Join 3,418 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Mozilla exec recommends you Bing it from now on
December 11, 2009 9:06 AM   Subscribe

"If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place." (SLYT) Because of this statement, made by Google CEO Eric Schmidt, Mozilla's director of community development Asa Dotzler has informed readers of his personal blog how to change Firefox's default search engine from Google to Bing. This is a pretty interesting stance coming from someone who works for a company that not only directly competes with Microsoft (the owners of Bing), but also derives a huge amount of its revenue from support from Google. (via)
posted by Nyarlathotep (77 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Google representatives have instituted a policy of not talking with CNET News.com reporters until July 2006 in response to privacy issues raised by a previous story.
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 9:09 AM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yes, that's a pretty evil statement from Google. But can Microsoft be the answer?

I wonder if an open search engine could be created. Wikipedia is the obvious model, but curated links don't work. Maybe a distributed thing using freenet so the nodes don't know what they hold (and therefore can't poison it)?
posted by DU at 9:12 AM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Why does she talk over part of the answer? Whatever he says right before the "damning" quote is inaudible.
posted by smackfu at 9:13 AM on December 11, 2009


Google representatives have instituted a policy of not talking with CNET News.com reporters until July 2006 in response to privacy issues raised by a previous story.

If Google has something that it doesn't want CNET News to know, maybe Google shouldn't be doing it in the first place.
posted by The World Famous at 9:15 AM on December 11, 2009 [32 favorites]


It might be time to start looking for a 3rd option.

As much as I'm a Google fan, at some point everyone gets too big. Maybe this is the real first turning point.
posted by olya at 9:16 AM on December 11, 2009


Bing: Your Revision Engine.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 9:20 AM on December 11, 2009


Why does she talk over part of the answer? Whatever he says right before the "damning" quote is inaudible.

It's probably a heavily cut up segment. We only get to hear the money quotes, not any context.

Although, to be fair, there isn't really any context needed with that 'Fuck privacy!' stance.
posted by graventy at 9:20 AM on December 11, 2009


A recommendation to use an inferior product provided by a company with a detailed history of anticompetitive behavior and lack of innovation?
posted by haveanicesummer at 9:21 AM on December 11, 2009 [6 favorites]


But can Microsoft be the answer?

I think olya makes a good point, which might be what Schmidt was really getting at. I think that it's possible for a company that big, and that successful, to maybe develop some poor ideas about their policy. I'm inclined to think that there's a certain amount of isolation from the public that can happen at a company that huge, so that what bothers their userbase doesn't impact them as much. I can see why someone would say "let's give them reason to rethink that strategy," especially if the competitor's EULA actually does have a better privacy policy.
posted by shmegegge at 9:23 AM on December 11, 2009


To be fair to Eric, I think you need the whole quote.
But if you really need that kind of privacy, the reality is that search engines, including Google, do retain this information for some time. And ... we're all subject, in the US, to the Patriot Act, and it is possible that that information could be made available to the authorities.
It's not that Google doesn't care about user privacy, quite the opposite: they work very hard to protect user data. But they also feel collecting data is valuable, both to the company as a whole and to the user. I think the mention of the Patriot Act is not accidental here; Google has no interest in helping the US government spy on its users, but it's forced to comply with the law. (See also: Yahoo's rate sheet for giving user data to government agencies.)

Google deserves credit for taking the lead on more complex privacy issues. The Google Dashboard gives users an unprecedented amount of centralized information about what data Google has about themselves. (See also, Metafilter discussion).
posted by Nelson at 9:24 AM on December 11, 2009 [30 favorites]


Google: Don't be evil

Microsoft: Bada Bing.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:25 AM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Bing isn't half bad, and Microsoft at least pays its rank and file employees market salary or better, unlike Google who pays below market. But, meh, I'll keep using Google's damn products just from force of habit for the time being.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:26 AM on December 11, 2009


Facebook CEO's Private Photos Exposed by the New 'Open' Facebook
posted by R. Mutt at 9:26 AM on December 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Isn't this just another version of Haddock's Law?
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 9:28 AM on December 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


But, meh, I'll keep using Google's damn products just from force of habit for the time being.

I won't be. I just went through the dashboard and deleted a bunch of stuff (including physical addresses and credit card #s--and I can't delete my purchase history, thank Goog.) I'll be setting up my own mail server (hosted, but with "private" email address) and dropping my Google account as soon as I can.
posted by DU at 9:32 AM on December 11, 2009


which might be what Schmidt was really getting at.

my bad. I meant what Dotzler was really getting at.
posted by shmegegge at 9:32 AM on December 11, 2009


But they also feel collecting data is valuable

There. That's where you went wrong, Google.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:33 AM on December 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


Facebook CEO's Private Photos Exposed by the New 'Open' Facebook

He had good adviiiiiiiiice that he just couldn't take.
posted by battlebison at 9:34 AM on December 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Evil seems to have a new and worrisome meaning.
posted by tommasz at 9:36 AM on December 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Slightly offtopic, but I've started to call searching "Bing it with Google." As in, you should bing that with Google. (Not my idea)
posted by seanyboy at 9:37 AM on December 11, 2009


Scott McNealy, Sun Microsystems | January 1999: "You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it."
posted by ericb at 9:38 AM on December 11, 2009


And ... we're all subject, in the US, to the Patriot Act, and it is possible that that information could be made available to the authorities.
Does that mean I should start using non-US search engines like Yandex or Baidu?
posted by yeoz at 9:41 AM on December 11, 2009


Bing is just so damned ugly. It looks like every site that was ever built out of some CMS where the developer just used the default template, added a background image and maybe uploaded their own logo. Even their favicon looks like a template leftover. Joomla, Coppermine and OSCommerce all smashed together. That's Bing.

But maybe that's how they're protecting your privacy. No one can read up on your search history if they're stabbing their eyes out.
posted by katillathehun at 9:42 AM on December 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


Tempest/Teapot.

If you're choosing to switch to from one corporate run search engine to another, this out-of-context quote is not the reason to do it.
posted by Joey Michaels at 9:43 AM on December 11, 2009 [8 favorites]


DU, I'd love to hear back in 6 months about how your no-Google plan goes. I mean this seriously, without snark. It bothers me how much Google dominates my own Internet experience, but I'm also OK with it because the products are great and there's no artificial lock-in. Every time I've tried switching to something else as an experiment, even something as simple and non-sticky as a search engine, I always come back to Google pretty quick.

Bing's a good search engine, if you like the UI I think it's a fine replacement for Google. Less clear what's out there that could replace Gmail. And if you're in the ad business, there's nothing that touches Adwords/Adsense.
posted by Nelson at 9:44 AM on December 11, 2009


Joey Michaels has it.
posted by kdar at 9:45 AM on December 11, 2009


Yeah, yeoz, because both Russia and China are well known for protecting their citizen's privacy and civil rights.
posted by Nelson at 9:45 AM on December 11, 2009


If you're choosing to switch to from one corporate run search engine to another, this out-of-context quote is not the reason to do it.

to be fair, I think he specifically said it was the combination of the quote and the privacy policy currently in place.
posted by shmegegge at 9:46 AM on December 11, 2009


Does that mean I should start using non-US search engines like Yandex or Baidu?
posted by yeoz


Yeah I've heard Russia and China are awesome about privacy and human rights and stuff. Or at least, that's what Yandex and Baidu searches said.
posted by haveanicesummer at 9:46 AM on December 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Google is pretty not-evil right now. They're even, almost, "good" in how they use the data that they collect. And I think that they genuinely intend to remain this way forever.

But what I think will happen is that there will be a downturn, or a threat, or something that perturbs their growth rate. And then they will have to get evil to compensate. They're running all sorts of free services right now that happen to collect user data, and they keep adding more. They're all funded by advertising money right now, but when that money isn't enough, they're going to be obligated to their shareholders to wring more out of it however legally possible. That will mean attempting to lock people in; doing more insidious things with the data they collect, more lobbying money spent in Washington to "protect innovation", etc.

Seems like a pretty common pattern for companies.
posted by breath at 9:49 AM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


And ... we're all subject, in the US, to the Patriot Act, and it is possible that that information could be made available to the authorities.

That's why I use http://google.ca

</snark>
posted by blue_beetle at 9:50 AM on December 11, 2009


Facebook CEO's Private Photos Exposed by the New 'Open' Facebook

Yeah, if we want to bitch about privacy, how about Facebook deciding that a bunch of stuff was now "publicly available information." Minor things like "name, profile picture, gender, current city, networks, friend list, and Pages." Since it's redefined as public, there is no ability to hide it. Your only option is to delete it from Facebook entirely. And this was done as part of an initiative where Facebook was trumpeting their enhanced privacy controls.
posted by smackfu at 9:51 AM on December 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


"If you nothing to hide from the public, then you must be a pretty boring person"--my grandmoher, 1957
posted by Postroad at 9:53 AM on December 11, 2009 [8 favorites]


DU, I'd love to hear back in 6 months about how your no-Google plan goes.

To be clear, I'm not switching because of this quote precisely. It's just the latest thing.

As for no-Google: I still plan on using Google the search engine. I just won't have an account to file everything under. Of course, they probably track IPs because that's "useful"...
posted by DU at 9:53 AM on December 11, 2009


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

it seems to me that's what he really meant - and frankly, he's right - you have no real guarantees out here, just a hope that you are obscure and unimportant enough to evade someone's attention

it's why i'm very careful about what i say about my job these days - and that's not google's fault or repsonsibility but mine
posted by pyramid termite at 9:53 AM on December 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yes, that's a pretty evil statement from Google.

Eh, not so much. Search engines retain some personal data, so using any search engine for potentially nefarious purposes could come back to haunt you. If you're really worried, learn about anonymizers, proxies and tunneling.

Telling users of Google to switch to Bing for security reasons is like telling users of Facebook to switch to Myspace for a more secure social networking experience. Practice safe activities (such as understanding privacy settings, watching who tags you in pictures and not befriending strange ducks) and you'll be better off than someone who implicitly trusts their information on the internet. (Note: either FB or MS may actually be more secure than the other, but I doubt it's a significant difference.)

Nitpicking: SLYT only makes sense when the whole of your FPP is a Single Link to YouTube. If the YouTube link is one of many in the post and you want to warn someone about it, YT would make more sense.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:53 AM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Cynically, I think that maybe MS is giving Mozilla a better deal on search referrals than Google. Or maybe he's just upset by Chrome.

But either way, I have to agree that the real enemy of privacy on the internet isn't Google (who while not perfect, isn't as bad as scaremongers like to think) or Microsoft.

It's Facebook. Facebook is the enemy of privacy online.
posted by sparkletone at 9:56 AM on December 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


Scott McNealy, Sun Microsystems | January 1999: "You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it."

Yeah, essentially this.
posted by muddgirl at 9:57 AM on December 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


Yeah, if we want to bitch about privacy, how about Facebook deciding that a bunch of stuff was now "publicly available information." Minor things like "name, profile picture, gender, current city, networks, friend list, and Pages." Since it's redefined as public, there is no ability to hide it. Your only option is to delete it from Facebook entirely. And this was done as part of an initiative where Facebook was trumpeting their enhanced privacy controls.

Making all that public is the default option, not forced upon you. You have the option to hide your profile entirely from nonfriends; I've had to email a couple of people I knew IRL because I couldn't initiate the friending.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:02 AM on December 11, 2009


If you put it online, there is a non-zero chance of it being found by your spouse, your employer, your S.O., your parents or children, or the government. This has been rehashed many times before.

I'm pretty sure Google's tried the passive-resistance thing before, and the government will have none of it. Ultimately, to a certain degree, they are not legally allowed to delete record of a person's use. They have about as much power as a pharmacy chain deciding that keeping track of Sudafed purchases is dumb. When you get big, it's harder to defy the government, not easier.
posted by explosion at 10:09 AM on December 11, 2009


I went to Web 2.0 two years ago and read an article (don't remember the source) that Wikipedia's owner was looking into a search engine based on semantic search. It sounded neat. Any updates on that?
posted by stormpooper at 10:10 AM on December 11, 2009


Microsoft at least pays its rank and file employees market salary or better, unlike Google who pays below market

glassdoor.com and people I know at both companies say the opposite.
posted by GuyZero at 10:13 AM on December 11, 2009


Eh, not so much. Search engines retain some personal data, so using any search engine for potentially nefarious purposes could come back to haunt you. If you're really worried, learn about anonymizers, proxies and tunneling.


Barring that, there's always the CustomizeGoogle extension for Firefox, which does wonders for protecting your search engine privacy.

Also, I like these thoughts from Bruce Schneier:
Privacy protects us from abuses by those in power, even if we're doing nothing wrong at the time of surveillance.

We do nothing wrong when we make love or go to the bathroom. We are not deliberately hiding anything when we seek out private places for reflection or conversation. We keep private journals, sing in the privacy of the shower, and write letters to secret lovers and then burn them. Privacy is a basic human need.

[...]

For if we are observed in all matters, we are constantly under threat of correction, judgment, criticism, even plagiarism of our own uniqueness. We become children, fettered under watchful eyes, constantly fearful that -- either now or in the uncertain future -- patterns we leave behind will be brought back to implicate us, by whatever authority has now become focused upon our once-private and innocent acts. We lose our individuality, because everything we do is observable and recordable.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:13 AM on December 11, 2009 [17 favorites]


You have the option to hide your profile entirely from nonfriends

Really? As of the changes a couple of days ago? It seems like you now have the ability to make it harder to find you, but if someone can find your profile, there's no way to hide it. So if you are the friend of a friend of a friend of a friend, too bad.
posted by smackfu at 10:18 AM on December 11, 2009


The problem is that if enough people side with the lesser of two evils, it often becomes the greater evil.
posted by Eideteker at 10:20 AM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Once again I checked my Google dashboard. Once again I found nothing there - not any more or less info than Amazon or any other site I have purchased from would have about me - credit card info, name, address, phone number. Aside from the emails in my Gmail account, nothing to worry about, as far as I'm concerned. Credit agencies have more info on me. The government has more info on me. My old university and my current one have more info on me. I'm not really that worried. I gave Google my credit card info ON PURPOSE because I trust them more than I trust Paypal or some fly-by-night online store. I'd rather use Google Checkout and have as few places have access to my credit card number as possible.

However: If you think Google is getting too big, how do you feel about so many universities moving to having Google host email and web apps for them? My alma mater has opened Google Apps to all U faculty and students. My current university is shutting down their mail server and migrating everyone to Gmail. We don't have much of a choice there. Some things require a U email address, and a U login ID, and that's going to be going through Google.
posted by caution live frogs at 10:22 AM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you think Google is getting too big, how do you feel about so many universities moving to having Google host email and web apps for them?

I guess the whole point has been that makes me feel... cautious.
posted by shmegegge at 10:28 AM on December 11, 2009


it seems to me that's what he really meant - and frankly, he's right - you have no real guarantees out here,

Eh, not so much. Search engines retain some personal data, so using any search engine for potentially nefarious purposes could come back to haunt you.


I don't think the problem with the "if you've got something to hide..." class of statement is that it's necessarily factually incorrect: it's actually a good rule of thumb to try not to do anything in life that you wouldn't want your friends to know about. What's obnoxious is Eric Schmidt saying it, and the implication that it might serve, in his mind, as a justification for ignoring privacy concerns.

In other words, it might be true, but Eric Schmidt has no business saying it.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 10:28 AM on December 11, 2009


Related.
posted by battlebison at 10:29 AM on December 11, 2009


However: If you think Google is getting too big, how do you feel about so many universities moving to having Google host email and web apps for them?

When I was in school, we ran our own mail servers, and the sys admins were generally students. So at least it's better than that.
posted by smackfu at 10:35 AM on December 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


However: If you think Google is getting too big, how do you feel about so many universities moving to having Google host email and web apps for them? My alma mater has opened Google Apps to all U faculty and students. My current university is shutting down their mail server and migrating everyone to Gmail. We don't have much of a choice there. Some things require a U email address, and a U login ID, and that's going to be going through Google.

It's not just Google. Some schools (such as the University of Pennsylvania) moved their undergraduate mail service to a localized variant of Microsoft Live. In the case of Penn, the migration followed some major outages that left students without email for several days. After years of running their own email services they moved to Microsoft to provide them. Privacy and interoperability with non-Microsoft clients were concerns.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:00 AM on December 11, 2009


What kind of privacy are people exactly concerned in relation to Google and other services?
posted by vladimirfrolov at 11:07 AM on December 11, 2009


It was a stupid thing for Schmidt to say. Now, he might have meant "don't do it online," which makes it somewhat less stupid, but Schneier is right. Anonymity is important. Look at US history. The Federalist papers, among others, were published under pseudonyms.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 11:17 AM on December 11, 2009


As far as the quote goes its pretty clear he's offering it at as a joke. The interview cuts out a lot of the conversation, which was probably a clearheaded, boring discussion of privacy as it relates to a company whose mode of business is to provide services in exchange for the aggregate theft of information. Google will keep your information, it will attempt to use it responsibly, but in can only do so much to insulate you from its surveillance of you; its important to know what you're giving them.

In the end it does come down to the fact that you'd be better off having nothing to protect, and offering this view as a joke is akin to joking that a large class of engineering problems would be a lot simpler if it wasn't for that pesky friction (i. e. that this problem would be simple if we only ignored a natural law).

That said, google's actions speak louder than Schmidt's words, and that interview is an especially poor capture of the latter.
posted by Bobicus at 11:19 AM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


The trouble is tyhat Google never punctuated its mantra. They are faced with a problem, like, should we resist China in censoring searches, and we think their response is to say "Don't be evil." But, depending on how they punctuate it, they can come up with all sorts of answers, including this one:

"Don't; be evil."
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:22 AM on December 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


"The Federalist papers, among others, were published under pseudonyms."

Wasn't there an FPP a few days back discussing anonymity in publishing? I believe the net answer was that even "anonymous" publications were vetted by the publisher, who knew the identity of the pseudonymous writers. At some point you have to trust someone with your "private" data, whether it's your doctor handing you a HIPAA form, the cashier asking for your zip code, or the guy at the supermarket asking you to sign up for a "rewards card" to get the latest specials.

None of these things are fool-proof. But there are definitely people and organizations I have a little more faith in than others, and that faith is based more on their track records and less on one-off statements made be executives in an interview.
posted by caution live frogs at 11:24 AM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Google has no interest in helping the US government spy on its users, but it's forced to comply with the law."

Indeed. Even sites like LiveJournal, which started small, quickly became open source, and were under-the-radar for a long time, evolved to have code that allowed the relevant authorities to get the information they wanted demanded on specific users.

And what kind of information do authorities want demand? As much as they possibly can get, ideally in real time.

It's not something that most companies talk much about, or even can talk much about, for various reasons.

Seriously, though... take a good look at CALEA, for example. It gives the government the right to have their own private backdoors in telecommunication infrastructures. There are law professors out there who specialize in such laws, who can't tell you just how inclusive this law is... to what extent does it apply to online "information services"... or even to "home users, home networks, etc?"

The simple fact is, such laws are oftentimes enforced by people who don't know the full extent of the law either. Instead, it's a bit like the Patriot Act, where just months after it was enacted, there were numerous groups out there, training law enforcement on all sorts of things that they could theoretically do with the law that had nothing at all to do with terrorism.

Did these trainers really know how to interpret the law either? Probably not. They did, however, know that there was a big marketplace for such training, and they knew how to make a buck.

We *already* know that a lot of the national security requests made under the Patriot Act have been falsely used. Why not assume the same of CALEA and every other law in this shadowzone? The simple fact is, most internet services, hardware manufacturers, and pretty much everyone else simply don't have the ability to say "sorry, but we won't do this for you", because they probably don't know whether they have the right to decline or not, even if they get lawyered up!
posted by markkraft at 11:48 AM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


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

Yeah, I find myself confused by the idea that people expect to be able to post something online in a world-wide accessible forum and then act shocked when other people find it. If you go into it treating anything done on the web as public material that may be found one day, you probably won't be too shocked when it is. More private methods of communication than Facebook really exist. (even on the web) Your blog is not a private diary.

Anonymity is important. Look at US history. The Federalist papers, among others, were published under pseudonyms.

Anonymity is still fairly easy to maintain on the net if that is what you want. A spare email account not linked to your personal/professional identity or a proxy connection will go a long way. Our founding fathers would have to take out a new Hotmail address and give Pulblius Publicola his own Facebok page instead of making a wall post in their own accounts right under the "Alex Hamilton is making the rounds at the pubs tonight!" status update and expecting no one to notice, but it's not impossible. If you want to post it on your own blog, well, file permissions and robots.txt exist as options well.

I find Google a remarkable search tool, and I'm glad it indexes as much as it does. Until they start unrepentantly indexing bank records or state secrets, I'm okay with treating the web as a public forum.
posted by Avelwood at 12:42 PM on December 11, 2009


Holy shit, I knew Asa like 15 years ago, but haven't talked to him in forever. I had no idea he was working for Mozilla. Thanks, Metafilter!
posted by Saxon Kane at 12:49 PM on December 11, 2009


Every now and again I feel some vague concerns about the amount of information that companies like google have accrued on me; and it's probably not an inconsiderable bit, I use a lot of their products. But when those worries start setting in, I just remember all the completely analog/ offline stuff that I have and do that has never been documented anywhere on the internet and I breath a little easier.

I'm not sure exactly why, but it's nice to have a secret. Which is why the internet will never know that, because of some kind of strange shipping error, the Spear of Destiny ended up getting delivered to my house and is now stored in my garage.
posted by quin at 1:05 PM on December 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


As far as the quote goes its pretty clear he's offering it at as a joke.

Here's the full quote:
I think judgment matters. If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place. If you really need that kind of privacy, the reality is that search engines -- including Google -- do retain this information for some time and it's important, for example, that we are all subject in the United States to the Patriot Act and it is possible that all that information could be made available to the authorities.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:13 PM on December 11, 2009


Whoops, hit "Post" to quick.

What I mean is, I'm not seeing the jokey part of this. And I don't see him smiling in the vid, either. He seems pretty serious, to be honest, and that's too bad. Ah well. Fortunately there are a myriad of solutions for the moderately tech-savvy to get around this. For most everyone else, though, I guess they're out in the open, like it or not.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:16 PM on December 11, 2009


For me, the anger against google in this is misplaced. Google have already fought this battle over user data privacy, and lost.

:: In order to relaunch the 'COPA Law', US Department of Justice asked some search engines to provide two files on August 25, 2005. The first one might contain 1 million random URL's (random 10,000 URLs selected from random 100 of Google's data centers). The second one, a copy of the text of each search string entered onto Google over a one-week period (absent any identifying the person who entered such query).

:: Google denied to provide both files, and on January 18, 2006, Bush Administration asked a federal judge to order Google to give the information.

:: Other big search engines, like Yahoo!, MSN Search or AOL, turned over the required information.

:: Google stock value dropped 8% on January 20, 2006, because of the federal subpoena.


Google argued the information was commercially sensitive, as there was no space in the law to contest this as the giant fishing expedition it was. And lost. Microsoft, Yahoo and AOL handed the data over without argument.

Now the US has the PATRIOT act, the UK has the RIP Act, and there's plenty of further examples of governments giving law enforcement and national spy agencies carte blance to force internet providers and online services to hand over vast amounts of data at will, in ways that would never have been tolerated with letters and phone calls.

Privacy online, from your country's law enforcement and government at least, IS dead. Complaining that google -an advertising agency that makes clever services in order to sell your eyeballs to advertisers - is at fault for telling you this, is wrong. The people you should be really angry at are your representatives for selling your privacy down the river using the convenient fiction of protecting children from porn and catching terrorists.
posted by ArkhanJG at 2:48 PM on December 11, 2009 [5 favorites]


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

I believe the correct response to this statement is, "Then I suppose you don't mind if I watch you have sex with your wife."
posted by Afroblanco at 2:50 PM on December 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


To be fair, if you don't want people watching you having sex with your wife you should not post video of it to YouTube at the very least.
posted by GuyZero at 2:53 PM on December 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


When I watched the video, he does smile. He smiles half-heartedly at a half-heartedly told joke. It's half-hearted because part of its message is rather dark: ultimately, Google does not have the full responsibility of protecting your information. It serves as preface to the Dire Warning that immediately follows about the Patriot Act and privacy laws in general: not only does Google not have the responsibility to protect your information, it does not have the ability.

I think this was at least an honest answer concerning Google's role concerning your privacy, and one that extends to all other search engines as well. Thankfully, it is not necessarily at odds with a philosophy of protecting your privacy whenever it reasonably can be done. What Google's record actually is I'll not comment on--I only use them for search. They can have my IP in that regard as far as I'm concerned, so I haven't found reason to educate myself fully on the matter.

On preview, ArkhanjG's link is mildly heartening in this regard, and disheartening in so many others.

And as a minor quibble, "I think judgment matters" was in response to "Should Google be treated as your very best friend?" There was a cut in between; It was not necessarily connected with the rest of that quote.
posted by Bobicus at 3:03 PM on December 11, 2009


The question is, if someone at Google didn't say this, would it stop being true? Would it stop being true of Bing? Of Yahoo? Would it stop being true that your grocery store knows what you buy with your loyalty card and your library knows what books you have checked out and the convenience store is recording you when you stop there for cigarettes and gum?

Is that lack of privacy a good thing? What was said there had nothing to do with whether it's *good*. It's just a fact. Records are kept. Data is available. The only way to absolutely guarantee that nobody knows is to not do it. Failing to admit this does not stop it from being true.
posted by larkspur at 3:42 PM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I would imagine if Google had a policy of not storing data they would not be the search giant they are today, nor provide the same quality of service. So, in other words the problem isn't Google. It's the Patriot Act.

Really, what are they going to do? Deny requests from the federal authorities?
posted by tybeet at 4:35 PM on December 11, 2009


We *already* know that a lot of the national security requests made under the Patriot Act have been falsely used. Why not assume the same of CALEA and every other law in this shadowzone? The simple fact is, most internet services, hardware manufacturers, and pretty much everyone else simply don't have the ability to say "sorry, but we won't do this for you", because they probably don't know whether they have the right to decline or not, even if they get lawyered up!

That's a great point. And it's actually one that Google could expound as an advantage it has over smaller services. Google is "lawyered up", so this is actually one example of economic incentives driving private sector to protect the consumer in opposition to the a possibly overzealous government.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 4:47 PM on December 11, 2009


You know, I love firefox, and I trust the organization about it immensely - because it is designed by users to address the needs for users. Not to address the needs of an organization (Microsoft, Apple, Google) that is trying to make money off of it. I haven't tried it out yet, but it's made me much more inclined to try open source software such as open office.

So my question is this: Why, with all the concerns about what private information is being collected, isn't there an open source movement for web services? Specifically a search engine? One that did not save any IP information, or provided some other kind of unique one-use-only identifier? Or, hell - some kind of distributed search app like Bittorrent? Are these crazy ideas?

I like google. I use the search engine, I have a gmail account. But then again, I "liked" internet explorer (disclaimer: I did not really like IE) before I was presented with realistic options.
posted by deliquescent at 5:46 PM on December 11, 2009


Wait a minute. You mean you gmail users turn over all of your incoming and outgoing email to Google to snoop through and you are worried about anonymous google search results? That's funny.
posted by JackFlash at 5:54 PM on December 11, 2009


As much as I'm a Google Obama fan, at some point everyone gets too big. Maybe this Afghanistan is the real first turning point.
posted by humannaire at 5:54 PM on December 11, 2009


Google's famous algorithm of rewarding those sites with links to their links seems to be so easily gamed that I'm not sure why people assume their front page search isn't already paid for.
posted by Brian B. at 7:32 PM on December 11, 2009


So my question is this: Why, with all the concerns about what private information is being collected, isn't there an open source movement for web services? Specifically a search engine? One that did not save any IP information, or provided some other kind of unique one-use-only identifier?

These aren't crazy ideas, and in fact there are a few anonymous services you can use that are relatively painless once you have them installed.

I2P works on Windows, Mac, and Linux. If you don't want to install anything, you can go to tor-proxy and enter the URL of the site you want to visit in the field under "Surf Anonymous Now" on the right margin. Even simpler, if you have the Add to Search Bar extension for Firefox, just right-click the Surf Anonymous Now field and select "add to search bar" - this will effectively create a proxy-fied address bar in the search bar of your Firefox browser. Speaking of Firefox extensions, many people swear by NoScript, and for easy customization for anonymous surfing, there's also this extension. If you want to go really hardcore, there's a free, open source anonymous OS called Anonym.OS. It isn't updated any more, so I don't know how well it works.

All of this is just to say that there are a slew of options available. Total privacy is impossible, but there is an active community working towards this end at least.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:19 PM on December 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Google's famous algorithm of rewarding those sites with links to their links seems to be so easily gamed that I'm not sure why people assume their front page search isn't already paid for.

Google's heuristics are a little more complicated than that these days.

How complicated? We don't know. Eric considers it private information.
posted by rodgerd at 10:44 PM on December 11, 2009


I figure we have until about 2014 before Google jumps the shark.
posted by flabdablet at 5:08 AM on December 12, 2009


ArkhanJG: Google argued the information was commercially sensitive, as there was no space in the law to contest this as the giant fishing expedition it was. And lost. Microsoft, Yahoo and AOL handed the data over without argument.

This wins the thread, for me. Does it matter to you more that the Google CEO said a stupid thing, or does it matter more that, when the rubber met the road, Google fought giving up information, and the other guys didn't?
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 10:02 AM on December 12, 2009


« Older Metafilter's Own Charlie Stross asks the question;...  |  Airbus A400M took its maiden f... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments