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Google Defends Privacy Policies

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the data-liberation-front dept.

Google 114

adeelarshad82 writes "Google responded to a letter from 10 international privacy commissioners who criticized the company's approach to privacy, insisting that Google protects its customers and has moved quickly to make changes regarding Google Buzz. In a letter to the commissioners, global privacy counsels for Google stated, 'We are committed to being transparent with our users about the information that we collect when they use our products and services, why we collect it, and how we use it to improve their experience.' The April inquiry from the officials included privacy commissioners from Canada, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, and the UK."

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It's a little late to do a Film at 11 joke so... (3, Funny)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 4 years ago | (#32165270)

Online service backtracks after privacy overshare. We'll monitor this story overnight and have a full report to you on the Really Early Local News. We start before normal people wake up.

In Soviet Russia, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32165348)

policies defends Google.

Google is PURE Evil (1)

Philip K Dickhead (906971) | more than 4 years ago | (#32169368)

Get over it.

"Don't Be Evil" - great cover, guys. Tell it to your foot soldiers, and make it a rallying mantra. Choosing this motto is what I'd call a tell. It betrays the underlying preoccupation.

Brin is a self-declared "trans-humanist". That's someone who has deep sympathies with population reduction, eugenics and other neo-Malthusian 'visions' for the evolutionary good of humankind. I hate to think of the twisted values that transpose their "good" and "evil" assignments for someone with those aspirations.

Transparent is no lie (2, Insightful)

syousef (465911) | more than 4 years ago | (#32165284)

Transparent, as in not visible. Or at least buried deep in license agreements no one reads.

Re:Transparent is no lie (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32165398)

I prefer to think of it as invisable.

Re:Transparent is no lie (2, Interesting)

Jurily (900488) | more than 4 years ago | (#32165758)

Transparent, as in not visible. Or at least buried deep in license agreements no one reads.

Those who care, will read it. And they'll make a big fuss about it, to which hopefully Google will respond some day...

Google needs your data, just like how you need Google. Search is their core business, after all. What we need to make sure is that those TOS and agreements are not just some legal stuff to make the whiners go away, and it's in their enlightened self-interest to make sure we can verify it. Google is not Microsoft: it won't cost you days of work and months of learning to move away from their products if they piss you off, and they know it.

That said, always keep in mind that for a company like Google, you are not the customer. You are the product.

Re:Transparent is no lie (1)

pchan- (118053) | more than 4 years ago | (#32166630)

Google needs your data, just like how you need Google. Search is their core business, after all. What we need to make sure is that those TOS and agreements are not just some legal stuff to make the whiners go away, and it's in their enlightened self-interest to make sure we can verify it. Google is not Microsoft: it won't cost you days of work and months of learning to move away from their products if they piss you off, and they know it.

You are mistaken, advertising is their core business. Search, email, maps, mobile operating systems, these are just hooks to lure in the product (users) to sell to the advertisers. Protecting your privacy is contrary to their entire business model, which is to sell targeted advertising based on collected data. They will change some wording around to placate loud complaints, but at their core they will continuously encroach into your personal information as best as they can.

service vs business (2, Insightful)

jDeepbeep (913892) | more than 4 years ago | (#32168748)

You are mistaken, advertising is their core business.

I consider search to be their main service, but advertising to be their main business.

Re:Transparent is no lie (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32166690)

That said, always keep in mind that for a company like Google, you are not the customer. You are the product.

I happen to work at Google, on ads, and I can relay that I have never met an employee there who referred to users as "products". We call the groups of people "users" and "advertisers", while products are things like Search, GMail, AdWords, etc.

Of course, if you think you are a "product" even if the people who work at Google don't see you that way, then you are also the product of just about any media you consume (even if you pay for it) or website you visit (even slashdot). I tend not to be so cynical and feel that intentions do matter, but I accept that others may not feel that way.

Re:Transparent is no lie (1)

Daengbo (523424) | more than 4 years ago | (#32168448)

Google gets a lot of shit from Slashdot (which it should sometimes -- Google is large enough that it needs to be watched carefully), but I want to reach out and say "thank you." I read the ToS for my services and the EULAs for my software, and Google's are generally as fair as I see anywhere. No, they're not perfect, but when graded on a scale with other companies in its class, Google gets an easy "A."

Just wanted to let a Googler know that.

Re:Transparent is no lie (1)

RabbitWho (1805112) | more than 4 years ago | (#32170206)

You don't read licence agreements? o.O

Facebook? Bueller? (5, Interesting)

rueger (210566) | more than 4 years ago | (#32165318)

Given the horrid behavior of Facebook over the last month I'm feeling a lot better about Google. Maybe they're equally sleazy, but at least they don't whack you over the head with their sleaze.

If anything it's Facebook's "We honestly don't give a shit what you think 'cause millions of others won't care what we do as long as they've got Farmville" attitude that annoys me more than the privacy issues.

Re:Facebook? Bueller? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32165358)

This was going to be my point exactly. Google is nothing in comparison to the privacy travesty that is Facebook. Buzz is looking better and better to me, but noone uses it. Ah well...

Re:Facebook? Bueller? (2, Insightful)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 4 years ago | (#32166788)

Wave is looking better and better to me, but noone uses it. Ah well...

FTFY.

Remember, we should be going towards federated networks, not centralized!

Re:Facebook? Bueller? (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 4 years ago | (#32171996)

They shot themselves in the foot with their earlier blunder, and until they backtrack and undo all the collateral damage of automatic follows I'm keeping it disabled.

Re:Facebook? Bueller? (4, Interesting)

Nemyst (1383049) | more than 4 years ago | (#32165522)

Right now I'd say I'm more worried about what the government or my ISP will do with my private information than I am by what Google will do with it.

Re:Facebook? Bueller? (4, Informative)

adolf (21054) | more than 4 years ago | (#32165644)

Right now I'd say I'm more worried about what the government or my ISP will do with my private information than I am by what Google will do with it.

Remember, kids: Any information that Google has about you is only a subpoena or warrant away from being in the hands of a third party. So don't forget to toss your cookies, wash your cache, and renew your IP.

Re:Facebook? Bueller? (3, Interesting)

TheLink (130905) | more than 4 years ago | (#32166564)

That's why it's funny because if Google really did anything about protecting privacy the various Governments wouldn't like it.

Imagine if the warrants come in and Google said: "Sorry can't help, we've taken 100% effective measures to protect user privacy".

Re:Facebook? Bueller? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32170678)

And use ThreadThat.com for any communications you want to remain private, secure, encrypted and under your control.

Re:Facebook? Bueller? (3, Insightful)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 4 years ago | (#32165724)

There are bigger things to worry about than Facebook.

    Privacy threats on the Internet, in order of risk (IMHO) are:

    1) The computer user. Why are you using the same password for everything including your bank, and why is it "FluffyBottoms123"? I love your new MSIE toolbar though.

    2) Malware on the PC.

    3) Admins sniffing in/out LAN traffic (mostly office environments). Don't be surprised when you get fired for downloading porn, they are watching.

    4) ISP Admins sniffing in/out WAN traffic (by design or by malicious admin with too much access).

    5) Webmail hosting providers (Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo! mail, etc). Your primary email is key to everything you do online, and just because you deleted that message doesn't mean it really went away.

    6) Overzealous social networking providers (such as Facebook). OMG! Like they know who your BFF is since middle school, and that your mood is "happy like a little butterfly". {barf}

    7) The government. The signal to noise ratio is so high even with the "secret" fat pipes going into government closets, they may never notice you.

    8) The admin of that one porn site you frequently regularly to look for freaky porn. (keyword searches and access logs are an interesting place to search). Stop searching for "underage midget bestiality" already, and have another look at #3.

    On #3, as soon as I learned that one place was doing content filtering, with the ability to log, I set up a PPP over SSH tunnel on an obscure port, and put my default route over it. Suddenly I don't surf the net at all, but there is a lot of encrypted traffic on port 31337. I blame streaming radio. :) I have nothing to hide, but I may not want to advertise everything I do. Almost anything can be construed as inappropriate. It all depends on how it's presented. Don't believe me? Sit in on a few open court sessions sometime. "Bob was helping the little boy across the street" is what the defense says. The prosecution says "Bob caressed his hand, as he walked the boy towards what police described as a place where the defendant obviously took young children, softened them up with candy, and had his way with them". (btw, the "candy" could be a single empty snickers wrapper from that last road trip Bob took).

Re:Facebook? Bueller? (1)

the_womble (580291) | more than 4 years ago | (#32165996)

I think you have the right threats, but in tht wrong order.

Governments are a huge threat because they can get everything, and they have the resources to correlate the different databases (phone calls, web browsing, tax records, whatever) against each other.

Threats on the LAN do not bother me: if its private do it at home or buy a private netbook and a mobile connection.

1) and (largely) 2) are within my control, as are 5) and 6) (to an extent).

Re:Facebook? Bueller? (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 4 years ago | (#32166216)

    The government threat is highly over rated. It takes raising a pretty big red flag for them to start gathering information. You have to consider, if you're only looking at people in the US (citizens, visitors, and immigrants pending citizenship), that's an awful large pool to be seen in. If you or I got their attention, we'd have to be doing something way more significant than millions of others.

    I already know I have files with at least a few government agencies. At one of them, it should be fairly thick (probably 100 pages) by now. I've been considering doing a FIOA request on myself just to see what it says. Mostly it's fingerprints, background requests, etc, etc. Very amazingly mundane stuff.

    In dealing with the gov't a bit, I'm confident that their systems aren't tied together as well as people think. A random FBI agent isn't going to just click a button and pull your DMV record, tax history, phone call history, cell phone location (GPS or closest tower), credit card usages, etc. While it would make their lives a lot easier, there's stacks of paperwork involved, and people to request the info from. Not that it can't happen, but boring people like you and I will never justify the expense in man hours.

    I actually wouldn't mind the gov't finding me. I told them I want to work with them. They couldn't confirm my history (because I float around a lot), so if they do find me, it will be because they realize that they really do want me. :)

    The rest of the list is your normal user. Myself, I'm mostly under the radar on all points. My cell phone points towards an old maildrop. My cell phone is frequently off, and sometimes left behind somewhere but turned on, and I pick up a new prepaid one with bogus information. You gotta love throw-away phones. My home address ... well ... doesn't exist. I'm living on the goodness of others (do you have a spare room? Can I borrow it for a couple weeks?). My "important" mail gets delivered to any of a half dozen different places, with people I trust to open it and read it to me, or email me the details. I'm planning on becoming even more mobile, with even more remote places to be. As it is now, if friends find me, they usually ask "What state (or country) are you in?", since friends frequently don't know precisely where I am. Can I come over for a beer, or am I a couple thousand miles away, headed the wrong way. Even information on social networking sites contains bogus information. You can't even place my DOB, since there are 3 common ones that I use, and none are accurate. :) Some people have thought they've found my real name, which is just that much funnier, since they'll come up with yet another alias that I've put out there. My real name comes up with so many hits it isn't even funny. I didn't realize how many of "me" there are. :) In searching, it never comes up with the real me. Sometimes I swap cars with friends, just for the sake of doing it. I haven't driven my car in months, but someone else has been. They have a signed letter of authorization for use of my vehicle, in case things get touchy.

    I'm not paranoid. I'm just entertained with blending into the chaos. :)

    I think next week I'll be in Manhattan. Maybe physically. Maybe just according to all my information.

Re:Facebook? Bueller? (1)

gotpoetry (1185519) | more than 4 years ago | (#32167992)

So you are either a homeless person with a borderline paranoid personality disorder OR a modern day hipster Jason Bourne without combat training.

Imagine if you put all of that effort into a humanitarian job.

Re:Facebook? Bueller? (2, Funny)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 4 years ago | (#32170390)

Are you sure I haven't had combat training?

Re:Facebook? Bueller? (1)

gotpoetry (1185519) | more than 4 years ago | (#32171760)

Yes, I am absolutely certain you do not have comba______

*Sound of a gun with a silencer firing*

*Sound a slashdot poster falling to the floor*

Re:Facebook? Bueller? (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 4 years ago | (#32172286)

    Damn, this identity is burnt.

    [lights passport on fire]

    Oh look, he has a nice watch. Hmm, he does look a lot like me.

    [tappity][tappity]

    And he has $18,000 in the bank.

    [digs around in the desk]

    And a passport valid through 2014.

    [tappity][tappity]

    Oh and look he just booked a ticket to Munich.

    [tappity][tappity]

    "Dear boss, I need to take some personal time off for a family emergency. I'll be out of communication for a few weeks. Sorry about the short notice."

    [drags body to basement and throws it into the chest freezer]

    This will just have to do for a while.

Re:Facebook? Bueller? (2, Interesting)

vandan (151516) | more than 4 years ago | (#32165802)

Precisely. Let's remember that it was Google who told the US government to take them to court before they'd hand over search query data. I'm not saying Google is perfect. But as the post above notes, Google collect data for the sole purpose of providing targeting data to their customers - advertisers. Worst-case scenario is that some advertisers have slightly more information on your browsing habits. This is far from the end of the world.

But you are spot on when you worry about the government getting their hands on this information. I can see problems for people discussing:
  - euthanasia
  - recreational drugs, including medical use, drug law reform, harm minimisation programs, etc
  - political activism
  - criticism of government
  - criticism of big business
  - workers' rights ... which are all quite valid topics, which ever side of the so-called 'great divide' you come down on.

Re:Facebook? Bueller? (2, Interesting)

the_womble (580291) | more than 4 years ago | (#32166004)

Governments are blocking that kind of discussion. The web sites banned in Australia include a euthanasia site and a pro-life site.

Re:Facebook? Bueller? (1)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 4 years ago | (#32166138)

- criticism of big business

Which is the most disturbing, for obvious reasons.

The reality is that corporations own America's legislature. Given Google's relative lack of evil compared to other corporations and corporate ownership of congress, wouldn't you rather see Google throw their money and resources at a congressmen in favor of net neutrality and other stuff we like? Lesser of two evils and all.

The silver lining of the American government's corporate ownership is that at least one will be on our side. Thankfully, it's a damn big one.

Re:Facebook? Bueller? (2, Informative)

Kpau (621891) | more than 4 years ago | (#32165986)

Why are you automatically at ease with a corporation versus a government? Neither one has *your* best interests in mind when dealing with you.

High Bar (4, Insightful)

MushMouth (5650) | more than 4 years ago | (#32165562)

Better than shitty can still be shitty

Re:High Bar (1)

siloko (1133863) | more than 4 years ago | (#32166002)

Er no. Better than shitty is by definition 'Not shitty'. If it were shitty it would be 'shitty', plain and simple. Better than shitty may simply be 'better than shitty', or it may be something more prosaic, like 'acceptable', however what it definitely isn't is just 'shitty'. Less than one is be definition not one.

Re:High Bar (2, Insightful)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#32166248)

Better than shitty is by definition 'Not shitty'. If it were shitty it would be 'shitty', plain and simple. Better than shitty may simply be 'better than shitty', or it may be something more prosaic, like 'acceptable', however what it definitely isn't is just 'shitty'. Less than one is be definition not one.

Shitty isn't a measurement[1], it's an adjective. Are all fat people equally fat?

[1] If it is, what units is it in?

Re:High Bar (1)

siloko (1133863) | more than 4 years ago | (#32166304)

You mean taking words to be logically distinct categories can be erroneous? Actually that explains quite a lot . . .

But to push the 'joke' further: No, not all people are equally fat - but 'more than fat' is by definition not 'fat'. It might be obese, or humongous, but it is not 'fat'. Obviously what constitutes fat is subjective but the point remains . . .

Re:Facebook? Bueller? (1)

HockeyPuck (141947) | more than 4 years ago | (#32165656)

Given the horrid behavior of Facebook over the last month I'm feeling a lot better about Google. Maybe they're equally sleazy, but at least they don't whack you over the head with their sleaze.

That's because Google hasn't been caught. Oops. [google.com]

Re:Facebook? Bueller? (1)

JackieBrown (987087) | more than 4 years ago | (#32165746)

did you read the reply?

1 and 3. Clicking "turn off buzz" hides the Buzz label, but doesn't delete the content you've posted, including comments. You'll need to delete those directly if you want to erase your footprint entirely. Check out the article linked below for more.

2. Actually, this isn't true. When you @reply someone, you can see their address because they were previously in your contacts. However, this address isn't exposed to others viewing the post.

4. Interesting. I have some theories on why that might be happening but will look into it.

5. Yep, that's a known issue, although it doesn't have any effect.

I tried it and cannot seen any emails on comments when I log out (I actually cannot see the comments either.)

http://www.google.com/profiles/101337690637283539403#buzz [google.com]

And I tried the account the next reply had but do not see any email addresses, just likes to their buzz profile when they are public

http://www.google.com/profiles/gallant.allison [google.com]

Re:Facebook? Bueller? (1)

dudpixel (1429789) | more than 4 years ago | (#32166250)

caught? you think they put the bugs there intentionally? seems like a strange feature dont you think?

There's a difference between intentionally leaking data and discovering a bug and fixing it immediately. Google did work very quickly to patch the holes that were discovered in Buzz immediately after it first launched.

Facebook suffers from the same thing, but when people complain about facebook's lack of privacy features, they're generally referring to facebook's intentional moves to make their users' private info public. That's a very different concern. I don't believe Google has been "caught" doing that yet...but expect a major upset if they do.

Re:Facebook? Bueller? (1)

UncleTogie (1004853) | more than 4 years ago | (#32166468)

Facebook suffers from the same thing, but when people complain about facebook's lack of privacy features, they're generally referring to facebook's intentional moves to make their users' private info public.

Sorry, but when one of your lead developers admits to infecting your users purposely on video, and you do NOTHING about it, you've lost all credibility. Fook Facebook AND Zynga games.

Facebook? Bueller? Godwined! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32165832)

Yeah, that Mussolini guy was a lot nicer than Adolf

Re:Facebook? Bueller? Godwined! (1)

Daengbo (523424) | more than 4 years ago | (#32168566)

More like that Churchill guy was a lot nicer than Adolf. Sure, Churchill was a dick, but he was in a different class.

This bothers me (3, Insightful)

Andorin (1624303) | more than 4 years ago | (#32165342)

Being a Slashdot reader, I haven't actually read the article, but this line from the summary bugs me:

'We are committed to being transparent with our users about the information that we collect when they use our products and services, why we collect it, and how we use it to improve their experience.'

Google doesn't collect peoples' information for the happy, innocent purpose of improving their experience. They collect peoples' information to make money. Why can't they be honest about that?

It doesn't even make it okay to do both.

Re:This bothers me (3, Insightful)

blackraven14250 (902843) | more than 4 years ago | (#32165388)

In a twisted way, seeing relevant ads is an improvement of the user experience. I don't wanna see ads for online pharmacies selling Viagra, and getting relevant ads is an improvement.

Re:This bothers me (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 4 years ago | (#32165894)

Cynical much? Obviously you don't have a loved one who makes you to sit through the ads cause they like 'em. Not everyone sees online ads as useless or disruptive.

Re:This bothers me (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#32166338)

You should try Italian TV (especially RAI 1). The adverts are the best bit.

Re:This bothers me (2, Insightful)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 4 years ago | (#32165930)

In a twisted way, eating Soylent Green is an improvement over the experience of starving to death. Starving to death sucks, and taking my chances of being scooped up by a truck is better.

There fixed that for you.

My point being that sometimes the price of that improvement just isn't worth it in the long run. AdBlock Plus solves the problem quite nicely without divulging all of your personal information to Google.

Re:This bothers me (1)

dudpixel (1429789) | more than 4 years ago | (#32166280)

um, you could always just not use google. I mean, their whole business revolves around advertising and if you dont like advertising then what do you expect them to do, work for free?

Shame on them for running a successful business. Here's a tip - every business needs advertising. If targeted advertising didn't exist, most of us wouldn't have jobs.

Not saying you have to look at them - that's your choice. But suggesting that google shouldn't advertise to us is just naive and ridiculous.

Re:This bothers me (1)

Errol backfiring (1280012) | more than 4 years ago | (#32166432)

Can you also stop all the sites out there to stop using google ads? I don't use Google, but can still tracked by them.

Re:This bothers me (1)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 4 years ago | (#32172172)

I believe you misunderstood me. What I was saying is that is not worth it to divulge personal information to Google, like emails, documents, etc. and especially not your identity so they can tie search results in with it.

Some search terms in their search engine resulting in targeted advertisement at that level is not as worrisome when you are obfuscating your IP address and identity anyways.

As far as advertisements on Google goes, I could care less. I have AdBlock plus on anyways and don't ever intend to view an advertisement, much less click it. Of course they need to get paid, and advertising is an obvious way to do that. No objections.

Re:This bothers me (1)

blackraven14250 (902843) | more than 4 years ago | (#32166388)

Running relevant ads is the only thing that makes half of the internet profitable. Why do you think Google is such a success, all those amazing products they sell constantly to everybody? How about most of the news sites? /.? I could go on and on with websites supported by ads - none of which would be possible without some data mining.

Re:This bothers me (2, Interesting)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 4 years ago | (#32172300)

.... and none of it is worth losing your privacy or anonymity over it. None of it.

The risks associated with data mining are not as benign as a few corporations forcing relevant ads in front of your face all day. It's a little bit more involved and complex than that. I could go tin-foil-hat on you all day long, but let's just leave it at it's too dangerous to have that much personal information in public. The public loses the best protection it ever had, could had, and will have, its privacy and anonymity.

Re:This bothers me (1)

blackraven14250 (902843) | more than 4 years ago | (#32172344)

So, you'd rather lose half (if not more) of the content on the internet than let companies like Google have the anonymized usage data?

Re:This bothers me (2, Funny)

gmhowell (26755) | more than 4 years ago | (#32166046)

In a twisted way, seeing relevant ads is an improvement of the user experience. I don't wanna see ads for online pharmacies selling Viagra, and getting relevant ads is an improvement.

You're more of a penis pump kinda guy?

Re:This bothers me (4, Insightful)

kappa962 (1583621) | more than 4 years ago | (#32165718)

Google doesn't collect peoples' information for the happy, innocent purpose of improving their experience. They collect peoples' information to make money. Why can't they be honest about that?

I can't disagree with your second sentence, but I see no reason to believe the first. Why would you think that they don't do both, and why isn't it ok to make money simultaneously with improving user's experiences?

Re:This bothers me (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32167258)

Or... *gasp*! Make money BY improving user experience so that their product is BETTER than competitors', driving users to them and therefore making more money?!

Fluffy bunnies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32168746)

Because, corporations should make our lives better for the fluffy bunny happy feelings it gives them.

Doing it for money is just dirty.

Personally, Google scares me with how much information they gather. But since gathering information is their job (both information to attract users with search and user information to sell to advertisers), they have to find some way to make money from it or their services will no longer be available for us to use. I would love if search were as 'free' as it is made out to be, but obviously it can't be as there are costs to providing it.

Re:This bothers me (1)

Psaakyrn (838406) | more than 4 years ago | (#32165856)

-- People are clueless.
-> People do not know what they want or need.
-> Someone needs to give them what they want or need.
-> Enter Google.

Or in short, delivering targeted ads is the method of how they improve people's experience.

Re:This bothers me (2, Insightful)

amRadioHed (463061) | more than 4 years ago | (#32165898)

They are being honest about it. The "why we collect it" part of their quote is the part about them making money, I don't recall them ever pretending not to have more money then god. Improving the users experience is a big part of that however, since they don't make money if the users stop using.

Re:This bothers me (1)

Dhalka226 (559740) | more than 4 years ago | (#32166014)

You're both spinning it in opposite directions, which is easy to do because you're both right.

Google is trying to make money. I don't think they will ever claim otherwise. That said, if the things they do, the things they give away (in exchange for your data), the ways that data gives them an edge in their core functionalities doesn't improve the users' experience, the users are going to slowly bleed off to competitors. And obviously that's bad for the cash flow.

Seeing relevant ads is still far better than seeing irrelevant ones. So is seeing unobtrusive text-based ads instead of Flash ads that are allowed to take 25% of your screen if you accidentally mouse over them. And of course Gmail is not only a fantastic web-based email service, but it literally single-handedly changed the industry. Remember email hosts with 25 megs of storage? Yeahhh... as we speak, Google is offering me 7.4 gigabytes. Of course that's far beyond what I will ever use, but it moved the entire industry with its initial limits.

And, at least to me, Google still returns the best search results. That keeps me coming back to their search engine, using their services, seeing their ads. Making them money -- by keeping me happy.

Spin it whichever way you please.

Re:This bothers me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32166256)

Well, duh. Companies exist to make money for their shareholders. Film at 11. Maybe they assumed that the majority of people using the internet are intelli...nevermind. Microsoft don't say "Hi, come use Bing so we can gather your information and sell it to our advertisers because we want to make more money!" so why would, or should, Google? It's patently obvious to anyone with an IQ north of 90 that the customers of a search engine (as with television) are NOT the users, but the advertisers.

Improving users' experiences has a direct positive effect on Google's ability to make money. More people using Google instead of Bing or Yahoo means more eyes on their customers' adverts. Their ability to target more relevant adverts relies on collecting information about peoples' search patterns. Their ultimate goal may be to make money, but a good user experience must surely be a goal to that end, if not in and of itself. The sentence you highlighted could end "...and how we use it to improve their experience, so they can decide whether they are willing to accept the inconvenience of us collecting the data in return for a better user experience". As long as users are aware of their policies, I have no issue with Google.

An informed user is a user capable of deciding to use or not to use Google, or to circumvent Google's data acquisition methods. Demanding absolute honesty of a corporate entity, is like demanding that the Earth stop spinning, you can do it until you're blue in the face and the only thing that will change is the number of people who think you're a loon.

Re:This bothers me (1)

BikeHelmet (1437881) | more than 4 years ago | (#32166392)

Hey, they have to stay afloat somehow. I'd rather have it be targeted advertising than outright selling my info or spamming me. That makes them better than 95% of the advertising networks on the internet.

Using Google's services improves the end user experience, and Google can only provide those services if they make money.

Re:This bothers me (1)

fastmikeonstilts (1775772) | more than 4 years ago | (#32166568)

I'm also a frequent /. reader so I haven't actually read the piece either. Of course, that's never really a deterrent for a proper geek. I have to just point out - being that rare geek that is also a capitalist pig - that Google "collecting information to improve user experience" is equal to Google "collecting information to make money." Andorin wrote:

Google doesn't collect peoples' information for the happy, innocent purpose of improving their experience. They collect peoples' information to make money. Why can't they be honest about that?

Google is clearly in the business of improving user experience - and they are clearly unable to do this blindly. If they don't collect data - let's say information pertinent to page ranking, as in what the average user ends up clicking after a specific search - then the service that they provide will suffer. I for one have no problem with Google collecting information for the purposes of page ranking, personalised ad displays, UI optimatization, or even just debugging. That is of clear benefit to me; and the second that I think there is an imbalance between Google's goal of improving my searches, my gmail, my web shopping, and their data collection, I will drop them to the floor like a retarded baby. I DO have a problem with current legislation allowing governments all over the friggin place access to the information that Google holds on me. That information is between me and Mr. Google for the purpose of allowing them to serve me better, all the while making money of me. That is the beauty of capitalism.

Why am I not surprised. (2, Funny)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 4 years ago | (#32165396)

[Jane Horvath and Peter Fleischer, global privacy counsels for Google] pledged to ensure "that privacy is designed into our products at every stage of the development cycle"

They're just pledging to do this now?

Still? Or Again? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32165400)

I'm not sure I understand the problem here, there was some design decision which made Google Buzz reveal information that users didn't want revealed and they fixed it quickly. Why are we still bitching about it? Plenty of companies just say "Fuck you" and go about there way.

better solutions? (5, Insightful)

viperblades (576174) | more than 4 years ago | (#32165470)

it's easy to say 'google doesnt value privacy' . however i have yet to see someone make a post in any of these stories about an alternative search engine that
- gives just as good of results as google
- has a history of protecting privacy (google resisted a court order from the government as much as they could. other search engines happily complied)

the deal with search engines is simple. if you want a good working search engine that supports MILLIONS of users you are either going to have to pay or the search provider will need to use advertising. also said search provider is going to need to mine search results to give better results and when the government brings a patriot act court order , any business is going to comply.

do you think bing, yahoo and altavista would tell the US government "we'll take jail over handing you these records"? atleast google's owners tell you if you don't want your searches for something recorded, dont do them online in a non-anonymous way because it recorded. do you see another search provider doing that?

Re:better solutions? (2, Insightful)

Stan92057 (737634) | more than 4 years ago | (#32165684)

I don't have a problem with google serving us with ads based on our search queries,its a fair exchange. But beyond that google or any other search Provider, has no business building up some kinda advertising profile of my wed history. That is far and beyond the service they provided me i believe.They don't need my IP number,they don't need to know what web site i choose or anything else except the search term i use to serve me an ad.

Re:better solutions? (2, Informative)

BikeHelmet (1437881) | more than 4 years ago | (#32166428)

Then...
1) Don't login while searching.
2) Clear your flash cookies.
3) If you logged in while searching, regularly clear your search history from the Google control panel. It will still be retained for several months, but probably won't be actively used to serve you anything. Just passively used for larger scale statistics.

Note: You will still be tracked. For more info, read on: http://www.ghostery.com/ [ghostery.com]

P.S. I respect Google for being so truthful about how things are.

Re:better solutions? (1)

Stan92057 (737634) | more than 4 years ago | (#32170454)

Why should i or anyone else have to jump through hoops not to be spied on. And we don't need to be logged in in-order to be tracked,they just use our IP Address. Also Google has a program to stop them from adding cookies,It doesn't work,every single day my anti virus removes tracking cookies,they happen to be doubleclick cookies,they belong to google.Nuf said! I remember when google first came out, it was a time during everyone was spying, tracking, using horrible flashing banner ads. Google had NO graphic ads on there search page,this is what made google super popular,now there is a graphic ad for the chrome browser and they spy with the best of the competition. And don't forget they were sued for putting payed ads on top of everything else without letting people know they were payed ads and were not the top search results, so google isn't this do no evil company,there just getting there slower then everyone else. PS thanks to the Tip for the ghost plugin,im eager to see what it finds. :)

Relevancy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32169600)

they don't need to know what web site i choose

I would counter that they do. Well they don't really need to know which one you clicked on, but they do need to know which results performed well when served. You think their algorithm is static? I am certain that there is a feedback loop included where they monitor which results are actually clicked on when served (hence why they find it useful to provide some parts of the page in a preview for us), the sites that perform well (wikipedia for instance) get bubbled up to the top and those that perform poorly bubble down to the bottom. Trust me, they need that information to keep their engine optimized, they are using genetic algorithms to do so and the populous is the selection routine.

How do I know this is what they do? It is what I would do in their place.

Re:better solutions? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32165734)

- gives just as good of results as google
- has a history of protecting privacy (google resisted a court order from the government as much as they could. other search engines happily complied)

http://ixquick.com/ [ixquick.com]

I've been using them for years, and it's continually improved. I replaced the default search engine in Firefox with Ixquick HTTPS search. My searches are sent via POST and travel over HTTPS. My IP is *never* recorded.

The results that Ixquick gives me are very good. Occassionally, I'll use something different like Yahoo, but that is very infrequent. They also offer a proxy service, though I haven't used it.

Re:better solutions? (1)

Andorin (1624303) | more than 4 years ago | (#32165780)

+1. I've been using StartPage [startpage.com] for a while, which is run by ixquick. Admittedly, it sometimes doesn't give me what I'm searching for, but it usually does, and they do not record your IP address at all. Very privacy-oriented.

Re:better solutions? (1)

geminidomino (614729) | more than 4 years ago | (#32166504)

Awesome timing, since Scroogle [slashdot.org] died yesterday. =\

Re:better solutions? (3, Interesting)

Malyven (774978) | more than 4 years ago | (#32165922)

Or do you see another search engine providing as much internal Data as google does? I have yet to see another site like http://www.google.com/governmentrequests/ [google.com] Sure it's not super detailed but it's a hell of lot better than anything else out there.

There already exist a better solution. (1)

u64 (1450711) | more than 4 years ago | (#32166422)

"gives just as good of results as google"

That's easy, Google from some years ago. Back then Google didnt
have as many other services that created detailed maps of people's lives.

I like privacy, but i'm willing to trade a minor part of it for an ok web-search.
What i never accept is to give up anything more then that.

Nowadays Google isnt even asking our permission before silently mapping
our existance in great detail.
And Google wants more. Seems they want to know Everything about
Everyone.
I think no one should have that kind of information. For any reason.

Re:better solutions? (2, Informative)

Tromad (1741656) | more than 4 years ago | (#32166668)

http://duckduckgo.com/privacy.html [duckduckgo.com]
They don't keep search logs. I am not connected in any way other than occasionally using it.

Please translate this for me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32165478)

"'We are committed to being transparent with our users about the information that we collect when they use our products and services, why we collect it, and how we use it to improve their experience."

Does transparent mean leaving users clueless? It sure sounds like it to me.

Thinking of just saying "FY, FB" (1)

Raseri (812266) | more than 4 years ago | (#32165490)

especially with their most recent round of egregious bullshit, but does anyone actually use Buzz? I was messing around with it earlier today, and it seems a lot less annoying than Facebook; I just don't think I know ANYONE that uses it. Maybe it's just still too new? It's hard to say, but the way FB does things is getting more ridiculous all the time.

Re:Thinking of just saying "FY, FB" (1)

Daengbo (523424) | more than 4 years ago | (#32168722)

You need to realize when using Buzz that most stuff you post is public. You can change the setting to "private" very easily inside the post (and it remembers the setting for next time), but your public profile is ... public. That makes it a little more like Twitter than like Facebook.

Check your profile page and decide if you're comfortable with that.

Privacy Nuts (1, Troll)

b4upoo (166390) | more than 4 years ago | (#32165564)

The privacy nuts are rather like the abortion nuts. Although there are many views only one side pushes forward. Just as we never see gangs of protesters marching for abortion but only against abortion we see only the privacy freaks protesting the supposed evils of free information. Some people seem to only feel safe if they are living totally obscured from the view of all others.
                    What they never come close to confronting is the fact that both people and organizations who collect data can not be discovered unless everyone has the right to search everyone else's files. How can you know how much data I have collected about you without being free to examine all the files in my home and offices? In other words you really can not have privacy. It is a logically impossible situation.

Re:Privacy Nuts (3, Insightful)

KahabutDieDrake (1515139) | more than 4 years ago | (#32165622)

So then of course the obvious answer, since we can't have privacy, is to flood the world with information about every single person... so long as you have enough money to pay for that information.

That's a MUCH better logical situation. It's still bullshit, but that didn't stop you, so why should it stop me?

Re:Privacy Nuts (4, Interesting)

OrwellianLurker (1739950) | more than 4 years ago | (#32165794)

The privacy nuts are rather like the abortion nuts. Although there are many views only one side pushes forward. Just as we never see gangs of protesters marching for abortion but only against abortion we see only the privacy freaks protesting the supposed evils of free information. Some people seem to only feel safe if they are living totally obscured from the view of all others.

Uh, that's a poor comparison. Most anti-choice (I refuse to label them pro-life, as someone can be pro-life and pro-choice without contradicting themselves) protesters are fighting to outlaw abortion, while "privacy freaks" typically are more concerned with their own privacy (and bitching about the lack thereof). I don't have a Facebook account with any real information, and I try to educate people about privacy, but I'm hardly campaigning to outlaw status updates. I think people should have the right to tell the world when they are taking a shower and what they thought about the Shawshank Redemption. I just think that they should be clearly informed of what is being done with their data and any transfer of the data to a third party should be an opt-in process.

STATUS UPDATES ARE MURDER

Ya know,google shouldn't be patting themselves on (1)

Stan92057 (737634) | more than 4 years ago | (#32165598)

Ya know,google shouldn't be patting themselves on the back about anything they did with Buzz. With all that facebook,myspace has don't before them screwing up privacy and adding features with out notice. Buzz should have never been released,but they took advantage of there user Base for an instant social network that no one had any clue about.No,google privacy policy's and data collection is IMO anti Privacy. We should have no complaints that they serve us with advertising from the search term searched,anything else is spying and NOTB

ORLY? (2, Insightful)

Bob9113 (14996) | more than 4 years ago | (#32165672)

'We are committed to being transparent with our users about the information that we collect when they use our products and services, why we collect it, and how we use it to improve their experience.'

Sooooo, the little tracking bugs from Double Click and Google Analytics? You're being transparent about all that data, eh? You have a nice place where I can see everything you have recorded on your hard drives about my browsing history? How about a page telling me all the sites your tracking bugs are on, and the number of unique pages and users they track? A clear, concise description of the algorithms you use to personalize ads, including the row and column definitions for the matrix(ces)?

Tell me again how serious you are about transparency. Really, I'm fascinated -- do go on.

Re:ORLY? (4, Informative)

JackieBrown (987087) | more than 4 years ago | (#32165818)

Yeah. It's too bad they don't have easy to follow instructions [google.com] on how to disable that.

The phrase "disable tracking from google" gave me the referenced link as first result.

I tried a bing search and not until the 5th result did I even get an official msn link (and that link seems to have nothing to do with my query.) The other official microsoft link was for a pdf file. No other results on that page nor the next (it defaults to 10 results per page.)

Re:ORLY? (1)

Bob9113 (14996) | more than 4 years ago | (#32168222)

Translucent is better than opaque. Transparent is something different.

Claiming they are being transparent when they are not putting all the information on the table is, simply, a lie. Whether they are the least bad actor, the best actor, or even if the net outcome to society is positive is not the question. They are not being transparent, but they are claiming they are for political purposes.

I don't like it when politicians lie. I don't like it when lobbyists lie. I don't like it when corporations lie. When it comes to contemplating public policy, We The People deserve and should demand honesty. We cannot have a meaningful discussion about these things if we don't talk plain.

They could say, "We are more transparent than most, though we have not yet chosen to publish everything for cost efficiency reasons." That would be true and, frankly, I would accept it. In fact I personally feel that their level of diligence is sufficient. That does not make it OK to lie in a discussion about public policy.

I have, and believe we all should have, a zero tolerance policy for liars in the public forum.

Even simpler solution with real control Re:ORLY? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32170760)

Use the Mozilla NoScript plugin and forbid doubleclick.net

Not hard at all and it doesn't depend on transparency.

Nothing against Google, I trust Google far more than I trust the EU or any nation state and I actively mistrust the EU Data Retention Directive [wikipedia.org] which is nothing but a fascist/totalitarian wet dream that is both guaranteed and begging to be misused both internally and externally and both by "authorized" and "unauthorized" users. In fact that directive destroys the very foundations of law by assuming everyone is guilty until proven innocent.

P.S. After using NoScript follow up by donating to sites, organizations, causes and programs (like NoScript) worth your support at least once a year. Most of us can afford a few USD (and usually more) to a handful of recipients. Some places like for example OpenBSD also have and welcome fixed monthly donations which help them even more in the form of predictability.

I don't use OpenBSD right now but I wouldn't want a world without OpenBSD.
I do use NoScript and now wouldn't consider browsing without it.
I don't agree with absolutely everything the EFF and FSF says and does but then again some of the things they say and do are so extremely important for the future of freedom that it obliterates minor disagreements.
And then there are general web sites I just wouldn't want to be without and non-computer efforts I want to contribute towards.

P.P.S. Fuck the US, fuck the EU, fuck corrupt authorities everywhere, prepare for resistance, prepare for violence, fight for freedom.

Love from Norway (the shit is here as well now as the "Labor" Party and half the "Conservatives" want to make the DRD a Norwegian law through EFTA).

It's like dejavu all over again! (4, Insightful)

GNUALMAFUERTE (697061) | more than 4 years ago | (#32165692)

Why do we have this discussion every single week?

Here is the first distinction that we have to make:

a) Services that publish private information
b) Services that do not publish private information

Facebook and other atrocities are clearly in the a) group. They publish your information for anyone to see and there is nothing you can do about it. On the other hand, you have no right to complain, since that is the bloody purpose of the service.

Google, on the other hand, is in group b). They do collect user information, but they process that information in an automated way, gather stats, and let you store, organize and share that information. They DO NOT publish that information or make it available to any other third party. Nobody except for a perl script and a SQL server is looking at your data. And you have no right to complain, since that is the purpose of the service.

So, you don't want your information published: Do not use services in a) group.
You don't want your information automatically analyzed and processed, do not use services in b) group.

It is truly that simple. I do not use any service in group a). I do use google, and many of its services. All the information is kept between google and me. You see, I want them to do what they do. I like the way they analyze my data and the way they allow me to manipulate it. You know what happens to the information I want no one to see? it is not published publicly. Do you know what happens to the info I don't want google's perl scripts to see? it doesn't get uploaded in the first place.

It's like going to a horror movie and complaining that you got scared. It was a fucking horror movie! what are you complaining about?

People upload all of their private info into some unknown "social network" and then complain about privacy. It's in the fucking name, what are you complaining about?

Can we really get over this?

Re:It's like dejavu all over again! (2, Insightful)

genericpoweruser (1223032) | more than 4 years ago | (#32165756)

True enough, but as another poster pointed out http://yro.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1647548&cid=32165644/ [slashdot.org] there are instances where companies can be compelled to reveal all their information about you.

Re:It's like dejavu all over again! (4, Insightful)

JackieBrown (987087) | more than 4 years ago | (#32165850)

I don't expect - nor want - any company to refuse a lawfully issued warrant.

I do expect for them to wait for that warrant which only Google did.

Re:It's like dejavu all over again! (3, Insightful)

z0idberg (888892) | more than 4 years ago | (#32166240)

Lawfully issued from which country?

Re:It's like dejavu all over again! (2, Insightful)

dcmoebius (1527443) | more than 4 years ago | (#32165892)

Here is the first distinction that we have to make:

a) Services that publish private information
b) Services that do not publish private information

The problem is that there is little to stop companies from transitioning from group b) to group a).

I'm reasonably confident that Google won't actively screw me over right now. But ten years down the road? Who knows?

Frankly, the only reason I trust Google NOW is that they have an incentive to keep me happy. If at any point I get pissed off, I can pack up and move to Bing or some other competitor with a minimum of fuss.

However with Facebook, they have a locked-in market. Sure, you can quit and move to a new site. But Facebook's value is in its membership, which no other company is offering at the moment.

As it stands now, the relationship between the user and Google is much more balanced, which makes Google at least marginally interested in their customers. Facebook, barring a massive decline in membership, simply doesn't care.

So long as Google is being kept honest by the legitimate possibility of losing revenue, they'll stay in group b).

Re:It's like dejavu all over again! (1)

GNUALMAFUERTE (697061) | more than 4 years ago | (#32169524)

Ok, screw Karma, here is what I really think:

Anyone that uses social networks or publishes any kind of personal information on the web that they don't want to be public, or without understanding what will happened, IS A FUCKING RETARD. And deserves no privacy.

And, here we go: Facebook and other social network users are ATTENTION WHORES. Nothing more than that. Narcissist bitches.

Tweeter users are attention whores AND retards with the attention span of a 2 year old kid.

Fuck you all! Remember when the internet meant something? Remember Usenet, and the binary groups? remember when you used a personal home page to share whatever you wanted about yourself, instead of turning in all your data and photos to facebook?

How did we allowed this to happen to the Internet? And the worst part, how did WE, /.ers, become part of the cancer that is killing the net?

Re:It's like dejavu all over again! (1)

Hozza (1073224) | more than 4 years ago | (#32166180)

Congratulations, you've missed the point entirely. This letter was (in part) in response to Google's botched launch of Buzz which is exactly "some unknown social network". The privacy commissioners wanted to know exactly how a company with as much talent as Google could launch a product with such glaring privacy concerns and wait for public outcry before fixing them. It would appear that Google have completely failed to answer that question.

mod do3n (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32165878)

MOVIE [1mdb.c0m]

Dear Google. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32166586)

The presence of ads everywhere on your applications does not 'improve my experience'.

You are a public company whose only reason for existence to to make money for your CEOs and if you distribute dividends, your shareholders.

Privacy = Information. What does Google trade in? (1)

CuteSteveJobs (1343851) | more than 4 years ago | (#32166736)

Google as a company makes money by giving away information. In order to get that information, we selectively let them collect information on us. Our privacy has value to us, so we want to keep it private. But not trading information is against Google's very nature. They make money by disseminating information.

This is why Google can be so careless as they were with Buzz. You could see that lack of regard reflected in Jim Clark's (Google CIO) comments about Buzz. All that valuable private information won't make money so long as it's locked up. If your intimate details are revealed to the web, you might lose sleep over it but Google can only make money out of it.

This works so long as we trust Google, and mostly they've kept that trust. But in Buzz and with Doubleclick they're skirting close to the edge. They want to see how far they can push us, and that's proving a moving target. But even if they do push us too far, look at Yahoo! Even after the revelation they were ratting out their Chinese users to the Chinese government, many people continue to have a Yahoo email account anyway. The same applies to the recent leaking of Microsoft documents showing they will sell info on you to 'law enforcement' (for a fee), but most people still use Windows.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/07/technology/07yahoo.html [nytimes.com]
http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-10459676-38.html [cnet.com]

Don't trust Privacy Law to protect you. In many countries its a feel-good toothless tiger. Take Australia's. Here's a feel-good FAQ with a feel-good quiz, but what it doesn't mention is that if someone violates your privacy you have no legal recourse. The worst the Privacy Commissioner can do is issue a non-binding finding that has no financial, civil or criminal penalty.

http://www.privacy.gov.au/faq/individuals [privacy.gov.au]

Great! (1)

fransantosjun (1808924) | more than 4 years ago | (#32167084)

Yeah, this is so great!! Francisco Santos. fransantosjun@gmail.com

Whitewash (1)

dugeen (1224138) | more than 4 years ago | (#32167282)

Google's methods are to fob off the information commissioners with reassurances that aren't backed by fact. For example in the UK, you can remove your house from StreetView - but only if you send Google, at your own expense, a copy of photographic identification, which they can reject for reasons unknown. The IC doesn't allow any other data holder to place arbitrary, irrelevant restrictions on remove requests like this.

the end of Privacy by Obscurity (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32167806)

I first got this lesson sometime in the late '90s after Google acquired DejaNews, and found that typing my name in the search bar would summon up all my forgotten posts on Usenet (which I had thought had a shelf life of weeks or months, given the scarcity of hard disk space at the time). That experience was enough to turn me into an AC ever since.

Of course Google has since grown exponentially, acquiring technologies left and right, and now can show pictures of most every housefront in the civilized world, sometimes including their occupants in unflattering poses. They argue that this is "public space". Yes, but in the old days (pre-Google) nobody would think of collecting this data (well except for the government spy agencies), and indexing them for all to see (which leaves out the spy agencies). But it's probably a great tool for burglars, private detectives, stalkers, etc.

It used to be that only celebrities and some politicians lived their lives in a fishbowl for the entire world to see. By collecting and indexing all public space, Google is eliminating the netherland between public and private, so we all get to live in public like celebrities... without the benefits of same.

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