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EU Questions Google Privacy Policy

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the they-seee-youuuu dept.

Google 168

An anonymous reader writes "The BBC is running a piece noting that the EU is scrutinizing Google's privacy policy this month. The company's policy of keeping search information on their servers for up to two years may be violating EU privacy laws. A data protection group that advises the European Union has written to the search giant to express concerns. The EU has a wide range of privacy protections that set limits to what information corporations may collect and what they may or may not do with it. In the US on the other hand privacy laws generally cover government actions while the business sector remains largely unregulated. Is it perhaps time to follow the European example and extend privacy laws to include corporations?"

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Absolutely not. (1, Insightful)

TodMinuit (1026042) | more than 7 years ago | (#19279447)

Is it perhaps time to follow the European example and extend privacy laws to include corporations?
No. Don't like it, don't use it. It's your job to look after your privacy, not the Governments.

Re:Absolutely not. (3, Insightful)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 7 years ago | (#19279479)

Not everyone is a Libertarian. Some people are Socialists.

Re:Absolutely not. (5, Interesting)

daeg (828071) | more than 7 years ago | (#19279511)

While I generally concur, something at least needs to be done to simplify the legal system. There is no reason a privacy policy cannot be a short, concise, two sentences.

"[Company] collects information which you may wish to remain private. [Company] retains the information for up to 2 years, and information may be made available to outside vendors without your consent."

Almost everyone can understand that. It's still a high reading level (generally), but far simpler than the 8 page privacy policy most companies have.

Re:Absolutely not. (1)

Psx29 (538840) | more than 7 years ago | (#19280665)

I think there should be a law that says privacy policies cannot exceed 1KB

Re:Absolutely not. (4, Insightful)

VON-MAN (621853) | more than 7 years ago | (#19280727)

Simplify the legal system? Are you totally mad?

Nobody is better of with simpler laws! Not big business, not politicians and not the lawyers. Just imagine, someone from the general public reads your policy or the law, and really understands it. Do you understand the potential dangers there?

No, simpler laws is in nobodies interest. At least not somebody who has something to say about it.

Re:Absolutely not. (4, Insightful)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 7 years ago | (#19279613)

No, it isn't my job and it shouldn't be. I have a *right* to privacy. Corporations have no right to keep, much less distribute, most of the information they store.

Re:Absolutely not. (3, Insightful)

TodMinuit (1026042) | more than 7 years ago | (#19279641)

The right to privacy is the right to be free from outside intrusions into your personal matters. Willingly giving up private data by, say, searching the Internet is in no way a violation of your right to privacy.

Re:Absolutely not. (5, Insightful)

dwater (72834) | more than 7 years ago | (#19279775)

IMO, it's not at all obvious that the act of searching for something gives up an private data.

Re:Absolutely not. (1)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 7 years ago | (#19280003)

This is the Internet, it is the new century. If there was one thing we should have learned by now is that nothing is free. You have to assume the have something to gain by letting you use their services free of charge.

However, I'm not aware Google sells this information to anyone rather it does marketing research for it's advertising departments. Storing the search information to let them analyze the in for and turn an extra dollar from the advertising could mean the difference from paying a service fee to use Google (insert any search engine) verses continuing to have if free.

I'm not against a company colecting information. I think they should be upfront with it unlike the license swipes they do when you buy beer at the store the give your recorded info to their vendors so you get a bunch of coupons for shit you would never buy. I also think that if they are selling this information to another vendor for profit, you should get a cut of that profit because it is your information after all. You should be able to check what they have on you and object at any time (like the shopping center loyalty cards claiming I have 3 dozen boxes of condoms that I purchased in the last 2 months) and you should be protected if anyone got any information that wasn't directly authorized or was able to use this to fraud you or someone else using your name. There is no reason to go through the hell of fixing an identity theft issue because some company kept a database and didn't lock it up.

Re:Absolutely not. (1)

dwater (72834) | more than 7 years ago | (#19280195)

Why should we trust google?

I prefer they just don't collect the information in the first place, though I'm not sure how we can be sure that they don't. They can still put up adverts, if they want.

In any case, I don't see any option for me to pay for a google service without adverts.

Re:Absolutely not. (1)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 7 years ago | (#19280317)

Why shouldn't we trust Google?

And why would you think they need an alternative to their current business model if you don't like it? Your option is to find another search engine or whatever you use Google for. When your hungry for steak, you don't necessarily goto a fish shack for dinner complaining you couldn't get steak, you goto a steak house instead.

Re:Absolutely not. (1)

dwater (72834) | more than 7 years ago | (#19280387)

Trouble is, we don't really know what Google does with this.

It's more like going to a steak restaurant only to find that they serve BSE.

Re:Absolutely not. (1)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 7 years ago | (#19280499)

As far as I know, this information can't directly link you personally. IT is IP addresses looking for X or Y. So even if they did do something with the information, it isn't likely you could gain much from it. Well, that is unless you goto goggle saying I have an IP and a court order, gimme everything on them. But then the courts have been involved and the only chances the government has to violate your privacy is when the courts are involved.

There might be more to it then just an IP. They might have a user name from some operating systems or a MAC address to go with it. Google has a privacy statement, I wonder what it says.

here is a link [google.com] to their privacy policy. This is just the outline and the detailed ones are linked to from there. It appears though that they use all personal information in house and require all third parties to comply with their policy. Also they claim to aggregate the information without personal stuff and offer it to third parties. The claim about the only time they will give personal information out it

We may also share information with third parties in limited circumstances, including when complying with legal process, preventing fraud or imminent harm, and ensuring the security of our network and services.
Of course there might be more in the full policy. And it also appears there are some options when signing up thier stuff about your personal information. SO maybe going to another site isn't the only other option.

Re:Absolutely not. (5, Insightful)

siddesu (698447) | more than 7 years ago | (#19279777)

_willingly_ giving up privacy data is the key. willingly implies knowlingly. do you _know_ what kind of data google collects from all its services and how it uses it to track you? if you don't _know_, then you're not willingly giving up your privacy, you're being conned into giving up your data.

I for one want to know very much how are they using the data from the web stats service google provides. I see that everyone and their dog have the scripts, and while I agree to disclose some statistics to the sites that I'm visiting, I don't remember ever agreeing to disclose the same information to google.

Re:Absolutely not. (3, Insightful)

General Wesc (59919) | more than 7 years ago | (#19280247)

_willingly_ giving up privacy data is the key. willingly implies knowlingly. do you _know_ what kind of data google collects from all its services and how it uses it to track you? if you don't _know_, then you're not willingly giving up your privacy, you're being conned into giving up your data.

I certainly know what information I'm giving them. What I don't know is how much they store and how effectively they piece it all together. Why do I need to know what Google is doing with my data? I gave them my data, and so long as they don't violate an agreement I made with them, they aren't conning me.

Re:Absolutely not. (5, Insightful)

siddesu (698447) | more than 7 years ago | (#19280529)

Good for you. I certainly don't know what data they have about me, where are they getting it from, and how are they putting it together. I much rather have a legal mechanism that requires them to tell me what data they have about me if I ask, and enables me to have it removed, then not.

I used to live in a society in which detailed files on people were customarily kept, and used to make people behave. From my experience, allowing any company (or organization, for that matter) to have data files on people without any option of the people to control what's in those files and who's accessing them isn't the smart thing to do.

But to each their own.

Re:Absolutely not. (1)

VON-MAN (621853) | more than 7 years ago | (#19280769)

"so long as they don't violate an agreement I made with them, they aren't conning me"

Yes, that is very "insightful". However, since you have no way of knowing what google does, you don't know if google is conning you.

Re:Absolutely not. (1)

Lavene (1025400) | more than 7 years ago | (#19280631)

I would think a lot of us (as in slashdot readers) know what information we leave behind. We also know how to avoid it by using proxies, spoof our useragent etc. So if we are concerned about our privacy we can do something about it. My mom however can not. She haven't got a clue about IP, user agent, cookies and what have you. There is no way she can protect her self and claiming that she agrees to give up that information becomes meaningless. My mom uses her common sense. If a site states a warning: "Your IP will be logged" it scares her and she closes her browser. She doesn't know what it means only that she will not have whatever-it-is logged. Trying to explain to her that her IP is always logged somewhere anyway just produces a blank stare.

She does not like the idea of someone being able to look at what she does online however innocent it is but she has no way of understanding what is 'safe' and what is not. And things like the google privacy policy [google.com] might just as well be written in greek because it's meaningless to her.

Privacy protection should absolutely be a government issue. After all we elect our governments to work on our behalf. Like you say in the US: "We. the people".

Re:Absolutely not. (1)

VariableGHz (1099185) | more than 7 years ago | (#19280757)

do you _know_ what kind of data google collects from all its services and how it uses it to track you? if you don't _know_, then you're not willingly giving up your privacy, you're being conned into giving up your data.
I could guess. I recall reading that some of their records keep until something like 2038, while Yahoo and Microsoft retain it for much less like 2 to 3 years. Other things they could track, IP address, browser information, etc. People who are hardcore about protecting privacy use proxys and don't just jump right into Google running IE6. I tried out using the Scroogle Scraper [scroogle.org] for a while, but it just got too annoying after a while since it doesn't have the ability to go to the next page, so the results are somewhat limited -- but it does promise: No cookies, No search-term records and the access log is deleted within 48 hours. Not bad, don't forget to recycle your tinfoil hat.

Re:Absolutely not. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19280979)

Do you KNOW what information someone collects about you when they meet you? You may not _realize_ it, but you do _know_ what information they could collect about you. If you meet someone and they note your hair color, are they invading your privacy by collecting information about you that you don't "know" about? Of course not. You simply do not realize that they noted your hair color. How long they retain this information and how they decide to use it is also entirely up to them. The fact of the matter is, we _know_ what information Google could potentially be gathering from us, but we don't _realize_ exactly what information they choose to keep.

Re:Absolutely not. (1)

siddesu (698447) | more than 7 years ago | (#19281229)

meeting someone isn't the same thing as your information being retained by a corporation, and in a context in which you aren't even aware of them collecting. it is more like you meeting someone, while at the same time someone else behind the door is sitting quietly and taking notes of your meeting.

thankyouvermuch, but I don't like it ;)

Re:Absolutely not. (2, Insightful)

hcmtnbiker (925661) | more than 7 years ago | (#19279843)

Google should effectively has part ownership to everything you do on their servers. And therefore they have the right to what to do with it, if you don't like what they do don't share information with them, it's that simple.

Re:Absolutely not. (2, Insightful)

zzatz (965857) | more than 7 years ago | (#19279965)

No, Google does not have the right to do whatever they like with everything on their servers, and neither does anyone else. You may have heard of copyrights, patents, and trademarks. Google has copyrighted information on their servers. The law gives them limited rights to use that information, but they need permission from the copyright holder to do other things with it.

A case can be made that I hold copyright to information about me, or a right to privacy which may work like copyright. That is, Google is free to use any personal information which I provide them for internal use, but that they need my permission to distribute it to anyone else.

I'm not worried about first-hand information collection. It's the sharing and selling, and absense of responsibility for accuracy, that poses the potential for abuse.

Re:Absolutely not. (1)

sm4096 (1104499) | more than 7 years ago | (#19280009)

This argument is critically flawed. Just because they collected information does not mean they could do with it as they please... Even ignoring copy-write, it may be desirable for Information that is gathered and refined, and distilled from public domain to be restricted. As a example, monitoring security even from public areas, for the purpose of planning a attack could be used as evidence for treason. More intrinsically there could exist other reasons it is desirable to restrict collecting of this information. I used that example because some people do not place much value in privacy.

mod parant flaimbait (-1, Flamebait)

sm4096 (1104499) | more than 7 years ago | (#19280059)

People cant be this stupid. Mod the parent as flamebait.

Re:Absolutely not. (1)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 7 years ago | (#19280163)

Using a search engine is not willingly giving up my data. Unless you have a signed contract by me saying I give it up, I haven't given you permission to take any data from me.

And truthfully, I disagree even with your premise. Unless you have the ability to do the same transaction without giving up your data, it isn't a willing exchange but coercion.

Re:Absolutely not. (1)

LynnwoodRooster (966895) | more than 7 years ago | (#19280459)

So if I ask you how to get to Grand Central Station, you do not have the right to remember that I asked you that?

See, you kind of ASK Google to find information FOR YOU. You're requesting a service of them. They keep that request. You VOLUNTARILY GAVE THE REQUEST to them. How you can expect to keep that "private" from them, after you willingly gave it to them, is a bit incomprehensible to me.

Re:Absolutely not. (1)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 7 years ago | (#19280821)

You aren't a corporation, and you aren't storing the information in a database for later data mining. There's a world of difference.

Like being under constant surveillance? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19280537)

Willingly giving up private data by, say, walking the streets (followed by a tv-crew of some reality show published on the Internet) is in no way a violation of your right to privacy.

Re:Absolutely not. (2, Insightful)

zzatz (965857) | more than 7 years ago | (#19279855)

You've made an assertion without providing any supporting evidence, explanation, or argument. The only value such unsupported assertion holds is as a litmus test to demonstrate that you belong to a group with a certain idealogy. Why isn't it the government's job to play a role in protecting the right to privacy? Arguably, government's most important job is to protect the rights of all people, such as life, liberty, freedom of conscience, freedom to associate with whoever you choose, and so on.

Corporations cannot and do not exist outside of laws created by governments. Corporations are not natural persons with inherent rights. It is government that provides the legal framework that limits the liability of the shareholders in a corporation, provides corporations with the ability to own property, and provides corporations any existence as a legal entities at all. The limits on the owner's liability are balanced with limits on the powers of the corporation. There is every reason for government to define and limit what corporations may and may not do.

The Founding Fathers of the US were familiar with the ways in which governments could abuse power, so they found ways to limit and control that power. But in today's world, corporations often hold as much or more power over our lives, and it is worth considering applying the same sort of checks and balances to corporations. The Constitution of the US flat-out prohibits the Federal Government from some areas, and perhaps the same thing needs to be done with corporations.

Re:Absolutely not. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19280165)

Arguably, government's most important job is to protect the rights of all people, such as life, liberty, freedom of conscience, freedom to associate with whoever you choose, and so on.
A limited government, in general, does not define specific rights that the people have and that the government must protect. It assumes that the people have all of those rights except those they have given to the government. The government does not give you the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. You have given the government parts of those rights as necessary to operate the state. If you haven't delegated a right to the government, then it is yours by default.

The Founding Fathers were smart enough to write the Constitution so that the government had no part in protecting rights. It always annoys me when somebody spouts off that protecting rights is the most important job of the government. While the government today does that to a small degree, it was not designed for that purpose and it is far from its most important job (hint: read the Preamble). When people talk about rights being protected by the Constitution, what they really mean is that the Constitution expressly prohibits the government from taking an action. This is far from *actively* protecting rights.

Re:Absolutely not. (1)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 7 years ago | (#19280201)

The constitution describes the government's job or role in america. Along with the declaration of independence and such that led us into the country we are. I don't see anything in the constitution that says protecting people privacy from everyone else. Now state or local governments might have something but none that I'm familiar with.

Arguably, government's most important job is to protect the rights of all people, such as life, liberty, freedom of conscience, freedom to associate with whoever you choose, and so on.
I'll give you the argument you asked for. I don't believe it is the government's job to do any of these. It is however their job not to impose restrictions on it. You need to have your own freedom, not the freedom the government describes for you. And that is exactly what happens when it becomes the government's job to protect these things. We are already over regulated and over restricted because the government felt it need to protect the people form something. Now some things which effected health and safety of the people are a no brainer, but we have long past that.

In fact, when people cry and moan that they cannot do anything or can't succeed in life, I can't answer with anything other then thats what happens when we look to the government for everything. And typically, they push some reply to the effect of the government should do something about it which gets us into more trouble.

Corporations cannot and do not exist outside of laws created by governments. Corporations are not natural persons with inherent rights. It is government that provides the legal framework that limits the liability of the shareholders in a corporation, provides corporations with the ability to own property, and provides corporations any existence as a legal entities at all. The limits on the owner's liability are balanced with limits on the powers of the corporation. There is every reason for government to define and limit what corporations may and may not do.
We extend these rights to corporations because they act as an autonomous vehicle in most cases and are completely dislocated from the investors. There is no reason why you should goto jail or have to file bankruptcy if I barrow $20 for an invention, it kills a bunch of people and I get sued into oblivion. To assume you should he held liable is wrong at best and naive to be more precise. Especially if you have no say into anything other then giving me $20 to get started. And to an extent the government already defines and limits the powers of any corporation.

I am not against laws regulating what they can do with the information and I'm not against laws describing how safe they must keep it. But regulating corporations because you can doesn't make much sense when they are the one giving jobs and using materials that cause jobs to be made/availible.

The Founding Fathers of the US were familiar with the ways in which governments could abuse power, so they found ways to limit and control that power. But in today's world, corporations often hold as much or more power over our lives, and it is worth considering applying the same sort of checks and balances to corporations. The Constitution of the US flat-out prohibits the Federal Government from some areas, and perhaps the same thing needs to be done with corporations.
I'm not apposed to limiting corporations or having checks and balances involved with them. However, I have this suspicion that we have to different ideas of checks and balances and we wouldn't agree with each other much at all. Some people have a dislike for corporations, I'm not one of them. There are bad corporations out there but it isn't reflective the the entirety of them. And I think we need to consider this as much as we do race. Certain racial classifications tend to have a higher percentage of the race convicted of crimes. But it would be insane to consider everyone of that race a criminal. With a few needed exceptions, we don't have laws that single out behavior because of race any more and we shouldn't start down that path with corporations. And we definatley shouldn't be making it harder for someone to start a business which is what this regulation would end up amounting to.

Re:Absolutely not. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19280921)

Some people have a dislike for corporations, I'm not one of them.

You should and this is coming from a pro-capitalist, Ayn Rand fanboy. If you libel Disney, you can be sued at the cost of a small fortune. If Equifax libels you (your finanical status), they have government-granted immunity. Tough cookies. This is one example of the numerous anti-freedom, anti-capitalist, asymmetric abuses that corporations successfully lobby through government. Granted, it is the people's fault for letting this happen, that is no less a reason to hate the trigger men.

Re:Absolutely not. (2, Insightful)

zzatz (965857) | more than 7 years ago | (#19281081)

Perhaps I did express myself clearly. Rights are not entitlements. For example, you have a right to publish your thoughts, but you are not entitled to a printing press.

The basis of the Constitution is that people have inalienable rights, and it specifies one form of government derived from those rights. It enumerates certain rights, but in no way claims that the list of rights is exhaustive. Courts can and have held that other rights are inalienable and thus covered by the Constitution. These are not privileges granted by the government to the people, they are rights of the people. People are not given rights by the Constitution, they are born with inalienable rights.

Privacy has been ruled to be an inalienable right by the Supreme Court, even though it is not specifically listed in the Constitution. Of course, most of our familiar rights weren't listed in the original version. The First Amendment did not create the right to speak freely, we always had that right, it is inalienable. The First Amendment simply acknowledged it, similar to codifying common law into statute law. Some state constitutions, such as California's, do list privacy. Others don't. I'm convinced that privacy is an inalienable right.

Law is made where rights collide and conflict. As often put, your right to swing your fist ends at my nose. In the US, privacy is a right, but one that is poorly defined and with unknown boundaries. I think that European laws provide good guidance, and would like to similar laws here. My image and voice cannot be used without my permission, outside of fair use exemptions. How is other personal information any different?

Re:Absolutely not. (1)

instagib (879544) | more than 7 years ago | (#19279911)

So, if you like something and use it, like a website on growing pot, or street racing, or Al-Jazeera, and because of some investigation your data ends up matching possible suspects, and you are arrested - you just say "well my fault, shouldn't have visited that site"? Are you really able to censor yourself in a way that nothing could interpreted as suspicious? It seems unrealistic to me. A basic regulated privacy protection might be helpful indeed.

Re:Absolutely not. (1)

someone1234 (830754) | more than 7 years ago | (#19280015)

Yeah, but your own government is run by private companies, so what do you do.

Re:Absolutely not. (2, Insightful)

h2g2bob (948006) | more than 7 years ago | (#19280047)

The largest part of the data laws is this:
1. Tell people what data you are collecting from them
2. Keep the data you collect safe

This allows you to "look after your privacy", as you suggest.

Re:Absolutely not. (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 7 years ago | (#19280107)

Utterly nonsensical. Privacy is like security, it's the job of the government to provide it to everybody, period.

Re:Absolutely not. (1)

powermacx (887715) | more than 7 years ago | (#19280123)

You don't think your government should care. I am glad mine does.

From the (amended in 1994) Argentinian Constitution:
"Any person shall file this action to obtain information on the data about himself and their purpose, registered in public records or data bases, or in private ones intended to supply information; and in case of false data or discrimination, this action may be filed to request the suppression, rectification, confidentiality or updating of said data."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Habeas_Data [wikipedia.org]

Re:Absolutely not. (1)

babbling (952366) | more than 7 years ago | (#19280313)

I actually see the current state of things in the US as a loophole. As long as the government outsources their spying, they can go unregulated. They can subpoena companies at any time and gain access to any data that those companies have.

That is just ignorant (2, Insightful)

MonGuSE (798397) | more than 7 years ago | (#19279515)

What you use or don't use is irrelevant as to what a company does with your data. Ever heard of information clearing houses? Basically huge databases set up just to collect individuals private data from everything the IRS, Criminal records, news reports, previous addresses, published papers, bank account info, credit accounts, investments everything. You can't keep companies from actively doing that without living completely off the grid.... Think about your statements next time.

Re:That is just ignorant (1)

tvjunky (838064) | more than 7 years ago | (#19279707)

Ever heard of information clearing houses?
Umm, no?

Greetings from Europe :)

Re:That is just ignorant (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19279879)

In Europe, only the government is allowed to store massive amounts of private information on people. This information is much safer with the government. After all, it is not like the governments of Europe have ever abused the rights of their citizens or anything. And I am sure no-one could ever steal that information from the government, either, as government security is infailable.

Ahh, to be European... Your fanatical trust in the benevolence of the government is only matched by your complete unwillingness to learn from history. You think that the continent that spawned Imperialism, Fascism, and Communism would have learned not to trust the government by now.

Re:That is just ignorant (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19280083)

Ahh, to be US-American... Your fanatical trust in the benevolence of capitalism is only matched by your complete unwillingness to learn from current events. You think that the country that spawned Neo-Imperialism, share holder value and fast food would have learned not to trust the companies by now.

Re:That is just ignorant (2, Insightful)

harmlessdrudge (718066) | more than 7 years ago | (#19280707)

Name ONE European govt that stores massive amounts of private information on people. You can't because there isn't one. There isn't a single govt. in Europe that has at its fingertips unified access to all of the information it holds about its citizens, just as the US doesn't. Do you usually invent such things? Credit reference agencies like Experian operate legally in Europe as do many other services that provide information about people. All operate subject to laws about what they can and cannot do. They are subject to much fewer restrictions in the US. Your comment "You think that the continent that spawned Imperialism, Fascism, and Communism would have learned not to trust the government by now." is sophomoric. You forget that these movements were popularly supported. One of their characteristics was idiotic characterisation of others followed by their oppression. Continents don't learn. People do, unless they uneducated, credulous, speak only one language, have never traveled outside their home country and perhaps, have a habit of just inventing what they want to believe. If which case they are people who would have no credible claim to say that would resist the next moron ideology. Furthermore, it is precisely the European experience of war that has driven the creation of the EU or "European Project" and EU wide standards, including EU directives on privacy. The Europeans have discovered that cooperation is a good basis for peace, justice and prosperity. Europe has learned some lessons the US has yet to learn.

Re:That is just ignorant (1)

VON-MAN (621853) | more than 7 years ago | (#19280781)

We spawned you, hahahahaha!

Re:That is just ignorant (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 7 years ago | (#19281443)

Corporations are not any more (and usually much less) trustworthy than the government. Trust or distrust your govt, letting corporations have your information is pretty much guaranteed to be worse. Especially when it comes to corporations who work against you as opposed to for you where even the old capitalist mantra of "vote with your wallet" has no chance anymore.

typical slashdot hypocrisy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19279897)

The slashdot crowd here constantly proclaim their right to to do what they want with information, "it wants to be free" don't you know. But if God forbid, evil capitalist pigs want to use freely volunteered information for marketing reasons, it's time to call big brother (Gov't) to protect us.

PS No one will probably see this since /. is the most censored forum I have ever seen in the many years I have surfed the net.

Re:typical slashdot hypocrisy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19280161)

Your mom is censored.

Re:typical slashdot hypocrisy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19280473)

pussy

Re:typical slashdot hypocrisy (1)

VON-MAN (621853) | more than 7 years ago | (#19280807)

PS No one will probably see this since /. is the most censored forum I have ever seen in the many years I have surfed the net.
Then don't be an AC, you stupid ass.

Re:That is just ignorant (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19280749)

Interesting comments in London (where Eric Schmidt made some controversial remarks) on where Google may going:

http://wombatdiet.net/2007/05/24/green-revolution- in-trafalgar-square/ [wombatdiet.net]

Re:That is just ignorant (2, Interesting)

Raydome777 (983995) | more than 7 years ago | (#19281003)

The United Kingdom has a law (Data Protection Act (1984)) whose main point is to prevent companies from building those sort of databases. If you hold personal data about an individual you are under a legal obligation to to allow access to that individual access to that data so that they can check it is accurate, guarentee its security and you have have a good story on the information's relavance.

Obviously, this was all put in place before the Internet so its all a bit pointless, but I guess where the BBC is coming from is that, to UK ears, googles policy of storing your search history feels contrary to the law.

Re:That is just ignorant (1)

nevali (942731) | more than 7 years ago | (#19281379)

No; the only real purpose of the Act is to make sure that the information in these massive databases is correct, under the auspices of doing some sort of favour to the public. It does nothing to stop them collecting information that you unwittingly make available, directly or otherwise.

There is a relatively ineffective legal framework governing how collected information can be disseminated, but it's not really stopped the likes of, say, the credit reference agencies from doing what they've always done--which invariably is far more insidious than anything Google gets up to (when Google starts being able to identify me and my habits by my postal address and provides a history of my activities to my bank when I apply for a loan, then I worry).

The Act really is about doing the collating companies a favour. You, as a member of the public, are encouraged to tell them when they've got their information about you wrong. They need never bother checking again: embittered citizens--marching on about how they've achieved some sort of victory by getting their postal address updated in some database--will do it for them!

A government concerned with it's citizens privacy? (4, Funny)

kungfujesus (969971) | more than 7 years ago | (#19279517)

Wow! I now owe my friend 20 bucks! Damn, I never thought I'd lose that bet.

Where's the victim? (1)

sevenfactorial (996184) | more than 7 years ago | (#19279575)


In the case of Google in particular, their retaining information about the search habits of users seems to have hurt no one.

Why exactly they would want to keep and associate search records with individuals for two years or more seems an absolute mystery to me, and perhaps it's slightly creepy. But to my knowledge there's not a single instance of this data having been abused for blackmail, investigation for sedition, investigation for drug use, etc. All of these are clearly possibile, however.

This whole question makes you aware of what a new medium the internet is. Should the content of a Google search be considered public or private information? My inclination is to consider it public. If people want a privacy friendly search engine, let them pay for one.

At any rate, as all this is evolving, why not give Google the benefit of the doubt. I say wait and see if there's actually a problem.

Re:Where's the victim? (1)

jlarocco (851450) | more than 7 years ago | (#19279679)

Why exactly they would want to keep and associate search records with individuals for two years or more seems an absolute mystery to me, and perhaps it's slightly creepy. But to my knowledge there's not a single instance of this data having been abused for blackmail, investigation for sedition, investigation for drug use, etc. All of these are clearly possibile, however.

<sarcasm>I agree 100%. We should wait for it to become a huge, entrenched problem first. Then, when this information is being lost and leaked onto the net, and people are being blackmailed and investigated with retained information left and right, we should fix it then. Thus far, corporations have a nearly pristine track record of managing private information. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.</sarcasm>

Or, maybe it hasn't been a problem because 99.9999% of companies in Europe are obeying the laws?

Oh, and can some raving Google fanboy please explain this:
Google caves in to oppressive laws of communist Chinese government == good
Google breaks consumer friendly laws of democratic EU == also good?!? WTF?

What exactly does Google have to do for you all stop mindlessly promoting them as some friendly "not evil" corporation, and realize they're no different than MS, Adobe, Sony, and all the rest?

Re:Where's the victim? (1)

Andrew Kismet (955764) | more than 7 years ago | (#19279687)

As far as I can tell, they use the data to generate trend information, work on localisation, and generally find out where they need to focus the 80% of their 80/20 time.

As long as I know what data they're storing, I have no problem with them keeping my data for up to two years. Maybe I'll regret that two years from now, but it's very unlikely.

Re:Where's the victim? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19280143)

Well, as long as you can tell I'm happy. After all, you have access to these databases, right?

Re:Where's the victim? (2, Insightful)

instagib (879544) | more than 7 years ago | (#19279719)

retaining information about the search habits of users seems to have hurt no one

I agree that Google themselves are not a "risk" - they use the data for ad targeting. But what if they are forced to reveal data, or get hacked, or just make a mistake?

The data they have from searches can be as complete as who searched when what, and clicked which result. Certain types of lawyers can create major problems for someone out of a data set like this.

Re:Where's the victim? (1)

siddesu (698447) | more than 7 years ago | (#19279849)

How, pray tell, do you know what google uses this data for? Are you on their board or something? Unless you have no access to that kind of information, you don't know. There is still this case of American phone companies providing phone call data _willingly_ to the US government. Did you know about that before someone blew the whistle? And this happens in a country in which government abuse of private information is very much under control, compared to the rest of the world.

Don't be so naive, every large corporation (and many small ones) are intimately in bed with the establishment. It is just not good business not to be ;)

google.cn (0, Flamebait)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 7 years ago | (#19279705)

google probably uses the search associations for ads or something- but at the rate that people use tor, cookie cullers etc. it seems to be a mute point.

At any rate, as all this is evolving, why not give Google the benefit of the doubt. I say wait and see if there's actually a problem.

they need to be watched just like any other company- just because their motto is do no evil [google.cn] doesnt mean they need to abide by that. especially if their laast stockholder vote says anything - do no evil just became do slightly less evil than otherwise.

Re:google.cn (1)

hcmtnbiker (925661) | more than 7 years ago | (#19279875)

they need to be watched just like any other company
Are you saying we should violate Google's right to privacy on the notion that it is *possible* that there is a problem? Tell me if I'm wrong, but isn't that just slightly hypocritical?

Re:google.cn (1)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 7 years ago | (#19279947)

Are you saying we should violate Google's right to privacy on the notion that it is *possible* that there is a problem?

since when was my right not to be essentially spied on a violation of Google's privacy?

Re:google.cn (0)

zzatz (965857) | more than 7 years ago | (#19279993)

A person has a right to privacy. Google is not a person.

Re:google.cn (1)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 7 years ago | (#19280267)

They are a corporation. In America a corporation is a substitute person and we have extended them most all of the rights persons have.

You can debate the right or wrongness of this. But until the laws and rules are changed, prepare to be disappointed a lot.

Re:google.cn (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19280199)

Google, as a corporation, doesn't have privacy. Unless they're working on some classified government projects, the only "privacy" they can have is spelled out in contracts with their employees. If some Google employee released all kinds of information about Google's inner-workings and financial information, the worst they could do is sue for breach of contract.

It just doesn't make sense for a corporation to have privacy because they're big collections of people working together. It's like saying "We should respect Chicago's privacy." WTF would that even mean?

Re:google.cn (1)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 7 years ago | (#19280543)

Hmm.. So a big collection of people don't have the same rights as a single person. Interesting.

Re:google.cn (1)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 7 years ago | (#19280331)

do no evil just became do slightly less evil than otherwise.
that was meant in reference to google's earlier stance on google china where it was decided that refusing to cooperate with china's censorship of its people was not worth it. it was in fact voiced on slashdot on more than one occasion on slashdot that this wasnt very good thing for google to do it. it was not meant as a flame in any way shape or form, just a comment on google's history and how it reflects on the current topic.

Information Requests In Alberta (1)

sm4096 (1104499) | more than 7 years ago | (#19279797)

I am from Alberta. I we can take them Google up on a "Personal Information Protection Act" (PIPA) request to see what they are collecting on me and who they are sharing this with (my searches etc)... Google has to share all personal information they collect on me if they intend to use it or not(subject to a possible fee so I want to know what they charge for it first... and there is a complain process). Anyhow if you have paranoid concerns you can get some people to make some requests here in Alberta. I think having Google disclose information they are collecting here may be of interest to the people involved in this action. http://www.oipc.ab.ca/pipa/about.cfm [oipc.ab.ca]

bi"znatch (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19279899)

the numbers. The fly...don't fear *BSD but FreeBSD one coomon goal - diseases. The rapid, to its laid-back wou7d like to MAKES ME SICK JUST

No. (1, Insightful)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 7 years ago | (#19279903)

Don't like a company's privacy policy? Don't patronize them. Don't like the lack of companies providing a particular service in a way that you DO like? You're probably not alone. Start one, using the money that you'll no doubt be able to attract, just like the Google guys were able to attract the money to start theirs. Think that some Evil US Corporation is operating on the internet in a way that you just can't stand? Unplug it from your country - your citizens surely won't mind.

Think "corporations" shouldn't retain data about their customers? What? How about when two guys incorporate to form a landscaping company. Or a flower shop specializing in deliveries to business clients. Or an IT service shop. Never mind their obligation to keep all sorts of records in case they get audited seven years after a transaction - what about the degree to which retaining detailed information about their customers is the very thing that allows them to be valuable to those customers? If the customers would rather get less service in exchange for more privacy, they can shop for vendors and service providers that have to ask them the same questions every time the interact so they'll... feel better? Personally, I like the fact that the franchise that changes my vehicle's engine fluids is already pulling up my service record when they see my license plate roll into their queue lane.

Re:No. (4, Insightful)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 7 years ago | (#19280147)

That's not so easy. If you have a friend who uses gmail, then whenever you send your friend an email, Google will keep *your* email for god knows how long. And they certainly didn't ask *you* about it. So your simplistic solution "don't patronize those kinds of companies" doesn't work.

Re:No. (1)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 7 years ago | (#19280217)

If you have a friend who uses gmail, then whenever you send your friend an email, Google will keep *your* email for god knows how long. And they certainly didn't ask *you* about it. So your simplistic solution "don't patronize those kinds of companies" doesn't work.

Sure it does. Don't send e-mail to people who are supporting a business you don't trust. If you have actual, persuasive, sensible reasons to think that Google is Officially Evil, then you should have absolutely no trouble convincing an actual "friend" that they should switch to another provider... maybe even PAY for mail hosting so they can have it the way they (um... you, actually, in this case) want it. Google is doing it FOR FREE. What sort of person thinks they get free service from someone, and then also get to have it all on their own terms? Well, I mean, besides the EU? There is no free lunch. Pay for your own mail hosting with cash, or pay for Google's FREE service with your acceptance of their business model. It's not like it's complicated. And if you've got your Anti-Google speech down pretty well, it shouldn't be any harder to get a friend to switch than it would be to get them to change toothpaste once you've pointed out that their brand is poisonous. If it IS poisonous... and that's the issue, here, isn't it?

Re:No. (2, Insightful)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 7 years ago | (#19280351)

Uh, it's not like you can tell if they use google or not. Your friend might have a vanity email with redirection to his gmail account, or his ISP might use a google backend, etc.

Finally, if I say something in private to my friend, I don't see what business it is of Googles (or any other company) to snoop on what I'm saying. This has nothing to do with Google being Evil(TM) or not, it's just common sense. In fact, it would be silly to say that nearly everybody in the world is Evil(TM) just because I don't want to share my private information with them.

But anyway, Google is certainly not doing anything FOR ME for FREE, since I don't use gmail myself. However, when I write an email to somebody who uses gmail, then Google is doing TO ME uncalled for things, like snooping on MY words, for FREE admittedly.

Re:No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19281349)

It's your fried who gave up your email to Google. Your friend agreed to have your email scanned, stored and used by Google.

Re:No. (1, Interesting)

Liquid-Gecka (319494) | more than 7 years ago | (#19280291)

So then tell your friend you won't email him at GMail. I am sorry, email is NOT something you can easily protect based on the very nature of how it is delivered and how much control there is at every point along its delivery route. Concerned about that? Encrypt your emails. Expecting email to be "private" is a joke. Its just like saying that your posts on a blog are private because you turn on some control lists.

Also, have you ever read Googles privacy policies? Its the only company that doesn't blanket state that they will change the privacy policy at any time without notice. They actually say that they will not reduce your rights if they change the policy. They also state that they will only use personal information for the intended purpose and if they decide to use it some other way they will get your consent.

Googles private Policy [google.com]

Re:No. (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 7 years ago | (#19280415)

When I email a personal friend, I am not blogging on some random website, so I don't see how the two are supposed to be the same.

Also, have you ever read Googles privacy policies?
I don't need to read Google's privacy policy, since I'm not a gmail user. I'm not asking them for a service, they're the ones who insist on snooping on my words if I email a certain friend.

BTW, privacy policies don't protect customers over the long run. When a company wants to modify their policy, they phase it out with old service contracts, and make sure that the newer contracts will refer to the new policy. It's standard practice. You shouldn't be so trusting, companies are not people.

Re:No. (1)

This is outrageous! (745631) | more than 7 years ago | (#19280835)

Concerned about that? Encrypt your emails. Expecting email to be "private" is a joke.

It's not about them reading your messages.

It's about them using the headers to link your email address(*) with all searches, cookies and ad-sense carrying sites browsed from your IP.

(*)Hence really your identity, if a message with you professional address, say, ends up forwarded to one of their accounts. )

Great idea in theory (3, Insightful)

Infonaut (96956) | more than 7 years ago | (#19280297)

Don't like a company's privacy policy? Don't patronize them.

This libertarian idea is wonderful in theory, but not so easy in practice. If all of the companies in a given market have economic incentives to make use of your private data, they will all err on the side of making more revenue, not protecting your privacy. In a publicly-owned company, the profit motive will always beat out any concerns that are considered secondary. Even where a company knows that privacy is important to users, they also know it is not *the* most important determining factor for customers. Therefore, even though it might be high on the list of customer concerns, all the companies in the market will still ignore it.

For an example of this in action, look at those obnoxious watermarks all American TV channels now display. Nobody likes it, but it's not enough of a detriment that people won't watch whatever ABC, CBS, NBC, et al, is showing. The fact that they all do it makes it impossible to show your displeasure by switching channels anyway.

Your example of the landscaping company records is a red herring. These sorts of customer service businesses only gather information related to the work they do for you, while search engines gather a much broader range of information. The fact that small service businesses get audited is irrelevant as well. Nothing in the audit records is going to provide anything beyond transaction dates and amounts. Generally speaking, Mom & Pop's Garden Service doesn't get routinely attacked by ambitious hacker networks, either.

I understand that you enjoy the benefits of companies using your personal information to provide better service. So do I. So do the vast majority of people. But I think it's a gross simplification to say that as a practical matter we really have much choice in the matter.

Re:Great idea in theory (1)

VON-MAN (621853) | more than 7 years ago | (#19281077)

"all companies will err on the side of making more revenue"

Yes, I agree. I find it disturbing that this must be explained so often. Also, I would like to add that this behavior should be fully expected from a company. And that is exactly why government should protect the general populace (and companies) from companies with law.

That goes both ways (1)

Rix (54095) | more than 7 years ago | (#19280343)

Don't like a country's privacy laws? Don't do business there.

Don't like sucking your boss'es d!ck? Leave. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19280583)

Don't like your child being abused by her teacher? Find another one.

that's why there are laws that define what is a crime, even if you're used to it.

Re:No. (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 7 years ago | (#19280989)

Don't like a company's privacy policy? Don't patronize them.

No!

Why should businesses have the right to store information about me indefinitely? How does it benefit me? EU? It only benefits shareholders in the companies by making them money at the expense of my privacy, while all responsibility is abdicated to an abstraction representing those people.

In Europe, we realise that a free market can solve some problems. Government regulation is needed to solve other problems.

Personally, I like the fact that the franchise that changes my vehicle's engine fluids is already pulling up my service record when they see my license plate roll into their queue lane.

Yes, but nothing in EU law prevents this. The data is directly relevent to their business. They don't keep data about absolutely everything I've ever done there.

Re:No. (2, Insightful)

CaptainZapp (182233) | more than 7 years ago | (#19281361)

Don't like a company's privacy policy? Don't patronize them.

Don't like European laws? Don't do business there.

Interesting (5, Insightful)

jeevesbond (1066726) | more than 7 years ago | (#19279925)

So, due to privacy concerns, the EU dislikes Google storing data on its users, but forces ISPs to retain data for two years [slashdot.org] ? Under the catch-all excuse of 'terrorism' no less.

In the US on the other hand privacy laws generally cover government actions while the business sector remains largely unregulated. Is it perhaps time to follow the European example and extend privacy laws to include corporations?

They could follow each others example: the EU could introduce laws to stop government snooping, whilst the US introduces laws to stop corporate snooping. Personally I find the EU government snooping worse than Google, at least Google is a product choice, government laws can't be worked around. Although the purchase of Double-click does make Google's tracking somewhat difficult to avoid when surfing around.

Failing that, just use Scroogle [scroogle.org] and/or Tor [eff.org] and/or an ad-blocker. :)

Re:Interesting (1, Insightful)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 7 years ago | (#19280257)

Personally, I find the US policy worse. With government snooping, there is parliamentary oversight in principle and the ability to change laws later, which is a lot better than trusting greedy investors and holier than thou companies to not sell my data to third parties, like crazy marketers, credit reporting and insurance companies, or front companies for organized crime.

Politics aside, as a rule I think that whichever solution limits more the spreading around of my data is the solution I prefer, at least while we wait for both the US and EU to fix their respective deficiencies.

Re:Interesting (1)

VON-MAN (621853) | more than 7 years ago | (#19280947)

"EU government snooping"??? There is NO such thing. There are, however, EU laws regarding "snooping". But that is really something different. (You were thinking of the British government that's snooping, CCD cams come to mind).

"Personally I find the EU government snooping worse than Google, at least Google is a product choice, government laws can't be worked around."

Let's just straighten this remark out: "I can stop using Google, and with the next elections I can send my government home." these are your choices.

Sorry, the way you Brits ALWAYS blame the continent for... everything, is pathetic.

What about retention? (2, Insightful)

McGiraf (196030) | more than 7 years ago | (#19279967)

What about the other laws? The ones about data retention by the ISPs so governments can subpoena it when they want to? Emails, Proxy logs etc? no privacy concern there? sheesh ...

There is a big gap (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19280397)

The governement is beholden to respect the privacy law, and justify (with a judge signed document) getting those ISP kept data. Sure you can argue that they can abuse the power, but this would then be illegal. On face value the governement also cannot resell your data to somebody else. On the other hand corporation can do whatever they want including reselling your data to the most shaddy part of the world. This is partially why there is a privacy law in the EU because it is recognized of the possible abuse of the corporate world (data rentention, and right of rectification).

I would rather give my data to the governement than to a corporation, especially seeing how quick they are to sell/whore it off. And don't think A SECOND that if the governement is asking politely anyway the corporation won't give all the data they have on you. Since you have next to no way to block the governement getting the data, then the only bit you can protect is refusing to give the data to corporation to begin with, OR to force them to reespect the privacy of the data.

And before you start spouting off something about free market, think that for some stuff you cannot really avoid local monopolies (health, electricity, water....). Meaning that either you live out of society or you are screwed with US policy.

Re:What about retention? (1)

VON-MAN (621853) | more than 7 years ago | (#19281183)

Yes. What about them? The EU is harmonizing data privacy laws in the whole of Europe. Google, when operating in the EU, isn't exempt from these laws. And yes, absolutely, there are enormous privacy concerns with those retention laws (and I doubt that it'll be a big problem for the real terrorists).

It should be noted that not the emails themselves a kept, but the logs of the mailservers. Just as mobile phone records are kept and not the actual conversations. The differences there should be obvious.

the obvious question: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19280157)

Google is a US corporation. Of what concern are European privacy laws to it?

(And wasn't it the EU that was *requiring* retention of a lot of personal web data recently?)

Re:the obvious question: (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19280221)

Google does business in the EU.

The EU? The European Union? (5, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 7 years ago | (#19280273)

The same EU that requires its ISP to store every connection you make, complete with timestamp and endpoints involved, for at least 6 months, but for however long the governments in the member states deem appropriate? The same EU that wants this information to be easily accessable by everyone who has a "vested interest" to hunt down legal offenses? Without describing too closely what a "vested interest" could be or whether only other governments or even some private organisations can access that information at will.

We're talking about that EU, yes?

Re:The EU? The European Union? (5, Informative)

da_matta (854422) | more than 7 years ago | (#19280831)

The important difference in this is that the data stored by ISP's is for law enforcement purposes and requires a court order for access. There are also very strict regulations about who/why/when can access and how to log that access. Google and other companies store and use data to make profit with very little regulation.

Re:The EU? The European Union? (1)

asninn (1071320) | more than 7 years ago | (#19281187)

Yes, that's the same EU.

Has it ever occurred to you that the world is not black and white? Just because an entity does SOME bad things doesn't mean that EVERYTHING it does is bad. You'd think that people from the USA of all places would understand that.

Re:The EU? The European Union? (1)

VON-MAN (621853) | more than 7 years ago | (#19281235)

The same EU that wants this information to be easily accessable by everyone who has a "vested interest" to hunt down legal offenses?
No.
With 'everyone who has a "vested interest"' you mean the judge and secret services, don't you?

Without describing too closely what a "vested interest" could be or whether only other governments or even some private organisations can access that information at will.
No.
It is in fact exactly the other way around. These things are very precisely described.

Screw EU (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19280609)

Just another attempt of the EU to try and control the US. What's next? No US company/body/group/government/politician/UN representative is going to take that. Even Microsoft is figuring ways around it. We are Americans and no one tells us what to do. The UN is all just a big joke anyway. Most people are against it. Guess what EU? We STILL went to Iraq, despite disapproval. We don't care. We are the USA, the BEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD.

We'll live on, with our inches and miles, MM-DD-YYYY date system, ANSI standards, etc etc. The idea of nations coming together and disagreeing with our opinion is pure INSANITY.

NT (1)

killerdark (922011) | more than 7 years ago | (#19281041)

Move along, move along

Here's an idea (0, Flamebait)

chuckymonkey (1059244) | more than 7 years ago | (#19281233)

How about no one gives a shit. Nobody is being forced to use google if they don't want to that I'm aware of and I don't think that any government should really care all that much how long or if a company chooses to keep the data of its service's users. Really this is a non-issue to me.
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