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Online Privacy

Techdirt blames Google Buzz victims

Unfortunately I have to respectfully challenge Mr. Masnick of Techdirt for his reflexive apologia of Google in blaming Google's victims for exerising their legal rights to protect themselves and to get their day in court -- in filing a class action privacy suit over Google Buzz.

  • See Mr. Masnick's post: "And of course, class action lawsuit filed against Google Buzz"  

    Mr. Masnick appears to be ignoring some extremely relevant Google facts, history and serial patterns of misbehavior.

    First, Google has NO customer service!

    • Everyone knows there is no way for a Google user with a problem/concern to connect with a human being by phone or email in order to be heard.
    • Google believes personal interaction and common human courtesy is inefficient and does not scale.

    Second, Google routinely represents itself to the public as highly valuing privacy, security and users. When the record clearly shows it does not.

      • (Note: Please see my Watchdog site for copious evidence/proof of how Google does not live up to its representations and how many complaints/lawsuits there are against Google on many of the same subjects: privacy, IP, security, and antitrust.)
    • What are people supposed to do when they feel wronged or injured by Google and they can't reach Google for personal resolution? Comment on Techdirt?

    Third, Techdirt is aware, much better than most, that Google is a serial offender on privacy issues.

"Bold Practical" Questions for the Media & Democracy Coalition Panel Wednesday on Capitol Hill

The Media and Democracy Coalition, the leading advocates for the FCC to effectively take over management of the Internet and the American broadband industry are gathering on Capitol Hill 11 am Wednesday (Rayburn 2123) to present their policy recommendations to the FCC for a "Bold Practical National Broadband Plan." 

Here are some questions the panelists should be asked:

Google to DOJ/Court on Book Settlement: Good Intentions Trump the Law

Google effectively blew off the DOJ's antitrust, copyright and class action objections to the amended Google Book settlement in Google's 77-page brief to the Federal Court adjudicating the settlement. 

In a nutshell, Google argued that its settlement is "remarkably creative" (p 28), and "fair, reasonable and adequate" (p 67). It focused on the settlement's benefit to humanity: "the benefits of approval are bounded only by the limits of human creativity and imagination" (p 2). Google also effectively instructed the Judge to accept its redefinitions of copyright, antitrust, and class action law and to reject the DOJ's interpretation of the law and its "cramped view of the court's jurisdiction" (p 10).    

The core thrust of Google's argument is political. Google essentially asks the court to make a political, not a legal, decision to:

  • Disregard existing antitrust, copyright, and class action law;
  • Ignore the opinion, expertise and standing of the DOJ, the United States' Chief Law Enforcement Officer;   
  • Effectively rewrite copyright law; and
  • Permanently enthrone Google as effectively the derivative use caretaker and gatekeeper of millions of "orphan works" which Google illegally copied.  

I.   Google's argument is fundamentally political.

Google's Privacy "Buzz" Saw -- Privacy vs Publicacy Series Part XIX

Kudos to Nicholas Carlson of Silicon Valley Insider for an outstanding must-read post on Google's new social media additions to gmail it calls Google Buzz: "WARNING: Google Buzz has a huge privacy flaw."

Google's "Immaculate Collaboration" with NSA? Part XIX of Privacy-Publicacy Series

Ellen Nakashima may have a career-making scoop with her front page Washington Post investigative reporting piece: "Google to enlist NSA to help ward off cyberattacks."  

  • As Publisher of the Google watchdog site,, I can't say I am surprised about a Google-NSA connection, especially given that over the last year my PrecursorBlog has posted: 
  1. An 18-part "Privacy vs. Publicacy" series;
  2. A 6-part "Security is Google's Achilles Heel" series; and 
  3. A 16-part "The Open Internet's Growing Security Problem" series

Ms. Nakeshima's revelation that Google sought out NSA's help shortly after it suffered massive cyber-attacks, apparently from China, opens a Pandorra's Box of privacy issues given that Google's aggressive "publicacy" (anti-privacy) business model, policies and practices have shown little respect for people's privacy in practice over the last decade.

Fact Checking Google's New Privacy Principles -- Part XVIII Publicacy vs Privacy Series

Google posted "Google's Privacy Principles" for International Privacy Day and made a pretty sweeping official representation to the public in its announcement post

  • "We've always operated with these principles in mind. Now, we're just putting them in writing so you have a better understanding of how we think about these issues from a product perspective."   

Is this a factually accurate and fair representation of Google's past and current privacy practices?

If it is indeed a true statement:

Must-read Op-ed by Andrew Keen "Internet Freedoms and Internet Radicals

Please don't miss Andrew Keen's outstanding and dead-on-point op-ed in The Hill: "Internet Freedoms and Internet Radicals.

Mr. Keen brilliantly proves how radical and out of the mainstream FreePress' and Public Knowledge's views are in calling for radical, preemptive, and draconian regulation of competitive broadband companies that have long supported, and operate under, the high-consensus voluntary principles of net neutrality. 

FreePress has one  trick, demonization. Like anything else that is overused, abused, and not true -- it loses credibility and only reflects badly on those practicing it. 

Facebook CEO throws privacy under the bus -- Part XVII Publicacy vs Privacy Series

Facebook's about face on its respect for the privacy of its users is the latest evidence that there is indeed a "publicacy" movement/schoolof-thought that does not believe in user privacy because it stands in the way of their business, technology, or political model/agenda. 

Kudos to Marshall Kirkpatrick of ReadWriteWeb who in an important-to-read NYTimes piece, "FaceBook's Zuckerberg says the age of privacy is over," took Mr. Zuckerberg to task for his "classic bait and switch" privacy policy change.

  • Essentially Facebook built a ~350 million user following by representing themselves to users as respectful of users privacy, only to change their whole privacy philosophy recently to making transparency more the default.
    • Mr. Zuckerberg: "we decided that these would be the social norms now and we just went for it." 
    • The operative statement here is that Facebook "decided" what the new privacy social norm would be, not users.

Mr. Kirkpatrick is dead on to spotlight that Facebook is claiming that users have changed their views on privacy when the reality is that Facebook wants/needs users to change their core views on privacy so that Facebook can morph its business model. 

Facebook is unwisely chumming the privacy waters just as Congress is seriously considering bipartisan privacy legislation that would empower consumers to decide more for themselves whether they want to protect or exploit their own privacy. 

Google Apps' Security Chief is a Magician/mentalist; Why Security is Google's Achilles Heel Part V

Only Google would think it was a good idea to have a Director of Security for Google Apps, Eran Feigenbaum, who is also a professional magician/mentalistA ValleyWag post first spotlighted this frightening irony/bad joke. 

Let's review what a magician and mentalist does:

  • Per
    • A "magician" is: "an entertainer who is skilled in producing illusion by sleight of hand, deceptive devices." 
    • A "mentalist" is: "a mind reader, psychic, or fortuneteller." 

Security is very serious business. Given that Google arguably has collected and stored more recent private information... on more people without their meaningful permission... than any entity in the world... one would think that Google would treat security as very serious business too.    

People want real security, not the illusion of security. Security is deadly serious; its not for show.

What is most disturbing about Google's judgment here is that this is not an isolated issue undermining confidence in Google's committment to security; see the other parts of the series on "Why Security is Google's Achilles Heel," to learn how this is part of a broader disturbing pattern of Google not taking security seriously.