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Google May Close Gmail Germany Over Privacy Law

CmdrTaco posted more than 7 years ago | from the well-thats-not-very-good dept.

Communications 368

Matt writes "Google is threatening to shut down the German version of its Gmail service if the German Bundestag passes it's new Internet surveillance law. Peter Fleischer, Google's German privacy representative says the new law would be a severe blow against privacy and would go against Google's practice of also offering anonymous e-mail accounts. If the law is passed then starting 2008, any connection data concerning the internet, phone calls (With position data when cell phones are used), SMS etc. of any German citizen will be saved for 6 months, anonymizing services like Tor will be made illegal."

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Phew! (3, Interesting)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628137)

Just when I thought Europe was going to be the last bastion of freedom in the world.

Congress, look out ... Germany is going to one-up you if you're not careful.

Re:Phew! (4, Informative)

Halo1 (136547) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628207)

Unlike what the summary suggests, this is not specific to Germany. It's the implementation of a European directive [edri.org] on data retention. And FWIW, the US is indeed less invasive than the EU [edri.org] at this point concerning data retention.

Re:Phew! (4, Insightful)

Zarhan (415465) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628357)

It IS specific to Germany in some respects. Remember, the directive only specifies the MINIMUM requirements for the law; The implementations are country-specific.

Outlawing Tor is very much specific to Germany.

Re:Phew! (5, Interesting)

Halo1 (136547) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628415)

That's true, although it is quite "consistent" with the directive. One of our criticisms was that it is ridiculous to do what the directive requires because there are so many ways around it. Forcing ISPs to record all email from/to data can be worked around by using foreign email providers and tunnelling. Recording from/to data about IP-telephony can't be done without inspecting every single ip packet flowing through your network, and even then only if someone is using a documented protocol without encryption/obfuscation, etc.

Banning TOR, requiring foreign email providers to play by the rules of the directive etc are minimal requirements for implementing the directive in any "sensible" way, if you look at it from an data retention efficacy perspective.

So in the end, I am convinced it is perfectly correct to say that this is all because of that EU directive and the horrific combination of fascists and idiots that supported it "to save the children" and to "catch the terrorists".

Re:Phew! (5, Informative)

moronoxyd (1000371) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628437)

Outlawing Tor is very much specific to Germany.

Tor will not be outlawed, but anybody who runs a Tor server from within Germany has to log the connection data, which pretty much goes against the idea of Tor.
But running or using Tor in general will not be illegal (from what I unterstand).

Re:Phew! (4, Interesting)

octopus72 (936841) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628707)

Fortunately, it is irrelevant where Tor server actually runs :)
It seems that idea of such directives is to prevent common case of communication from becoming really secure, so that anyone can be a suspect just if he/she ever used that method way of communication.
For that reason we won't soon (or ever) see secure authentication and exchange of decryption keys in e.g. mobile-phones: so that police can tune in and listen whenever they want. Although we already see this "problem" with VoIP which is widely used as replacement for a fixed telephony.

Re:Phew! (1)

rmstar (114746) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628445)

Outlawing Tor is very much specific to Germany.

Do you have any other links discussing this? Is this "Germany Outlaws Tor" for real?

Re:Phew! (1)

rognvaldr (602788) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628687)

Outlawing Tor is very much specific to Germany.

What's the point of prohibiting software that is already prohibitively slow?

Re:Phew! (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628441)

And FWIW, the US is indeed less invasive than the EU at this point concerning data retention.
Well, that's a relief.
[/SARCASM]
Now what about all those other metrics we use to measure privacy?
How's the US Government doing with those?

Re:Phew! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19628619)

"Now what about all those other metrics we use to measure privacy?"

That's why the US doesn't use metrics.

Re:Phew! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19628215)

Germany is currently on the course to be more of a total surveillance state than Orwell could ever imagine. the minister of the interior is doing things that imho cleary go against the constitution.

Re:Phew! (0, Troll)

ijakings (982830) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628349)

Currently the EU is being very, very, very controlling and surveillance. They are being totally draconian. I live in the UK and ive just had about enough of this EU bs. Do you know what they have been up to this weekend? They have been meeting with the German Chancellor (Its germanys turn to be EU leader bods) to find a way to push through this new EU treaty. Basically it means they can push through the EU constitution that was thrown out by voters in 2 of the countries last time, without the pesky annoyances of, oh lets say, the people of the EU voting on the matter through those annoying referendums. Annoyingly, voters dont seem to want a Draconian controlling EU, where only a majority of countries are needed for things to be agreed upon not unanimous, and are able to force through anti privacy laws without needing for one of those Referendum things that dont go their way. We EVEN have a memo from this Cow of a chancellor who ADMITTED to forcing the main points of the constitution through without the need for those annoying voters having a say. This is an insult to the freedoms our heros fought for during the two world wars. They are slowly eroding them with "Directives" and "Treatys" Im sick of it.

Re:Phew! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19628389)

Can you tell me why the UK still wants to stay in the EU then?

Re:Phew! (2, Insightful)

the_womble (580291) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628521)

Because the British government (meaning the cabinet and prime minister) love to have the EU do the sort of things they want to do, but might not be able to do if Britain was independant because of parliament and public opinion.

The EU concil of ministers, being unelected, are not bothered by MPs or public opinion.

Re:Phew! (2, Informative)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628665)

The European Council consists of heads of state and government of the EU. The members therefor are, by default, elected by each countries populace. The European Council also has no legislative powers.

The European Parliament consists of ministers elected by the populace of member states every five years, last elections held in 2004. The parliament has legislative powers.

The Council of the European Union consists of ministers from each member state, and is transitory in that which minister attending depends on the matter at hand. By default, these ministers are elected as they are a member of their elected government. The council has legislative powers.

Which unelected council are you referring to?

Re:Phew! (3, Insightful)

Elemenope (905108) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628393)

I'm sorry; I'm sure your concerns are genuine. I'm just confused that a UK citizen would be comparing just about anyone else unfavorably to themselves on the issue of surveillance. Am I totally off base, or is the UK that place in the world where CCTV cameras are more common than traffic lights? Isn't constant visual surveillance a hallmark of controlling, manipulative, and draconian regimes?

Re:Phew! (1)

The Anarchist Avenge (1004563) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628409)

Hey man, not to rain on your parade, but take a closer look at Winston Churchill. That dude was anything but a hero of democracy and human rights. Not that I disagree with anything else you said, but it's never a good idea to idolize history like that.

Re:Phew! (4, Informative)

vidarh (309115) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628447)

Funny. You do realize that they can't push through the new treaty without the agreement of the member states government, don't you?

Furthermore, that one of the real points of contention is that the UK is trying it's best to prevent the treaty from making a charter of fundamental rights for EU's citizens legally binding.

So for once, rather than complaining about the EU in general and Germany in particular, those of us living in the UK should instead be complaining about how our government at every turn tries to prevent from being bound to give it's citizens any form of protection against it's government.

so will it be a crime to have open 802.11 routers? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19628145)

WTF?

I can walk around San Francisco and find hundreds, if not thousands, of open or misconfigured wireless routers. Anonymous access to anyone with a notebook.

How does germany plan on enforcing this?

Re:so will it be a crime to have open 802.11 route (2, Interesting)

Wellington Grey (942717) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628301)

How does germany plan on enforcing this?


Dude, they one of the largest people moving exercises in history with only the most primitive of computers [amazon.com] , I think they could handle easily detectable wireless in 2007.

-Grey [wellingtongrey.net]

They have the infrastructure in place (4, Interesting)

localroger (258128) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628413)

Germany already requires licenses for TV sets and things like baby monitors. And they enforce it. They actually have vans equipped with detection equipment that scan for electromagnetic radiation from these devices, and if you're not on record as having paid the tax their is a knock on your door. Extending this to 802.11 will be trivial.

Re:They have the infrastructure in place (5, Interesting)

thebigbluecheez (1010821) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628627)

Similarly when you pick up a pre-paid SIM card for your phone, you get a form asking you to register your phone number. You have to go show ID and then the O2 (or whichever) shop keys your information in. They took my passport number, an address, punched it into the computer and said have a nice day. Had I not gone in and registered my SIM card? Phone number goes dead in two weeks, no questions asked.

Compare this to the 'States, where getting pre-paid service is about as anonymous as a cell phone gets.

Does anyone (any Germans in the house?) know what they DO with this? Why is it required to register my phone? Why?

Re:They have the infrastructure in place (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19628717)

They actually have vans equipped with detection equipment that scan for electromagnetic radiation from these devices, and if you're not on record as having paid the tax their is a knock on your door.

Yeah, but do they have cat-detector vans from the Ministry of Housinge?

Routers are not misconfigured in Germany (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628617)

They come pre-configured for high security.

 

Hitler would've been proud (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19628155)

This sort of shit is why we fought WWII. Fucking Nazi bastards. It'll be the secret police kicking down your door in the middle of the night and taking you to concentration camps next.

Re:Hitler would've been proud (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19628193)

What you forget is that such laws are proposed mostly to "fight a war against terrorism".
The existence of this problem, and the stupid idea of fighting terrorism with a war, is mostly the USA's fault.

Re:Hitler would've been proud (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19628453)

Ah, the euro-apologists can't resist a nice baseless slam. It's good to see some things never change.

Re:Hitler would've been proud (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19628333)

Though your point is valid, this is not unique to Hitler. History shows us that almost all Governments will eventually try to control the freedoms of their citizens in increasingly more invasive manners.

Re:Hitler would've been proud (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19628345)

Dude, the secret police already do that, in Germany and elsewhere. Haven't you been paying attention to anything recently?

In other news (5, Funny)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628161)

GMail Poland excutives were looking rather nervous after this announcement.

Re:In other news (3, Insightful)

LighterShadeOfBlack (1011407) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628259)

I know that's a joke but in reality there's almost certainly some truth in that. Not just Poland of course, but all of the EU. Germany is one of the most influential members of the EU in terms of forming EU law. If this law gets passed in Germany it's only a matter of time before they try and push it on the rest of the continent.

Re:In other news (1)

a_n_d_e_r_s (136412) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628477)

Its based on an EU directive so the whole of EU will get similar laws.

Thus Google will have to shut down in the whole of EU if they do it in Germany.

Re:In other news (1)

harry666t (1062422) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628491)

I felt kinda safe from stupid law here, in the EU. It seems that all this world is fubar.

So, they're basically outlawing privacy?

Re:In other news (1)

LighterShadeOfBlack (1011407) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628655)

Not outlawing privacy as such. More like outlawing anonymity, althouh there's plenty of privacy-infringing stuff in there too. It's a pretty easy sell to government ministers, basically anyone who goes against it can be rebuffed by saying that people should be held accountable for their actions. Which of course is true to an extent but doesn't tell the whole story of why at least a reasonable degree of anonymity is also necessary to ensure the continuation of things like freedom of speech.

Your website's ccTLD suggests you're in Switzerland though. In which case your neutrality saves you once again.

Re:In other news (-1, Offtopic)

kennylogins (1092227) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628363)

Yeah I know it will be modded offtopic or something, but that's a lol.

Re:In other news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19628515)

They should be really nervous, as our ultra-stupid conservative government [youtube.com] now wonders if a 5-YEAR retention period is better than the 2-YEAR one they proposed in the parliament a few months ago.

Oh god, how I hate those rightist idiots!

Whoa (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19628165)

Polizei state anyone?

China (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19628179)

Yeah, Google will do in Germany what it didn't do in China? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship_by_Google# China [wikipedia.org] (OK, not exactly the same thing but you get the point). I won't bet on it.

Re:China (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19628235)

Actually, that's a rather foolish analogy. In China, for one thing, Google maintains that some access is better than none. More importantly, the laws _are already that way_ in China, and have been for a while; it's not something that's about to be passed. Moreover, China is a more important market.

In Germany, the law does not exist yet, and Google is trying to use its clout (maybe bluffing) to avoid letting that law pass.

And finally, let's not compare content restriction to privacy. There's a difference between `we'll let you block the content you want' and `we'll give you whatever information about people using our services you want'. As far as I know, Google hasn't been placed in a situation in China where the latter has had to happen, though Yahoo has and didn't come through it very well. Which is worse is up for debate.

Re:China (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19628269)

Moreover, China is a more important market.

That really is the only point here. Google is only in it for the money. They don't give a shit about not being evil or "doing what is right". If Germany had as big a market as China, I don't think Google would be considering to leave the market at all.

Re:China (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19628609)

Perhaps that's why they're doing it, but if they go through with this they're showing that they do care at least a little about "doing what is right." Like anyone, they'll consider all the effects of their decisions, but this would clearly show they're not "only" in it for the money.

Pressure can make a difference in the West (3, Insightful)

weston (16146) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628245)

One difference is that in the West, you can pull maneuvers like this and sometimes they actually make a difference. China probably wouldn't have cared much at all if Google had gotten petulant, and it certainly wouldn't have mattered to them whether or not their citizens lost access to something valuable. In Germany, who knows?

And cynical types can always note that China is a much bigger market than Germany.

Re:Pressure can make a difference in the West (3, Insightful)

J'raxis (248192) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628423)

Exactly. Google's company policy seems to be the (rather prudent for a corporation) "follow the law in the countries in which you operate." In the US, they were able to refuse to refuse to do this [slashdot.org] because they have legal recourse, for example. This probably doesn't fly in China.

Re:China (1)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628281)

Yeah, Google will do in Germany what it didn't do in China? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship_by_Google# [wikipedia.org] China (OK, not exactly the same thing but you get the point). I won't bet on it.

Yes I wonder why they didn't stand up to a government that executes more people then the rest of the world combined...

Re:China (0, Troll)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628347)

Yeah, Google will do in Germany what it didn't do in China? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship_by_Google# [wikipedia.org] China (OK, not exactly the same thing but you get the point). I won't bet on it.

Yes I wonder why they didn't stand up to a government that executes more people then the rest of the world combined...


Would that be the US government?

Re:China (2, Insightful)

s4m7 (519684) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628309)

Hmm....
>br/> Germany pop.: 82,400,996 (July 2007 est.)
China pop.: 1,321,851,888 (July 2007 est.)

I'm sure china having sixteen times the population of germany has nothing to do with it.

Minimum Flare (3, Funny)

Portikon (765757) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628203)

I wonder if they are going to start requiring their citizens to wear flare as well.

Re:Minimum Flare (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19628475)

I wonder if they are going to start requiring their citizens to wear flare as well.
I believe they tried that once, along with a friendly salute. Apparently it didn't go down too well...

Re:Minimum Flare (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19628669)

Flare not equals Flair

a New wall (3, Insightful)

jrwr00 (1035020) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628211)

Great We take down one wall and another comes up, why does the government fear computers so much that they must spy on everyone, can't they have a little trust

Re:a New wall (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19628291)

The government doesn't fear computers, it simply cannot allow citizens with computer getting strange ideas like their country could be governed better. They don't like citizens having too much information. After all, the European Union is all about Market, and they refer to their populace as "Consumers" first.

They have to be obedient drones. And they will be.

Re:a New wall (1)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628297)

For the same reason they fear new mediums such as computer games... THEY ARE ALL OLD.

When it comes down to it (1)

JamesRose (1062530) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628213)

Google does have morals, just as long as the market they are standing up against isn't to big, and they'll get the customers anyway (through their austrian service). I could accept what they did in China because it was a business decision to have a limited presence rather than no presence, but this kind of hypocrity is just crap.

Re:When it comes down to it (1)

watchingeyes (1097855) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628641)

There is a difference, though, between censoring data that is unavailable anyways, and spying on your users for a government. In China, for instance, Google has only one the former, whereas Yahoo! is quite happy to do the latter.

Move the servers to the US (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19628219)

and host the German version on de.gmail.com instead of gmail.de ?

Re:Move the servers to the US (1)

JamesRose (1062530) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628417)

Actually I'm fairly sure there are ways of mapping a .de domain to america, you'd just have to fiddle around with some stuff, for example explaining that the company will have some presence in germany.

Re:Move the servers to the US (1)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628435)

and host the German version on de.gmail.com instead of gmail.de ?
I'm not sure exactly how it works, but that wouldn't absolve them of culpability. Take Microsoft's being fined a huge amount of money for packaging Windows Media Player with Windows.

Brazil has had such laws for years (5, Interesting)

mangu (126918) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628223)

According to Brazilian constitution, the right to "personal dignity" always trumps the right to privacy or freedom of expression. You cannot say anything that could be considered "offensive" about anyone, even convicted felons have their right to personal dignity.


Brazilian ISPs have always had the duty to record and keep everything that's sent by anyone over the internet. If someone feels defamed by anything that can be proved to come from that ISP, the company is held responsible if the author cannot be found. Brazilian judges have always been very, very eager to grant injunctions against any publication of personally derogatory words or images.


This includes books too, a famous example was a few years ago, when a biography of soccer star Garrincha [guardian.co.uk] was pulled out of bookstores at the request of his daughters. The reason? It was stated in the book, based on his lovers' declarations, that Garrincha's penis was approximately 27 cm (11 inches) long. This book was later released, after an appeals court decided that saying a man has a large penis is not a derogatory statement.



Re:Brazil has had such laws for years (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19628267)

11 inches?

Is that all?

Re:Brazil has had such laws for years (3, Interesting)

CptPicard (680154) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628549)

These kinds of "right not to be offended" laws are among the most ludicrous pieces of legislation you can imagine, sad to hear Brazil has such an extreme case. In Finland we've got a law against "incitement against a group" which sounds harmless enough (you'd fall foul of the law if you went declaring out on the street that you believe Jews/blacks/redheads should be killed, say).

It's just way too easy for some group to have their sensibilities oh so deeply offended when one even tries to reasonably discuss whether something about them that affects you, too, should be perhaps reconsidered. I like to participate in Finnish language-policy discussions (long story short, the 93% who are Finnish-speakers are supposedly as Swedish-speaking as the 5,5% of them, and if they aren't, they must be made so), and it's incredible how massively offended some Fenno-Swedes can be at the mere suggestion that I happen to be Finnish-speaking, and that no, I don't think it is much of a flaw in my character (or that of my possible children) that needs fixing by state intervention...

Of course, this offends their dignity much and I've been told on numerous occasions that I'm close to inciting against a group.. :-)

Inevitable my dear watson (4, Insightful)

wamatt (782485) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628243)

Its taken the luddite politicians 20 years notice the rise and power of the internet. Virtual will mirror real world as power is rested from the techies into corporate and gorvernments. Privacy will never be mainstream. Although it will still exist for those willing to go the extra mile. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Re:Inevitable my dear watson (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19628305)

Virtual will mirror real world as power is rested from the techies into corporate and gorvernments.

Uhm. I dunno where you are, but the corpies and gubmintmen are running around like headless chickens while the techies wield much more power than we did 20 years ago. I'd be highly surprised if we can't precipitate the outright collapse of a fair few corporations and governments.

Privacy != anonymity (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628263)

Maybe I'm missing something, but this law sounds like a storm in a teacup, and this story sounds like yet another PR exercise on behalf of Google.

Privacy is not the same as anonymity. I have often suggested around here that on-line anonymity may do more harm than good in practice. For the record, that does not mean that I think ISPs should release personal data about their subscribers to just anyone, nor that they should retain such data indefinitely, nor that governments should be able to look up such data on a whim.

But frankly, I suspect that most people who use anonymising techniques on-line do have something to hide, and that something is usually connected to damaging others. There seem to be way, way, way more instances of spammers, phishing expeditions, fraudsters, character assassins and others taking advantage of the relative inability to enforce laws against Internet-based targets — thanks in large part to the relative anonymity you can easily achieve on-line today — than there are examples of genuinely good things like whistle-blowing and free expression under non-free regimes that might legitimately be protected by anonymity. Clearly there is a fine line here between setting dangerous precedents and undermining what might to some people be a vital tool in the defence of liberty, and pragmatically acting to protect lots of people from things that are actually damaging them right now, and I don't for an instant claim that there is a single right answer to this or that I am 100% convinced what I suggest here would always be the way to go.

Incidentally, we already have some similar-sounding laws in the UK, as far as the keeping of records go (under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, primarily) and these haven't led to widespread abuse even under the way-too-controlling Blair administration. There are some things in RIPA that really shouldn't be law, but so far this doesn't seem to be one of them.

Just like Madison... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19628359)

They have something to hide, just like the authors of the Federalist Papers had someting to hide. Once you try to start saying some anonymous speech is ok and some is not you have lost the value of anonymity.

Re:Privacy != anonymity (5, Funny)

BoberFett (127537) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628373)

I notice that you're using a pseudonym rather than posting under your full, legal name. What are you hiding?

Re:Privacy != anonymity (3, Funny)

Wellington Grey (942717) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628535)

I notice that you're using a pseudonym rather than posting under your full, legal name. What are you hiding?


He's a bounty hunter, Mr Fett.

-Grey [wellingtongrey.net]

Why I post "anonymously" (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628675)

I'm hiding my full real name. :-)

Actually, and perhaps rather paradoxically, very few of my on-line writings have my real name attached to them. I wrote here a little while ago about how I'd cancelled all my accounts on social networking sites as well.

I have a very clear reason for doing this: in today's culture, posting under my real name gains me nothing and risks a lot. This is, in fact, where I came in. What we should have are real privacy laws, which prevent the kind of arbitrary collection, sharing and mining of personal information that businesses and governments are increasingly using as technology makes it easy. Until we have these, pseudo-anonymity is a somewhat effective defence, but it's only a band-aid for a greater problem.

The other problem is that society hasn't yet learned that you shouldn't trust everything you read on-line and no-one is perfect. In a sensible world, a prospective employer finding a picture of you doing something stupid while you were a student a decade ago wouldn't be a problem, because they'd just think "Oh, well, a lot of us did stupid stuff when we were students". In a sensible world, a hint in a personal blog that you enjoyed chemistry would not result in police visiting your home because someone reported you as a terrorist. In a sensible world, mentioning your employer by name in a blog wouldn't get you fired (or at least, told to close down the blog or you'd be fired). And so it goes. But this is not, yet, a sensible world.

Before we can reach that world, people need to grow up and realise that no-one is perfect. Finding the odd character flaw or past indiscretion is not the best criteria on which to judge another human being. As I've noted before, if I had taken personal offence every time one of my friends did something that hurt another of my friends, then I would long since have run out of friends. And yet, I know that all of my friends are basically decent people, and that it is just an unfortunate reality that sometimes relationships don't work out and people get hurt, so I am very glad to have the friends I do regardless of any isolated incidents that I might have disliked if I'd been on the wrong end of them.

I am optimistic about this, but I think things have to get worse before they get better. With the current generation growing up with social networking sites who are data mining them like crazy, and who have little concept of personal privacy and why it matters, I think a lot of people are going to get screwed over the next 5–10 years. But after a little while, it will become pretty obvious to everyone that this is stupid. People will stop believing every little thing they read about someone, employers will stop vetting people extensively on their Internet footprint because the method will lack credibility, and when citizens/consumers realise how much they're getting screwed I think they will demand privacy laws that prevent the kinds of abuse that are increasingly happening today.

So, until we reach that point some way down the line, when society has grown up enough to understand the value of privacy and the need to respect people's public personas in a world where most people have an Internet presence somewhere, I choose to protect myself from the damage by posting under pseudonyms on "casual" forums like this one. But I would rather live in a world with serious privacy laws and a grown-up society, where I could write my genuine thoughts here and put my real name to them, knowing that I wasn't going to risk being sued for saying something that inadvertently gave the wrong impression. In that world, I wouldn't need anonymity, and I would be happy to stand by what I write here, with my real name attached.

Re:Privacy != anonymity (2, Insightful)

J'raxis (248192) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628467)

If you're not anonymous, you don't have real privacy. If what you're doing online is being monitored and linked to you, then the only thing that stands between you and that loss of privacy is some flimsy company policy, or in some places, legislation -- both of which always have exceptions allowing the information to be handed over to law enforcement for a variety of reasons.

If the data exists, the government can get hold of it. You only have privacy if the data was never collected in the first place.

Re:Privacy != anonymity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19628529)

Oh FFS, I hope for your sake this is a troll. To pick up on just one of your ridiculous statements : there IS NO WAY TO KNOW how badly RIPA is being abused, because one of the provisions of this awful broken police state law is that it is a serious "tipping off" offence to even tell anybody that you have been required to provide decryption keys.

That's rich (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19628279)

This coming from the company that already stores all search information from all users into a permanent database? This coming from the company that already has software that automatically scans all your emails and stores information about that "for advertising purposes"?

I guess what they're objecting to isn't the storing of such data, since they already do that. It's the idea of having to share that data with the government.

Why not just do what we do in the US? (4, Insightful)

weston (16146) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628283)

Why bother with the law? Seems to me all you need to do is *let* businesses do the tracking (which of course they're going to want to do, because data mining is especially useful for marketeers), and government just needs to occasionally ask nicely for copies?

Better yet if you've also got a unitary executive to go along with it.

Re:Why not just do what we do in the US? (1)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628519)

That works fine until you have a business that caters to the privacy-conscious. And if you truly believe in the free market, you believe that such businesses would come to exist.

Pick and Choose Where to Make a Stand? (3, Insightful)

Black-Man (198831) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628287)

Stand up and fight Germany, but let China and their ilk off the hook. Glad to see consistency w/ these companies.

Re:Pick and Choose Where to Make a Stand? (1)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628323)

Stand up and fight Germany, but let China and their ilk off the hook. Glad to see consistency w/ these companies.
Yes lets all forget that people get killed in China for expressing their freedom of speech. Would you put YOUR life on the line for some better search results.

Re: Inevitable my dear watson (-1, Troll)

jjh37997 (456473) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628315)

Its taken the luddite politicians 20 years notice the rise and power of the internet. Virtual will mirror real world as power is rested from the techies into corporate and gorvernments. Privacy will never be mainstream. Although it will still exist for those willing to go the extra mile. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Privacy should disappear. It's the darkness that allows evil to grow and spread. What the techies should do is set up a system that eliminates the illusion of privacy that the masses currently enjoy and finally starts to spread a light into the lives of the powerful. If we don't start working on a system that eliminates privacy for everyone the only one's who will have privacy are the rich and powerful, you can bet on that.

Re: Inevitable my dear watson (4, Insightful)

Elemenope (905108) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628471)

Yeah, privacy is dumb. Who could possibly use privacy for good purpose?

Perhaps the political dissident who would be jailed for expressing himself in public.

Perhaps the gay man who is unfortunate enough to love someone in Ala-fucking-bama.

Perhaps the abused wife who is trying to flee from an obsessed husband.

Perhaps the ex-con who wants to escape the shadow of his past and live legitimately.

Yeah, privacy is the darkness that clouds everything. Sure.

Re: Inevitable my dear watson (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19628489)

Post your name, address, telephone number SSAN number, credit card numbers, drivers license number and felony convictions.

Re: Inevitable my dear watson (1)

jjh37997 (456473) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628719)

You're making my point..... these things are powerful only because they are private. If I publish all the info that you ask of me I have no protection because I don't have access to everybody elses. However, I don't have a problem letting all that be public (and much more) if it's a two-way street.

Re: Inevitable my dear watson (2, Insightful)

Kennon (683628) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628497)

Privacy should disappear. It's the darkness that allows evil to grow and spread.

Wow why does it not surprise me that the url in your header points to a berkley.edu server? Disconnect from reality much? Anonymity does allow for evil but it also allows for an amount of good that outweighs any amount of evil. The ability to speak out with zero fear of repercussion is a foundation of free speech. If you remove that you begin dismantling the first amendment, at which point we start exercising the second amendment.

Re: Inevitable my dear watson (1)

jjh37997 (456473) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628643)

That's why we have the 2nd amendment.

Besides, most of the fear of repercussion comes from the fact that the powerful can do things to you with complete anonymity. If they were forced to do their dirty work in the full light of public opinion you'd see a change. How many times have you heard about a company or government office screwing the little guy until his plight became public knowledge and suddenly they reversed their tune? Remember the powerful already have all the anonymity that money can buy. All you have is the illusion of privacy. Privacy laws only protect the rich, the powerful, and the unlawful.... they prevent you from looking into their lives but they do nothing to prevent them from spying into yours.

Sure..... privacy is helpful for an abused wife trying to flee an abusive husband but the only reason she has to flee is because he's able to hide his actions from the public. Does it really matter if the husband is able to spy and GPS his ex-wifes every move if she is able to do the same to him? That type of knowledge will keep her safe and allow her to live a life without fear (no need to look over her shoulder or wonder when he'll find her). Same thing goes for political dissidents, homosexuals or any other persecuted minority..... remove the darkness that surrounds their oppressors and you remove their biggest weapon.

Re: Inevitable my dear watson (1)

orangepeel (114557) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628689)

In other words, we need universal respect and tolerance first, and then privacy can disappear.

I guess I'm wondering why you think anonymity is the only (or best) way to achieve freedom from "fear of repercussion."

You'd prefer to hide under a rock in order to speak your mind freely?

Re: Inevitable my dear watson (0)

Delkster (820935) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628599)

If we don't start working on a system that eliminates privacy for everyone the only one's who will have privacy are the rich and powerful, you can bet on that.

Not as long as we have powerful and free media. The rich and the powerful are more interesting than the average citizen for the media, so that balances things out -- and that's only one such factor. Just as a tip, before making noise about a theory like that, compare it with reality to check its feasibility; you may notice that the rich and the powerful (e.g. celebrities or politicians) don't necessarily have even as much privacy as most other people do.

Re: Inevitable my dear watson (1)

bitingduck (810730) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628697)

Privacy should disappear. It's the darkness that allows evil to grow and spread. What the techies should do is set up a system that eliminates the illusion of privacy that the masses currently enjoy and finally starts to spread a light into the lives of the powerful.
says the guy who doesn't even show an email address in his slashdot profile...

It is important to have transparency in government though, and limit the amount of data that governments collect about their citizens and how they can use it.

This is starting to annoy me... (1)

Lispy (136512) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628317)

6 months ago I used gmail and pandora for all my music and e-mail needs.
First they took pandora from us and now gmail. Whats next? digg.com? /.? Linux?
Should I sell my PC now, or what? Honestly. Just when I thought my country (germany) is getting a little relaxed in a paranoid world. ;-(

Re:This is starting to annoy me... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19628711)

Don't forget video games.

I think your country is broken.

"Privacy Law?" (1, Troll)

The Iso (1088207) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628365)

Here's the impression I get from the headline: Google's violating privacy, Germany threatens to pass a law against it, Google would rather shut down than end their nefarious activities. I read the summary, and I find it's not a privacy law, it's a surveillance law. Google's the good guys here!

How would they enforce it (2, Interesting)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628483)

Couldn't Germans just sign up with another countries gmail and then use that? Or is the german government going to force ISPs(which they have a large say in one of the largest ones, Telekom) to block access to gmail? I am an American currently living in Germany and I use my gmail account(which I registered for while I was still a student at Penn State) as my main email address. Would I be affected by this? TFA is pretty light on details.

Well (1)

trifish (826353) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628487)

Could this be an attempt to strike back for this [slashdot.org] or perhaps this [slashdot.org] ? (EU:Google 2:1)

Or rather a lame attempt to weaken the impact of things like this [slashdot.org] ?

Info... (4, Informative)

Raven737 (1084619) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628499)

Here the original Spiegel Article [spiegel.de] (in German, of course).

Information about the draft law and what people can do to prevent it from being passed can be found at the following site:
http://www.vorratsdatenspeicherung.de/ [vorratsdat...cherung.de] (also in German)
What's scary is the range of people that are supposed to get access to the collected information,
it's not just the police but also "Nachrichtendienste" (news agencies!?) and "ausländische Staaten" (other countries, apparently any that ask)

I'm guessing this is caused by some lobby/bribe action of organizations like the RIAA/MPAA.
I can't think of one good reason of why this might be good for anyone,
criminals will just use bot proxies or other means to bypass the tracking/collection and in the end
it will just be the honest people that get f#cked because with general government incompetence
the the data will end up in the criminal's hand's and used for who knows what.

Re:Info... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19628553)

Nachrichtendienste = intelligence service, e.g. NSA, CIA, BND, MI5 etc.

Re:Info... (1)

Ajehals (947354) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628569)

"Nachrichtendienste" (news agencies!?)
Intelligence Services, aka the Bundesnachrichtendienst* [bnd.bund.de] .

*Nice website entry page, subtly menacing.

Re:Info... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19628611)

Nachrichtendienste == intelligence agencies. And the whole stuff afaik is not mainly motivated by RIAA/MPAA like lobbies, but by the fear of some bomb-carrying men with beards... Unfortunatly paranoia and the reasoning to give up your civil rights for the slightest possibility of more security seems to spread pretty fast

Germany (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19628525)

We fought a war against Germany once. While the majority of Germans probably oppose these moves, if the German government attempt to mandate such totalitarianism throughout the EU, I for one am ready to go again.

What has the world come to when corporations are fighting against national governments for freedom? Well done Google.

Another day, another country. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19628557)

I would be outraged if this wasn't like the millionth time a government has tried to censor or extort people on the internet.

the internet survives and lives on, despite Germany or anyone else.

This is really an open and shut case, if Google doesn't like Germany they can just block them or vice versa. Too bad for all the people, but they'll find ways.

Woah, wait! (2)

Omeger (939765) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628565)

Google is actually trying to fight for our privacy? Despite the fact that they keep track of all individual users of their search engine, record that information, and give targeted ads to those people?

Welcome to the Fourth Reich (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19628581)

I couldn't care less if people Godwin me, but Germany has a level of control over Europe today that Hitler only dreamed about in the early 1940s. And I mourn because this time, she has no enemies.

Up to 50 years ago, the world had the good fortune that no system of allied governments, no matter how repressive, had the technology to conquer the world and destroy all dissent; today, every step away from freedom is globalised, and there is no island so remote that it can stand defiant and fight back when it is finally threatened.

So yes, let us rejoice that for now, and probably for the next couple of decades, we shall enjoy an unprecedented level of peace and "tolerance" in Europe and North America. Because it's come at the expense of the growth of a fist and a boot so hard, that when it chooses to stomp, no-one will be able to dodge its path.

Disturbing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19628615)

After Europe falls to Soviet America, where can we go? Where /can/ we go? Are there still countries left that care about your rights and freedom? Are there still countries who dare to take a stand against this new "Soviet Union"? In other words, where can I go?

wait, this is the same Google that reads ALL gmail (2)

hoyeru (1116923) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628651)

and saves it ansd send you ads based on your mails and tries to find as much info about you and etc, etc...

I see, it all makes sense now

What would Hitler do? (1)

Skapare (16644) | more than 7 years ago | (#19628695)

Make Gmail users where 5 point-down triangles colored blue, red, yellow, blue, green?

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