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Privacy Machiavellis

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the prince-of-a-company dept.

Privacy 206

Chris Jay Hoofnagle has a piece up at SFGate.com on what he calls the "privacy Machiavellis," which are exemplified by Google and Facebook. (The article is adapted from a longer treatment published last year, called "Beyond Google and Evil.") Hoofnagle heads the privacy foundation set up with money collected from settlements of privacy lawsuits against Facebook. From SFGate: "... you have no way to ask Google to stop this tracking. Instead, you can merely opt out of the targeted advertising — the product recommendations. Exercising your privacy options creates a worst-case-scenario outcome: If you opt out, you are still tracked, but you do not receive the putative benefit of targeted ads. An illusory opt-out system is just one of the increasingly sophisticated sleights of hand in the privacy world. Consider Facebook's privacy options. ... Facebook can proudly proclaim that it offers ... more than 100 [choices]. Therein lies the trick; by offering too many choices, individuals are likely to choose poorly, or not at all. Facebook benefits because poor choices or paralysis leads consumers to reveal more personal information. In any case, the fault is the consumer's, because, after all, they were given a choice. Reader Kilrah_il sends word that Google has just released a tool that could alleviate some of the above worries: it stops tracking by Google Analytics for users of IE7+, Firefox 3.5+, and Chrome 4+. Perhaps Hoofnagle will comment on it here or elsewhere.

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Machiavellis indeed (5, Insightful)

homer_s (799572) | more than 4 years ago | (#32341208)

An illusory opt-out system ... Therein lies the trick; by offering too many choices,

Of course, you can exercise the one opt-out system that works - don't use their services. Nobody is holding a gun to your head. It is like buying a car, but not wanting to pay the price. The price of working with Google and Facebook is not dollars, but your data.

Google's price/benefit is right for me, so I use it. Facebook's is not, so I don't.

Re:Machiavellis indeed (5, Insightful)

postbigbang (761081) | more than 4 years ago | (#32341292)

Nicely stated.

Yet civilians still need protection from things they don't understand. We do have a choice. We can and do opt out. But even black-belt geeks that desire privacy have a hard time figuring this stuff out. It's like the 32 page credit card agreement conundrum. Simple protection of the innocent demands safety for them. We're supposed to be the 'good guys'. Good guys help protect those that can't protect themselves, not leave them to the wolves. There is evil in such trickery.

Re:Machiavellis indeed (3, Insightful)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#32341324)

> We can and do opt out. But even black-belt geeks that desire privacy have a
> hard time figuring this stuff out.

Why is it so hard to figure out that if you can't figure it out you shouldn't agree to it?

Re:Machiavellis indeed (5, Insightful)

Miros (734652) | more than 4 years ago | (#32341370)

That makes sense in an opt-in framework, but not in an opt-out framework.

Re:Machiavellis indeed (1)

nextekcarl (1402899) | more than 4 years ago | (#32341898)

You have a good point, but Facebook is opt-in, really. You don't have to use them. Google on the other hand is by default opt-out, since the site you go to may use it, and noscript and ghoster-type things aren't default controls yet.

Re:Machiavellis indeed (2, Interesting)

blair1q (305137) | more than 4 years ago | (#32342592)

It's not opt-in for those who were using it before the system was changed to collect their information without giving them the option to opt-out.

Facebook is a bunch of unthinking script-kiddies who implement feature requests without considering how the new feature affects anyone other than the requester.

I suspect this has cost Zuckerberg about $2 or $3 billion in marketable value for his website. He'll wipe the snot away and claim he doesn't care, but if losing $3 billion doesn't make him shit his pants, he's got a lot more to lose.

Re:Machiavellis indeed (2, Insightful)

nextekcarl (1402899) | more than 4 years ago | (#32342776)

It's not opt-in for those who were using it before the system was changed to collect their information without giving them the option to opt-out.

Okay, you got me there. When I managed a self storage location we could tell who the lawyers were. They were the only ones (well, high 90's%) who read the contracts we had people sign. That might seem odd, considering it was only 1 page of relatively fine print (it wasn't like signing a mortgage or anything) but most people assume that they wouldn't understand it even if they did read it. Many people fear (rightly IMHO) that legalese too often has specific meanings that you have to be a lawyer to actually understand the implications; that it doesn't mean what you'd think it means.

As far as what it's cost Zuckerberg, you'd have to balance the bad will generated (which is far worse among us geeks than 'normal' folk, and they greatly outnumber us on FB these days, I'm willing to bet) with what he can do with the additional data. I'd bet the balance is, or will be, quite a bit less than $2B in the end. I think it should be much more, but I don't think it will actually work out that way.

Re:Machiavellis indeed (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 4 years ago | (#32342820)

What he was going to do with the additional data was also worth a lot more before he pissed off his users by selling their privacy without permission.

If he'd done it right, that's another couple $billion on top.

Again, if this stuff doesn't make him crap his pants, he never knew what he was doing in the first place, and will be easy to rape in a business deal.

Re:Machiavellis indeed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32342622)

Yes, you don't need to use FB, but the problem is, you're arguing that "normal" folks, like my 72 year old father, should somehow understand that they don't understand Facebook and that that could somehow be bad for him. He doesn't really understand the workings of his modern car or his air conditioner; there's no reason to suspect these things of malfeasance and not use them. Arguing that the uninformed somehow be informed enough to know they are uninformed is actually Machiavellian, is it not?

It's like those schmucks who think you should be bound to any contract no matter how bad the terms, just because you signed it. Of course they are right on the face of it, but they are wrong in that something you signed as some dumb, 19 year old kid could be horribly bad for you by the time you're a bit older, to the point where it's nearly criminal and sometimes even disallowed by law (e.g. a lot of contracts you sign to enter the military are this abusive).

Re:Machiavellis indeed (1)

TerranFury (726743) | more than 4 years ago | (#32341918)

Why is it so hard to figure out that if you can't figure it out you shouldn't agree to it?

The same could be said of software EULAS, mobile phone contracts, or half a dozen other things...

Re:Machiavellis indeed (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#32342902)

> The same could be said of software EULAS, mobile phone contracts, or half a
> dozen other things...

Yes. So what is your answer?

Re:Machiavellis indeed (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32342590)

To the people who mod this insightful. Go fuck yourself.

Are you saying that because I'm not a lawyer...because I was *only* reading at a 12th grade level at age 8...that I should:

    - not be able to purchase a car?
    - not be able to buy internet service?
    - never own a home?
    - have to spend days researching my new apartment complex to see which terms of the lease count, and which are merely unenforceable?
    - not even be able to *use* the average operating system, save a BSD licensed one? I'm sorry--The GPL contains terms of the art that require a subtle and nuanced understanding to even start to comprehend. Don't get me started on windows licensing agreements...
    - not be able to own phone service
    - not be able to participate meaningfully in social life because many services are only available with a credit card or bank account, each coming with their own 10-20 pages of small print which make liberal use of terms of the art.

No. That's a load of shit. In point of fact, 99% of the world probably outright *IGNORES* the legalese that occurs in day to day life. And if there was any justice--juries and judges would throw it out for exactly that reason. The reasonable, ethical, responsible expectation is the doctrine of first sale and nothing more. No loss of rights, no restrictions on what you can do with it, how or when.

And the same goes for marketers. Privacy information is provided in a complicated, convoluted manner to hide the plain and simple fact that their agreements amount to "once you give us the data, we can do what we damned well please with it, as long as it isn't illegal (and if the law changes, we will do it)"

Participating in society in a routine and typical basis should require no more legal comprehension than is typical. And if that means that I "have to understand" my cellphone agreement--it should be nullified and unenforceable.

The ridiculous attitude that "You don't have to do X, so I can ask for anything I damned well please for it, collude with others to ask for it, and no, you aren't free to compete because I have a revolving door patent agreement updated every year, but never filed--and I enjoy my monopoly agreements on service with local governments" needs to be set on fire and shot at a social level.

Not . It's not over till it's burned alive.

Re:Machiavellis indeed (1)

nextekcarl (1402899) | more than 4 years ago | (#32341864)

But then you tend to end up with the opposite problem: the nanny state. While I agree we can't go back to an Wild West society, we are pretty far to the opposite extreme now: Paralysis because there's so much regulation over everything. From patent minefields to government 'oversight' (that often doesn't work anyway, I'm looking at you Enron, AIG, and now BP) I'm not sure it's actually worth it anymore.

Re:Machiavellis indeed (1)

postbigbang (761081) | more than 4 years ago | (#32342048)

You're talking extremes instead of dimensions. Life is complicated, without a doubt. Diligence and tenacity are required, because we're really inventive. That inventiveness is the natural byproduct of curiosity. Consider that the Nobel prize is the guilt-gift of the man that invented dynamite.

Almost every day, new and sometimes onerous/insidious ways of manipulating information are conjured up. Some are really cool, and others are the death-by-a-thousand-cuts that privacy invasion has become. I'd err on the side of educating civilians, but also thwarting dominant 'players' ability to do evil things. It doesn't create a "nanny-state", rather, helps people understand, express, and have their boundaries abided by.

Re:Machiavellis indeed (1)

Jafafa Hots (580169) | more than 4 years ago | (#32342728)

Exactly. We're in a nanny state, paralyzed with regulations. We need to get rid of useless regulations that help nobody and I know just the place to start.

Offshore oil rigs.

Re:Machiavellis indeed (1)

nextekcarl (1402899) | more than 4 years ago | (#32342858)

Well, the regulations sure didn't help much, did they? LOL

That's my point. Regulations don't seem to work against the big guys (due to corruption, enforcement difficulty, etc) and they keep the smaller guys from being able to even get started.

I'm definitely not one for saying we need to get rid of all regulation, but this idea that the government can possible protect us from everything just doesn't work. Even without considering the downsides (1984 scenarios for example) the simple fact is it can't succeed much of the time. Where's the sweet spot? If I knew, I sure wouldn't be posting here; I'd be trying to do something about it.

Re:Machiavellis indeed (1)

dubbreak (623656) | more than 4 years ago | (#32342148)

Yet civilians still need protection from things they don't understand.

So we should protect ICP from magnets [youtube.com] ?

Re:Machiavellis indeed (1)

Miros (734652) | more than 4 years ago | (#32341340)

It's not always that transparent. If you consider the network advertising initiative for example, you can quickly see a large number of advertising networks that track behavioral patterns based simply on embedded advertisements on pages that don't necessarily carry any obvious information about what types of behavioral tracking the user is being subjected to. Furthermore, you can't easily tell if a site employs these features before actually going to it. Sure, you can opt-out [networkadvertising.org] but that just sets a cookie. Clear your cookies, and you're opted back in.

Re:Machiavellis indeed (4, Interesting)

dcollins (135727) | more than 4 years ago | (#32341566)

"Of course, you can exercise the one opt-out system that works - don't use their services. Nobody is holding a gun to your head. It is like buying a car, but not wanting to pay the price. The price of working with Google and Facebook is not dollars, but your data... Google's price/benefit is right for me, so I use it. Facebook's is not, so I don't."

So, basically a free-market argument. However, the free market only works based on an assumption of full information on behalf of all parties. So inasmuch as companies such as these withhold information, or obscure what they're doing, or drown the client in a deluge of fine print, many people will be kept ignorant of the true cost (whether in dollars or data or anything else).

This is enormously similar to how credit-card companies, EULA writers, shady mortgage lenders, etc., all operate. When free-market assumptions break down, the only remaining solution is organized political action.

Re:Machiavellis indeed (2, Insightful)

hsmith (818216) | more than 4 years ago | (#32341644)

Free market works great without all the information as well, it is not a requirement for participation or for even the free market to work well - you simply don't do business with them if you don't have all the information or aren't comfortable with the transaction. *THAT* is the free market solution.

There is no need to create "political" action in the case of EULAs, Google, etc - you simply don't use their service - seeing as they "play games" with their terms as you describe it as.

Re:Machiavellis indeed (1)

Miros (734652) | more than 4 years ago | (#32341674)

There is no "Lemons" problem for online privacy and websites. Why do you suppose that is? Is it that most consumers just don't value their online privacy?

Re:Machiavellis indeed (1)

TheStatsMan (1763322) | more than 4 years ago | (#32342738)

In other words, if you don't have a degree in corporate law, don't use a computer. Because no one understands the ramifications of EULAs, not even most lawyers I bet.

Re:Machiavellis indeed (1)

ceejayoz (567949) | more than 4 years ago | (#32341904)

Of course, you can exercise the one opt-out system that works - don't use their services.

So... how am I going to find out if a site uses Google Analytics without going to it and checking the source?

Re:Machiavellis indeed (3, Informative)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 4 years ago | (#32342000)

If you aren't on Facebook you can't keep track of friends putting up junk involving you. It is possible on Facebook to tag or make comments about people who are not members. Thus for example, say a friend takes a picture of a few people drunk and you are one of the people in the picture. The next day, if they put the picture up and tag people in it, you can untag yourself and drop them a note. If you aren't on Facebook, they could include your name and you won't know. This risk is especially severe for people around college age. And there are enough people around that one can't simply trust all of them not to be inconsiderate idiots. Thus, as long as lots of people are on Facebook, one has a direct incentive to stay there.

Re:Machiavellis indeed (4, Informative)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 4 years ago | (#32342706)

Of course, you can exercise the one opt-out system that works - don't use their services.

Then you might as well not use most of the web. Do you know how many websites embed the google-analytics code? Hundreds of thousands of them. Basically any website that can't afford to role their own or contract out for a paid service will use google-analytics for user-traffic tracking.

So your answer is completely unfeasible in the real world.

Google Analytics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32341228)

There's a reason I have NoScript blocking Google Analytics.

Re:Google Analytics (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32341452)

Machiavelli was the Jew of Hitlers.

Noscript (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32341240)

Noscript stopped Google Analytics a long time ago!

Privacy paranoia (1, Insightful)

mangu (126918) | more than 4 years ago | (#32341242)

Paranoids are people who think they are much more important than they really are.

I have no fear of my privacy being violated by Google because I don't see any reason why someone should be particularly interested about me. In Google's eyes I'm just a statistic. My personal data is no more important to anyone than the data about millions of other consumers.

I'm safe in the numbers, just like I'm anonymous when walking down a busy street. everyone can see me, but nobody cares.

Re:Privacy paranoia (4, Insightful)

gurps_npc (621217) | more than 4 years ago | (#32341372)

People are not filming and recording you walk down the street (at least not all controlled by a single company, not in america). All the information in one place makes it easy to abuse. If you do a search you can easily find tales of IRS agents abusing their authority to look up info on celebrities, political candidates, and even their ex-wives. When you record, then people can use it later and yes they can eliminate the anonymousity later. But there are already addons like Noscript and Ghostery to stop Google from getting quite so thorough a record of you. Of course, chances are your ISP will still have a good record, but at least it is not one single company controlling all that privacy for everyone. Which severely limits the abuse potential

Re:Privacy paranoia (2)

e9th (652576) | more than 4 years ago | (#32341814)

Unless you consider "the government" to be a single company.

Re:Privacy paranoia (2, Insightful)

Miros (734652) | more than 4 years ago | (#32341938)

Fortunately they are poorly organized

Re:Privacy paranoia (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 4 years ago | (#32342780)

Fortunately they are poorly organized.

Poor organization has been the one effective deterrent against wholesale invasion of privacy by the government and corporate america.

Now that computers are making organization so much easier and, in many cases, automatic we need something more formal. I vote for enforced disorganization. That's kind of what much of the EU has - highly restricting the creation and maintenance of databases of personal information even giving right to informational self-determinism [wikipedia.org] the force of law.

Re:Privacy paranoia (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 4 years ago | (#32341992)

If you do a search you can easily find tales of IRS agents abusing their authority to look up info on celebrities, political candidates, and even their ex-wives

Abuse of authority is wrong, no matter which method is used, but if the data is obtained legally I have nothing against that. If the IRS agents are doing their job, good for them! The more cheaters they catch, the less taxes we will have to pay.

I have nothing against law enforcement using technology, what I don't like are absurd regulations. It's OK to have traffic cameras, and if those cameras are used to catch stolen cars then it's even better. What I don't approve is using unreasonable speed limits, unnecessary stop signs, and short yellow light times to issue more traffic tickets. But then it's the regulation that's unfair, not the method used to catch the violators, it would be the same thing if no camera is used and a cop is waiting behind a bush.

One should realize that there's no reason to expect privacy when you are in public. There was a famous case years ago when a National Enquirer journalist carried Henry Kissinger's trash away and published what he found there. According to the State Department, Kissinger was "really revolted". But why should he expect privacy about something he left on the sidewalk for other people to carry away?

The big difference between me and Kissinger is that the contents of my trash will not help the National Enquirer to sell more papers, but I'm aware that everything I throw away could be used against me. That's why I shred all my bank and credit card receipts and other financial documents before throwing them away. But I don't care if Google collects data about my searches, I feel it's like someone going through my garbage to see what kind of food I eat.

Now, if someone is stalking me, let's say an IRS agent has a personal reason to incriminate me, then that's illegal, period, no matter how he does it. He could go through my Google searches looking for the Ferrari dealers I searched, or he could go through my trash can looking for the $4500 wine bottle I threw away.

It's like the gun nuts say, guns don't kill people, people kill people. Websites don't spy on people, people spy on people.

Re:Privacy paranoia (1)

Saeed al-Sahaf (665390) | more than 4 years ago | (#32342092)

If the IRS agents are doing their job, good for them! The more cheaters they catch, the less taxes we will have to pay.

Do you honestly believe this?

Re:Privacy paranoia (1)

kindbud (90044) | more than 4 years ago | (#32342242)

All the information in one place makes it easy to abuse.

All the information in one place also makes it easier for me to use, no matter where I am or what device I have. So there.

If you do a search you can easily find tales of IRS agents abusing their authority to look up info on celebrities, political candidates, and even their ex-wives.

I do it, too. You can as well. You don't need an IRS agent's authority, either. That info is already out there, whether you're on FB or Google or not, and it's way more personal than anything Google collects.

Re:Privacy paranoia (1)

Knara (9377) | more than 4 years ago | (#32341374)

There's some truth to this.

Re:Privacy paranoia (1)

Miros (734652) | more than 4 years ago | (#32341448)

But with sites like Facebook it's a little bit different. If someone out there is looking for information about you, and facebook is happy to provide it to them through some new privacy option that you didn't change the default on, then you're not really protected by a veil of obscurity.

Re:Privacy paranoia (1)

Gorkamecha (948294) | more than 4 years ago | (#32341596)

Then maybe you shouldn't have given that information to Facebook.

I don't understand why people trust things that are important to them to total strangers, and then freak out when the stranger does something they didn't see coming. Would you hand your wallet to a stranger, while you ran into the bathroom?

Re:Privacy paranoia (1)

Miros (734652) | more than 4 years ago | (#32341646)

Oh, agreed completely. I don't know why people provide so much potentially damaging personal information to social networking sites myself. My point was focused exclusively at the hiding in the crowd argument provided by the parent.

Re:Privacy paranoia (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 4 years ago | (#32342182)

I was really thinking about Google, not Facebook. I opted out of Facebook from the beginning.

Re:Privacy paranoia (1)

kent_eh (543303) | more than 4 years ago | (#32341578)

While I was de-lousing a computer for a friend, he said he didn't need a firewall " 'cause there isn't anything on his computer worth a hacker taking the effort to steal."
Then I went into my long winded explanation about botnets, spammers and other internet headaches.
He still didn't think that his 'lil ol' computer was important enough to anyone else to be at risk.
At which point my consulting fees increased by many more beers.

Re:Privacy paranoia (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32341602)

Paranoids are people who think they are much more important than they really are.

And idiots are people who think "paranoid" means "more concerned about privacy than I am".

Re:Privacy paranoia (1)

Spad (470073) | more than 4 years ago | (#32341616)

It's not so true any more; technology is making it increasingly easy to access all of this information and make use of it without human intervention. It used to be that most people didn't have to worry about being targeted by a phishing attack or tailored malware for exactly the reasons you state, but these days it can all be automated; I get targeted email scams directed at my domain on a regular basis and there's nothing overtly of value to be had from it (that they couldn't obtain just as easily from any other random person, I mean).

You may not think that anyone cares about you in particular, but they don't really need to if they can get their software to do all the legwork and flag up anything about you that's of interest to them.

Re:Privacy paranoia (3, Insightful)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | more than 4 years ago | (#32341632)

I'm safe in the numbers, just like I'm anonymous when walking down a busy street. everyone can see me, but nobody cares.

Nobody cares until somebody has a reason to care. Say your future employer, or your insurance company, or your opponent's lawyers in a future lawsuit, or your spouse in divorce proceedings, or any malicious person who is trying to find any damaging information about you etc etc. To take it to the extreme, are you really comfortable with the idea of every detail of your life being recorded and permanently stored and made accessible to anybody who wants it, for any purpose, just because nobody has any interest to look at it right now?

Re:Privacy paranoia (2, Insightful)

paulgrant (592593) | more than 4 years ago | (#32342246)

Your stupidity doesn't excuse the practice.

Re:Privacy paranoia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32342424)

Paranoids are people who think they are much more important than they really are.

I have no fear of my privacy being violated by Google because I don't see any reason why someone should be particularly interested about me. In Google's eyes I'm just a statistic.

I have no problem with Google or Facebook. It's when they start sharing things that I previously marked "between me, my friends, and Facebook (only for targeted ads)" that there is a problem. Other people that don't matter who do think that _I_ matter (too much) could find out bad things about me. Remember, Navin Johnson thought it was great that he was "Somebody Now!" I'll bet Sarah Conner started requesting an unlisted number too.

Re:Privacy paranoia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32342632)

I don't consider it paranoia, I consider it self respect.

I know I have nothing to fear from giving up my privacy to Google and Facebook and all the little spam-pushing, fly-by-night companies that put cookies and hidden pixels and scripts onto the pages I randomly wander into. All they're trying to do is gain a slight edge in the advertising biz.

But I don't see why I should help them. And if websites can't afford to keep going without helping these companies study my behaviour like some lab rat, then they should shut down because I'm old enough to remember what the Internet was like before the ad men took over and I'm not about to put up with that kind of crap.

Re:Privacy paranoia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32342784)

Today you do not have to be important. You just have to be an legal entity, someone I can use as an ID. Tie enough of those pieces of information you do not think are important and your password reset questions are easy to answer. You also don't have to be important in a global sense, just important enough to one person. You are also thinking of yourself today, the problem is the web does not have a delete button, a statute of limitations. How will that picture, posting, video, purchase, search term you use today look tomorrow, next week, year, or decade?

We have all done something stupid at some point in our lives, that we would rather forget about, or have long ago been forgiven for, that in the past would have been known by a few associates, the immediate witnesses but now that one event can be index, cross referenced and cataloged.

The other issue with the way a lot of this information is tracked is there is no context. For example you do a term paper on racism, you fire off terms like eno-Nazi, fascism, white supremacy, KKK into a google search, repeatedly over a period of weeks, you have no control of the interpretation of this information or when it is going to be used.

You are not really that private in that large mass as you may think, each piece of information there is helps narrow the size of the group, be gender, zipcode, IP address etc......

Objective? (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 4 years ago | (#32341278)

Hoofnagle heads the privacy foundation set up with money collected from settlements of privacy lawsuits against Facebook.

Hoofnagle is clearly objective /sarcasm ... not that Facebook isn't evil, or that Google isn't building up one of the biggest data collections humankind will ever encounter ... but he is employed by a company that pays it's bills because of suing Facebook.

Too Many? Seriously? (2, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 4 years ago | (#32341312)

Facebook can proudly proclaim that it offers ... more than 100 [choices]. Therein lies the trick; by offering too many choices, individuals are likely to choose poorly, or not at all.

First it's not enough privacy options. Now it's too many privacy options. Tomorrow when they get the unspoken mythical number correct, we'll bitch about the default settings. Then someone will come on Slashdot and say that his Linux servers were rooted and we'll say that it's because all the idiots of the world use out of the box settings and don't change the default passwords. Granted, your average facebooker shouldn't have to have the wherewithal to set up a Linux server but I think this Google/Facebook privacy complaining thing is getting a little old [slashdot.org] . Especially when both named parties are suddenly doing quite a bit to make users happy now that it's becoming important to consumers. To complain that they give us too many options now is just ... just ...

Sherry Bobbins: Would you like some pepper on your food, Bart?
Bart Simpson: Sure ... little more ... little more ... little more ... too much, take it back.

Instead of Privacy Machiavellis... (2, Funny)

N0Man74 (1620447) | more than 4 years ago | (#32341630)

Instead of Privacy Machiavellis, we should have Privacy Goldilocks instead.

"This privacy options set is too big! This privacy options set is too small! This privacy options set is juuuuust right!"

Re:Too Many? Seriously? (1)

Spad (470073) | more than 4 years ago | (#32341714)

Facebook's problem is that its "lots of options" are spread over about 5 different sections of your profile in various sub-categories and with a wide variety of titles ranging from obvious to cryptic - choice is no good if you can't figure out what you're choosing from.

Pretty Simple to Me (1)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 4 years ago | (#32341976)

Facebook's problem is that its "lots of options" are spread over about 5 different sections of your profile in various sub-categories and with a wide variety of titles ranging from obvious to cryptic - choice is no good if you can't figure out what you're choosing from.

Alright well, I actually have a Facebook account and I've actually set the privacy settings. They promise to make it simpler (how, I'll never know) but the way it currently works is that you have a menu of six categories [facebook.com] . They are:

  • Personal Information and Posts
    Control who can see your photos and videos, and who can post to your wall
  • Contact Information
    Control who can contact you on Facebook and see your contact information and email
  • Friends, Tags and Connections
    Control whether your friends, tags and connections display on your profile
  • Search
    Control who can see your search result on Facebook and in search engines
  • Applications and Websites
    Control what information is available to Facebook-enhanced applications and websites
  • Block List
    Control who can interact with you on Facebook

Now, if you click on any of them it breaks each of those down into sub categories. This is all explained fairly well, by the way [facebook.com] . And on each of these sub categories they have drop downs to let you see who sees that sub category of items on your Facebook page:

  • Everyone
  • Friends of Friends
  • Only Friends
  • Customize

Pretty straight forward but that last one lets you get into lists and some more complicated stuff.

So please tell me what is confusing about that, how it could be better and how that's "spread out"?

Re:Too Many? Seriously? (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 4 years ago | (#32341764)

First it's not enough privacy options. Now it's too many privacy options.

I don't remember any substantial number of complaints about Facebook not having enough privacy options. I do remember complaints about them repeatedly changing settings related to privacy to expose more information more widely without advance notice and the opportunity to opt-out (or, better, the option to opt-in to the change) of the change in defaults for existing users.

Adding more settings after the fact does nothing to address the problem, and, insofar as it increases confusion and reduces the ability of the average users to understand and effectively manage how their information is exposed, is part of the same problem.

Sounds familiar... (3, Insightful)

Nematode (197503) | more than 4 years ago | (#32341314)

An illusory opt-out system . . . Therein lies the trick; by offering too many choices, individuals are likely to choose poorly, or not at all.

So....is Facebook a better metaphor for capitalism or democracy?

Re:Sounds familiar... (1)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 4 years ago | (#32342026)

In corporate America, democracy means capitalism?

Re:Sounds familiar... (1)

Bill Dog (726542) | more than 4 years ago | (#32342154)

In corporate America, democracy capitalizes YOU!

(Had to do it. :)

Stop tracking by Google Analytics! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32341376)

Install our addon that tracks your browsing habits instead!

Re:Stop tracking by Google Analytics! (1)

Bill Dog (726542) | more than 4 years ago | (#32341772)

Exactly. Nothing says "logical" like trusting a company to protect you from a company you don't trust, when it's the same company!

What's wrong with NoScript ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32341420)

Didn't RTFA but what does this addon do that blocking Google Analytics with NoScript doesn't ?

Behind the curve (2, Insightful)

T Murphy (1054674) | more than 4 years ago | (#32341424)

Google has just released a tool that could alleviate some of the above worries: it stops tracking by Google Analytics

Sounds great, I've always wanted a way to block that "google-analytics" I keep seeing on my NoScript blocked list.

I can't complain much though- there's an important difference between going to a third party (NoScript) to block Google, and Google offering a solution themselves.

Machiavellian == unjust slander (4, Informative)

handy_vandal (606174) | more than 4 years ago | (#32341492)

The term "machiavellian" is a cruel and unjust slander.

Niccolò Machiavelli [wikipedia.org] was a profoundly moral man, well acquainted with -- and appalled by -- the amoral power politics of his age. When he wrote that a Prince should prefer to be feared, rather than loved, Machiavelli was not advancing a personal ideal: he was simply reporting how Princes actually behave in the real world.

Re:Machiavellian == unjust slander (1)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 4 years ago | (#32341910)

The Prince is great satire. The problem with Machiavelli, however, is that he was somewhat less subtle with his intentions than Johnathan Swift was in 'A Modest Proposal'. No one thinks that Swift was true advocating cannibalism and murder as a 'solution' to the Irish question, yet Machiavelli seems to have accidentally become more closely tied to the concepts of Fascism than Mussolini or Giovanni Gentile (the co-author of The Doctrine of Fascism which laid out the principles of the Italian variety). Poor guy.... its not fair people are too stupid to get things.

Re:Machiavellian == unjust slander (2, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#32342090)

Let this be a lesson to all those who fear the opinion of history: don't write a book advocating a position that is not yours if you don't want to be remembered for holding that position.

Re:Machiavellian == unjust slander (1)

fang2415 (987165) | more than 4 years ago | (#32342792)

Then he would no doubt be proud that simply mentioning his name now makes so clear the moral violations to which he wanted to draw attention.

Ghostery (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32341510)

Firefox add on's, search for Ghostery.

If you don't like it... (0, Flamebait)

WillyWanker (1502057) | more than 4 years ago | (#32341518)

If you don't like the way Google handles privacy DON'T USE IT.

If you don't like the way Facebook handles privacy DON'T USE IT.

These companies provide valuable services for free, in exchange for tracking data that allows them to make money. There is no free ride. If you don't like the terms, don't use the service. It's that simple.

Re:If you don't like it... (1)

Miros (734652) | more than 4 years ago | (#32341564)

Simple perhaps, but is it actually a practical suggestion? Do you have a list of every website that partners with any behavioral tracking / targeted advertising providers? That could be a handy list for some kind of a browser extension that would say "Woah there! You're about to opt-in to web based behavioral tracking! Would you like to continue?" Of course, as an alternative, someone could just use something like NoScript or AdBlock, but then you would probably object to that as "stealing." Suggestions?

Re:If you don't like it... (1)

WillyWanker (1502057) | more than 4 years ago | (#32341730)

If you're someone who is so paranoid about your privacy I'm betting your going to do your homework. Me, I don't care in the least. If someone really wants to snoop around in my browsing habits they're not going to find anything of value.

Let's face, 99.9% of us simply aren't that interesting.

Re:If you don't like it... (1)

Miros (734652) | more than 4 years ago | (#32341756)

So you're admitting that it's impractical and suggesting apathy as a solution?

Re:If you don't like it... (1)

WillyWanker (1502057) | more than 4 years ago | (#32341894)

Not at all. I'm just saying this is the way these companies make money. They have a right to do that, and if you don't like the "invasion of your privacy" then you shouldn't use them. It would be like complaining about how TV wastes your valuable time and ruins the viewing experience by showing advertising.

Use a proxy so your IP address can't be traced. Run your browser in a sandbox or some other "privacy" mode. I dunno, I'm certainly no expert because I don't care. It's not apathy. It's a lack of concern.

Re:If you don't like it... (1)

Miros (734652) | more than 4 years ago | (#32342010)

I don't care. It's not apathy. It's a lack of concern.

That is apathy [wiktionary.org] last time I checked. ;) But no, more seriously, I agree with you but you're making a flippant suggestion as though it is a decision that people could make freely and easily. That just may not be the case! It's like suggesting that you don't have to be recorded on surveillance cameras if you simply avoid places where the cameras are installed. It makes sense, but only on the surface. When you dig deeper you quickly realize that you don't know where the cameras are to avoid them, and can't easily discover them without exposing yourself.

Re:If you don't like it... (1)

WillyWanker (1502057) | more than 4 years ago | (#32342204)

Yet what else is one to do? You either accept the reality that your usage will be tracked in one form or another or you spend a lot of time and energy fighting a losing battle to prevent it. What other options are there?

And about your surveillance cameras analogy. It's very accurate. So what's the answer? The cameras aren't going away. Their use as a measure of public safety greatly outweighs any minor invasion of privacy they might pose. So what is a tinfoil hat wearing, batshit crazy loon supposed to do when they don't want to be seen entering the local WalMart? It's a pickle, I'll give you that.

Re:If you don't like it... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32341708)

When Google literally drives down private streets to photograph people's houses -- how do you hide from them?

Ted Kaczynski may have been a murderous thug, but maybe he wasn't crazy.

Re:If you don't like it... (1)

Miros (734652) | more than 4 years ago | (#32341870)

Ski-masks, but you have to be careful, people may assume that you're up to no good protecting your identity like that.

If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place.

-- Eric Schmidt. CEO, Google Inc.

Re:If you don't like it... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32341994)

Sorry, but the "if you don't like it don't use it" idea is just ignorant of reality.

A huge share (if not 100%) of the websites you visit embed Google Analytics or some other tracker, and they don't notify you much less ask for your permission. You never even get to make the choice not to be tracked. And technical jiujitsu like this FF addon only half-@ss solves the problem some of the time.

Oh, and the "I don't care if I'm tracked so you shouldn't care either" argument is even sadder.

Your ignorance was bliss (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32342098)

Unfortunately ignorance like that works in the favor of companies like Facebook. No, it's not enough to not put your own information into Facebook. You may choose not to use it, but others will, and they'll fill it up with your information that you don't want on there.

Protect your privacy (0, Flamebait)

tpstigers (1075021) | more than 4 years ago | (#32341520)

If you really want to protect your privacy, there's only one way to achieve it. Don't type anything into a computer (or a smart phone). Ever. Especially a computer that's connected.

Otherwise, just give up on this mythical creature called 'Privacy'.

Re:Protect your privacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32341580)

If you really want to protect your privacy, there's only one way to achieve it. Don't type anything into a computer (or a smart phone). Ever. Especially a computer that's connected.

Otherwise, just give up on this mythical creature called 'Privacy'.

Fuck you very much.

Re:Protect your privacy (0, Flamebait)

tpstigers (1075021) | more than 4 years ago | (#32341744)

I know - you're the kind of douchebag that thinks someone else should protect your privacy for you. God forbid you should have to put any effort into your own protection. In fact, you can walk through the mall bare-ass naked, and we'll all promise to turn around and look away - just to protect your privacy. We wouldn't want you to have to wear clothes or anything.

Re:Protect your privacy (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32342404)

I do if they said they would protect my privacy. Or unilaterally change the terms of the agreement retroactively. Allowing an opt out does not fix it. "Yes those changing room videos are now public. But you can opt out! Simply send us a notarized letter with the a copy of your birth certificate, the signatures of your mother, father and attending doctor and we will promptly re-hide it. Hurry before one of our partners decides they could make money with a 'Best of' anthology."

Given Zuck's previous business decisions I have my doubts if they even respect your attempts to protect yourself by deleting items when you ask - or simply hide it in their databases for their own potential personal use later. Thats certainly the methodology of a 'normal' account closure.

Re:Protect your privacy (4, Funny)

OrwellianLurker (1739950) | more than 4 years ago | (#32341606)

IS THAT YOU ZUCK?

Re:Protect your privacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32342436)

If you really want to protect your privacy, there's only one way to achieve it. Don't type anything into a computer (or a smart phone). Ever. Especially a computer that's connected.

Otherwise, just give up on this mythical creature called 'Privacy'.

False dichotomies are lies.

Google and Facebook -- I cancelled one of them (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32341534)

http://wards-online.com/deleting-my-fb-account/
http://wards-online.com/apple-versus-google-megaliths-and-meagerliths/

But how do I get rid of the other. It is tracking my every move :-(

Privacy is needed (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32341562)

by nigger lovers who look up porn with black bitches

Better Solution (2, Interesting)

Shadowhawk (30195) | more than 4 years ago | (#32341594)

Use the NoScript add-on and mark google-analytics.com as Untrusted. Simple and done. Also works for any other tracking system that uses JavaScript.

Re:Better Solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32342354)

Some sites, like Slashdot, also track using an image in a noscript tag. See "scorecardresearch.com" in the source of this page.

Nothing to protect - move along (1)

abbynormal brain (1637419) | more than 4 years ago | (#32341670)

Why not just post what you don't care about loosing and lie about everything else? On many social sites, I'm 60, 70, or more years old; I live in different cities, and ... yes ... I even lie about the music I like and why I'm on the site. I could give two shits about loosing my Facebook, MySpace, HI5, etc. My friends know it's all BS - but the main purpose is served - we communicate and share.

It's like what I learned about lending money: Only lend out as much as you can afford never to get back.

I don't know - maybe I'm missing the point (and I think I'm lucky that I'm not in a position to care)

host blocking (4, Informative)

ya really (1257084) | more than 4 years ago | (#32341676)

I've been adding the following to my desktop computer host files for over a year to block google's tracking:

127.0.0.1 partner.googleadservices.com
127.0.0.1 google-analytics.com
127.0.0.1 ssl.google-analytics.com
127.0.0.1 googleadservices.com
127.0.0.1 googlesyndication.com
127.0.0.1 pagead2.googlesyndication.com
127.0.0.1 www.google-analytics.com
127.0.0.1 video-stats.video.google.com
127.0.0.1 wintricksbanner.googlepages.com
127.0.0.1 www-google-analytics.l.google.com

I trust that solution more than I do google's opt-out bs. If you want to get fancy, you can direct a lightweight web server like lighttpd to 404 the adservers to load your pages a bit faster (instead of letting them time out) and to keep logs of what adservers are trying to load.

"targeted advertising" is NOT a benefit to ME (1)

fotbr (855184) | more than 4 years ago | (#32341884)

I don't care if the advertisers think it's a benefit. It doesn't benefit me, so why shouldn't I "opt out" of it? To help their system better target others? Sorry, how well their advertising reaches their intended markets isn't my problem, and I feel no obligation to help.

Re:"targeted advertising" is NOT a benefit to ME (4, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#32342002)

I don't care if the advertisers think it's a benefit. It doesn't benefit me

If it'd FUD scare tactics, or lifestyle promotion trash, sure. If its informational, thats a whole nother matter.

I'm in the market for a vacuum cleaner. I'm pretty hot to get a Dyson at this time. The commercials suck. Mostly I want high suction and I am so thru with buying bags and filters.

I wouldn't mind some "targeted ads" on this topic.

Given the enormous amount of advertising money spent to reach people whom don't give a $#*!, you'd think amazon or something would set up a service where companies pay me money to examine their marketing crud, paid to me at time of sale on amazon. I'd sit there and watch an "electrolux" or whatever commercial for $1. And they'd probably pay me $1 since I'm hot to buy a vacuum cleaner, and amazon would only clear the money to me if I actually bought someones vacuum cleaner (not necessarily theirs). Essentially a reverse ebay auction, where the companies bid on me to get me to watch their ads, and I prove I'm serious by purchasing "someones" product.

Re:"targeted advertising" is NOT a benefit to ME (1)

Mandrel (765308) | more than 4 years ago | (#32342686)

A system like you suggest is already operating: just browse the websites of vacuum makers.

However both these sites and advertising provide far from objective information. Wouldn't you rather read some well-researched editorial, and use a question-based recommendation system?

Yes you may say, but how should we compensate these helpers? At the moment it's mainly via ads that many block because of the original problem with non-objective information. The affiliate link alternative turns helpers into salespeople, and doesn't reward them if you buy your vacuum offline.

Re:"targeted advertising" is NOT a benefit to ME (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32342846)

That idea is pretty money. Of course, Amazon already does that, only they would pocket the $1 in the above example. Marketing is not mostly about informing customers and all that blah blah blah forward-facing ethics crap that Marketers use as justifications to pacify the weaker minded among us.

Originally, advertising was practiced for the purpose of informing the consumer, but as soon as that began to be used as an ethical defense, the nascent field of Marketing began its unholy incubation. The art of Marketing is thought control of populations, a.k.a. social engineering. The goal of modern advertising is to worm thoughts and images into your subconscious through repetitive exposure and association. They are custom designed, according to your demographic, to slip past your psychological defenses and appeal to your weaknesses.

marketing data to you (1)

nimbius (983462) | more than 4 years ago | (#32341908)

only works if youre actively seeking to consume. before freaking out over the various ads that might come across facebook or google ask yourself

do i need to buy?

what does it do?

how well does it do it?

google and facebook may "know" your personal preferences and interests, but in the end only you know whether you will buy something or not, and if you choose not to buy then the collected data amounts to wasted time.

another fact to take into consideration is the prevalence of noscript, which may prevent or restrict the pay-per-click functionality of some advertising. in other words: Tracking IE is fairly mundane; tracking a user concerned about their privacy proves rather difficult at the end of the day and is something these companies are constantly working to achieve.

how do you take a gun from a grammaton cleric?

you ask him for it.

Google Analytics Opt-Out Hurts Site Owners, Helps (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32342068)

Google Analytics opt-out hurts site owners, they can't see what content is helping or hurting visitors in reaching their goals (let alone helping the site owner profit).

Google still gets the benefit of Search data. Thus, site owners information is weaker while Google's position as information owner becomes stronger.

Another illusory opt-out.

I am even more Machiavellian than either one (0)

kindbud (90044) | more than 4 years ago | (#32342192)

Because I use both, and do not care if I am tracked or targeted. Nor do I feel that being tracked and targeted is a serious violation of my privacy. So there.

memorize a fake person (4, Insightful)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 4 years ago | (#32342430)

there is a fake me out there, with a fake name, a fake birthday, a fake home address, a fake mother's maiden name, a fake birth city, fake likes and dislikes, etc. every time i am asked for this info online, i consistently and continually use the fake alter ego

this is the future of privacy: aliases

Wait a second (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32342570)

The guy who's in charge of money collected from a bunch of class-action suits is talking about Machiavelli?

Note to self, patent that business model.

I think getting served ads (1)

Stan92057 (737634) | more than 4 years ago | (#32342904)

I think getting served ads for a search term is a fair exchange. But anything else google does beyond the ad served is not. I mean, how do i benefit from having everything i do online collected by google? I don't go online just to look at ads. Everyone got to pay to get on the Internet,then we pay even more by loosing our privacy to do a search term,or go to web sites that also spy on us, but they don't need to save that information,it will have no bearing on what i will type in the search box the next time. I'm just saying that they are taking data mining just too far and not making it easy for anyone not to be spied apon. Oh i have had that google addon and download program installed for a while and my malware program is still removing googles doubleclick advertising cookies. so it doesnt work,Have screen shots as proof :}
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