service. The only thing they don't control is how people pay. It becomes a full internet monopoly at the point they do that, rather than just an advertising one.That's only true when GooglePay (or whatever is their service name now) is the ONLY option to pay for something. Ebay actually owns paypal, and Ebay (as a company) has twice the profit when something is sold on ebay. They get money from the advertisement (you have to pay a percentage of the price of the valuable you sold to ebay, thus why shipping rates are exorbitant), but they also get 2 or 5% (I don't remember anymore) when you exchange money in paypal. Paypal is not the only option for payments, but i'm pretty sure it's the one people find most attractive.

Internet monopoly is something I find interesting. Microsoft can't distribute Internet Explorer with Windows, because they encourage people to use their product instead of the competitors (except you can simply go to getfirefox.com and download firefox instead).

I believe this is only a problem (googlepay, internet explorer, ebay+paypal) when no other option is provided (for instance, if Microsoft didn't allow firefox.exe to be run). People should be up in arms when something like that happens.


The notorious issue in England right now is that criminals are using it to profile homes which are likely occupied by a single female, making them prime targets for crime.Weirdos go to kids playgrounds to look out for kids which parents are not paying attention to kidnap them. Ban playgrounds!

I don't know. People could stay outside your house and notice you're a single female the same way they could on the internet. Everything can be used for evil intentions. The phonebook can be used to find out your phone number and get marketing directly to you. (Snail)Mail Spam (like catalogs) are also annoying and somewhat intrusive.
I do understand that all my examples you can opt yourself out. And i agree that's a problem with google street maping (for instance). You can't just call them and ask them to remove your house from the imagery map.

Their face blurring technique, while not perfect, works. It was something that was only required after people "bitched" about their faces on teh interwebs.


The double standard here is what bothers me. Google doesn't satellite map huge portions of countries such as China, yet they're borderline breaking basic privacy laws in countries like England. Is it really worth making a political stand if you're only willing to do it in countries where you know you won't be censored?I partially don't understand your affirmation. Why is it a politcal stand? They're just mapping streets. If you take into consideration cars with GPS hardware, that helps a lot if you're lost. You can even watch out for points of reference.

I do understand why they wouldn't do it in china - because they'd probably cut their hands of for some reason.
I don't think they sat down and said "well... we can do it in america, they won't care... In europe.. we can try it out, maybe they wont bother us.. In china, well, we don't have to discuss china, do we?"
I don't think privacy issues even came up when taking pictures of streets in bright daylight was the subject.

Kazeyonoma
09-08-2008, 09:53 AM
I'm gonna sit this one out O_o, I didn't even know about half of these things, but the Google Monopoly is quite scary, but that's not to say, if there was any company to create a monopoly, I'd have to trust Google with it. But things do sound fishy lately.

Lore
09-08-2008, 09:57 AM
I, for one, welcome our new Googlish overlords.

Kazeyonoma
09-08-2008, 10:01 AM
I, for one, welcome our new Googlish overlords.

/salute
/grovel
/salute

veneretio
09-08-2008, 10:07 AM
Absolute Power corrupts Absolutely.

That being, I'll still be using their search, email and stats. They're just too useful.

Lore
09-08-2008, 10:14 AM
Personally, I don't really care if my quasi-anonymous search records are stored at Google HQ, or if someone can see me waiting for the bus at 34th and Main, or if Google wants to see where I buy my beer. It doesn't affect me in the slightest, and in exchange, I get to use all of Google's excellent free services like Gmail and Chrome.

mero12513
09-08-2008, 11:03 AM
I completely agree that the amount of information Google stores is very frightening.

However (and I am certain that this is a minority view), a problem should only arise when security is compromised, which is different that privacy. Here's the difference: Private information is information about you that identifies who you are, or more importantly to Google, what you are thinking and what you want. Secure information is information that can be used to compromise your assets in some way, either by stealing your money, identity, possessions, etc.

I really don't care that Google probably knows my name, my address, my school history, and what my favorite movie is. What I really care about is this: are my credit card numbers, bank account info, social security number, etc. kept away from any human's eyes? The answer for Google is yes. Although they keep an absurd amount of information about you, the security of your sensitive information, even if they have it (via Google Checkout) is kept as secretly as any service on the internet, as far as I can tell.

The only addendum I can think of currently is children. Especially for young teen (forgive my slight sexism) girls, who (in my experience) have a tendency to be too trusting and often give personal information without much regard for safety. This is where privacy may really be an issue, and might need to be addressed by Google with some new and creative parental control technology. I am a male college student who spends most of his free time on World of Warcraft or tankspot. Nobody cares where I live. However, if I had a teenage daughter, you could bet your ass I'd quickly kill anyone who let her information out to the god-forsaken and vile "anonymous".

Satrina
09-08-2008, 11:50 AM
- There's a far better chance that some chucklehead at your bank will lose his laptop with your financial data, than of an Internet-era entity like Google having a confidentiality breach. The top 3 places your personal information will be leaked from: banks, governments, and universities/colleges

- Identity theft will happen from your garbage, or when you give your Visa to the waiter for dinner, or any number of times you give your personal information away without thinking about it. Ever given your driver's licence to a bartender to get the balls for the pool table? Yeah. It's way too much effort for anyone but a professional ID theft outfit to try and get at your data online, especially when most people will gladly give it over for free.

- 60-80% of attacks that do end up in a confidentiality breach are launched by an insider; perhaps 40% of those are malicious. The accidents can be pretty spiffy, too - like the Washington DC Metro Authority publishing employee SSNs on the web. OMG HACKERS STOLE MY IDENTITY is, for the most part, movie-stuff. More likely, a disgruntled employee will copy the data of a few hundred or thousand people and sell it.

- Penetration testing and vulnerability analysis of an Internet-facing presence is a service industry that everyone does to "prove they are secure", because John Q. Public thinks that attack surface is the biggest one, where in reality it is one of the smallest. It's most often easier to just defeat physical security and go steal a computer, hard drive, or CD/DVD.

- Government departments perform Threat and Risk Assessments (TRA) on their internal systems because it's mandated by law in the US and Canada. In my experience, 70% of them will implement 10-15% of the recommended safeguards, and sign off as "accepting the risk" on the rest. The other 30% will implement 60-80% of the recommended safeguards, and sign off on the rest. Even defence departments do this.

- Private corporations are not mandated by anything besides the lone voice of their security architect (if they have one) crying in the wilderness. Including your bank. Some may follow established TRA guidelines in internal reviews, but there's even less incentive to spend the money to safeguard systems here than in government. It's often cheaper to just settle with anyone who happens to suffer a loss than to pour money into safeguards.

The great majority of people who talk about data security and privacy are inevitably worried about the wrong things, because they don't know what they should be worried about.

Google has a comprehensive security architecture and a pretty big security team, far more than just about any other corporation I've ever come across. Does that mean they are impervious? The only truly secure computer is encased in concrete and not connected to any network. The whole business is predicated on reducing the number of vulnerabilities you present, removing as much opportunity for people to try and exploit what's left, and making the opportunity cost of trying high enough to discourage the majority from trying. Google's one of the highest profile targets you will find, and you can bet that they get swept, scanned, poked, and prodded 24/7. The fact that they have not had a major incident in the past 10 years speaks volumes to the effectiveness of their risk management programs, internal and external.

Does that mean they won't do bad things with your data? If you use search, they have only semi-anonymous data. If you use GMail, they have a bit more. If you use GPayPal, they have your bank account/Visa number. And so on. It comes back to you making a judgement call on how much you trust their policies, procedures... and morals.

Edit: As for medical records... yeah. "Hospitals designing their own networks" means that you'll see at the very least incompatibilities between countries, let alone the fight over whose standard to use within the US (same scenario where the DMV in one state can't get any data from the DMV in your home state, because everyone uses a different system). Yes, there are potential issues if employers or insurance companies get access to medical records (though qualifying medical exams aren't so uncommon now anyway). I'd prefer that the hospital in San Diego to be able to get my records from home base in Canada, when I'm unconscious and bleeding from whatever. Standards bodies define the underlying information transport, IT companies embody it and deploy (sell) to medical facilities, and governments define the laws that protect its useage. Does Google have to do this? No, certainly not. They do have one of the best underlying infrastructures in place to support it, though. (In Canada, such a thing might actually be underwritten and operated by Health Canada, actually)

Anyway, enough real life intruding on my gaming :D

Kazeyonoma
09-08-2008, 01:50 PM
Satrina you scare me.

mero12513
09-08-2008, 01:57 PM
-edit- Thoughtless comments retracted. Sincere Apologies. See possibly meaningful post below.

veneretio
09-08-2008, 02:00 PM
Please keep religion and government-related politics completely out of this.

Satrina
09-08-2008, 03:18 PM
Satrina you scare me.
Good. People need to be a bit paranoid. They need to be paranoid about the right things, though.

Mero: Canada "real world" cracks were almost funny the first hundred times we heard them. Almost. Stay on topic, please. (PM me if you really want our electoral process explained, or make a new thread)

mero12513
09-08-2008, 04:09 PM
Back to the subject of a dangerous monopoly:

Google certainly seems to dominate many of the small sectors into which it thrusts itself. It should probably *not* be considered a monopoly. It's market share in all its products is substantial, but every one of them has major competitors. In fact, the only market share that I could find that Google actually is the majority share is internet search itself.

Google has an approximately 70% share in the market for internet search (source (http://blog.compete.com/2008/02/08/search-market-share-january-yahoo-microsoft-google-ask-aol-msn-live/)). It's other services, however, (gmail (http://www.webanalyticsworld.net/2007/11/gmail-vs-hotmail-vs-yahoo-mail.html), maps (http://blogs.zdnet.com/Google/?p=878), docs, etc) are quite low. Google dominance appears to be in younger and more tech-savy crowds. While this should, in the future, lead to tremendous growth, it's not the kind of closed-door path that other companies have taken in the path to gain dominance in current markets).

The difference in approach is also of note. Monopolies are cut, in the US at least, not because of huge market share, but because of the exclusive business practices used to acquire that marketshare. Sadly, the best monopolistic example I can think of is the painfully obvious one, and I apologize for being so predictable. However, the original Microsoft split was based on an argument something like this: "In order to get Microsoft Internet Explorer, you must also have Microsoft Windows. The same is true of MS Office. MS refuses to decouple the links between the products, forcing consumers to purchase multiple products, some that they do not want or need." Apple employs a very similar strategy today with iTunes, the iPhone, the inexorable link between their hardware and software, etc. It's a philosophy I personally disagree with but it has saved them from bankrupcy, so it's hard to argue against. Someone who knows more about this than myself may want to consider the past case of monopoly brought against AT&T, as it may have some relevance here. None of Google's products, however, are mutually dependant, meaning that you can pick and choose which ones you want or don't want to use, and the ones you do use will work well in conjunction with whatever alternative you use. You can search Windows Live search for gmail, send Gmail in internet explorer, and find Mapquest as a sponsered link searching for "maps" in Google (albeit the #2 result).

The third point here is often the first anyone spews, but hastily and without enough thought, so I'll try to elaborate a bit.

The true danger of monolopies is the fact that there exists no viable competition in a given marketspace, which allows the controlling entity to cut quality and raise price without regard for the rights of consumers. I would submit that this is all too true of Microsoft even today. The difference with Google is that even IF their marketshare were dominant (which overall it isn't), there are still absolutely viable alternatives. The list is, of course, extensive. Yahoo and Windows Live for search, hotmail and yahoo for mail, and the list goes on. Although this relates somewhate to the point about Google's products not being co-dependant, the fact that there are serious alternatives in every area really is a legitamite reason to not fear Google. Yet, anyway.

Bloodwraith
09-23-2008, 03:57 PM
Hands-on impressions: T-Mobile's G1, the first Google phone : Ben Patterson : Yahoo! Tech (http://tech.yahoo.com/blogs/patterson/27298)

Google's first phone.

Lasie
10-07-2008, 04:17 AM
Google still has a long way to go before it reaches Microsoft-level corruption.

You can opt out of lot of the services while still receiving others, and none of the programs are bundled into/read stuff off the OS.

Also, if you're concerned about Analytics watching your browsing habits, NoScript is FTW. Best damn plug-in on the internet.

Ciderhelm
10-07-2008, 08:48 AM
Google still has a long way to go before it reaches Microsoft-level corruption.

You can opt out of lot of the services while still receiving others, and none of the programs are bundled into/read stuff off the OS.

Also, if you're concerned about Analytics watching your browsing habits, NoScript is FTW. Best damn plug-in on the internet.
The word "corruption" in the sense you're using it is entirely a matter of perception. Microsoft has not been accused of using bribery, scandal, embezzlement, or tax evasion. Being a monopoly and making aggressive but backwards-thinking decisions isn't corrupt.

Same deal with Google. I wouldn't call them corrupt, or anywhere near it. I'd say they were misguided and were headed down an equally unintuitive road now that they have an advertising monopoly.