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25515 Posts in 9752 Topics by 980 Members Latest Member: - Roots Dawta Most online today: 64 (July 03, 2005, 11:25:30 PM)
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Author Topic: Google mail is evil – privacy advocates  (Read 9230 times)
Ayinde
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« on: October 18, 2004, 10:14:08 AM »

By Andrew Orlowski in San Francisco
Published Saturday 3rd April 2004 21:44 GMT


This week should have seen a public relations triumph for Google. The company began offering a free e-mail service with 100 times as much storage as Yahoo's $59.99 service. Instead the criticism has taken Google by surprise, as privacy advocates who had never before voiced criticism stepped forward. Google has previously responded to privacy concerns by saying, "we're nice, trust us" or pointing users to the company's mission statement of "do no evil". Such trite sentiments didn't work this time; even The Drudge Report piled in.

Google executives had ignored a fierce internal debate over the ethics of the service and on Wednesday afternoon rushed out a jokey April 1 press release, ostensibly to trump a New York Times scoop.

But it isn't so much Google searching email that has caused the anxiety from privacy watchdogs this week, as the company's confused retention policy. What will Google do with that data? Google's cookie is an index for all your searches until 2038, and sits alongside an Orkut cookie that tells Google - or friendly law enforcement officials or marketeers - exactly who you are. Google's Gmail will complete the picture, indexing private electronic discourse under the main Google search cookie.

"Once users register for Gmail, Google would be able to make that connection, if it chose to," Pam Dixon, head of the World Privacy Forum told the Los Angeles Times. "And if Google ever compared the two sets of data there are some people who would be chilled and embarrassed." Richard Smith, formerly at the Privacy Foundation pointed out that "Google kind of makes it easy to connect all the dots together."

Rather than allay these fears, Google's accident-prone co-founder Larry Page refused to rule out a future policy of 'joining the dots'. A simple "No, Never" would have prevented much of the damage. But asked if Google planned to link Gmail users to their Web search queries, Page replied:

"It might be really useful for us to know that information. I'd hate to rule anything like that out."

Google's Gmail privacy policy points out that your email will be retained even after you close your account -

"The contents of your Gmail account also are stored and maintained on Google servers in order to provide the service. Indeed, residual copies of email may remain on our systems, even after you have deleted them from your mailbox or after the termination of your account."

At a time when the American Library Association is advising librarians to destroy records of borrowing as soon as they can, to protect users privacy, it's an odd time to be boasting about infinite retention.

Clearly there's something of a reality gap in the upper echelons of the Googleplex. There's a disconnect between the jokey launch, and the statement that "machines, not humans" will read email that's every bit as unnerving as a President making jokes while citizens are being dismembered.

For archivist Daniel Brandt, it's reminiscent of the Doubleclick privacy scandal.

"Doubleclick bought acquired a company that had names and address in their database, and gleefully announced that now they could monetize their massive cookie and web-bug database by correlating it with names of individuals," he told us. "The privacy advocates jumped all over that one (it was in year 2000 or so), and Doubleclick had to abandon their plans. This time it's the same issue, but it's all within one company."

"While Google brags that no humans will read your emails, the entire Gmail program will involve extensive automated profiling of you as an individual. Google will be sharing the non-identifiable portions of your profile with anyone they choose. If the ownership of Google changes, or there is a merger, the entire personally-identifiable profile will be available to the new owners or partners."

Google has done an extraordinary job of sidestepping human responsibility by deploying machine rhetoric (what we call the 'Bill Gates defense') . But now it has to deal with grown ups, and this is its severest PR test yet. The rationale behind going public is business expansion; but Google can't add services unless people trust it.®

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2004/04/03/google_mail_is_evil_privacy/
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Tracey
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« Reply #1 on: October 18, 2004, 12:12:35 PM »

Hmmmm...interesting. Having just signed on to Gmail for it's 1 gigabytye of free storage...this information is right on time. Two Thumbs

Everything does have it's price - "free storage" indeed. How nice to have all that "free storage" archived for future techno bots...ie "machines, not humans" to read your email for "whatever" reasons... -yes, am sure they can come up with a few shady reasons.

Quote
"It might be really useful for us to know that information. I'd hate to rule anything like that out."


ummm... - useful for what?? - or who?? - or why??

Quote
"The contents of your Gmail account also are stored and maintained on Google servers in order to provide the service. Indeed, residual copies of email may remain on our systems, even after you have deleted them from your mailbox or after the termination of your account."


-that's just plain 'ol creepy...

Quote
Gmail program will involve extensive automated profiling of you as an individual. Google will be sharing the non-identifiable portions of your profile with anyone they choose. If the ownership of Google changes, or there is a merger, the entire personally-identifiable profile will be available to the new owners or partners."


Hmmm....Google is a good search engine and the name implied a reputable service as well..guess it's back to Hotmail and it's 2 little megabytes of storage..of course I can pay $19.95 for more >>  Brood

However...I doubt much of anything on the computer could actually be considered totally "private"...unless you are computer savy and aware of HOW to apply the available safety features necessary to seriously protect your privacy...which I'm going to go out on a limb and say...most people are NOT that savy and are left wide open to all sorts of covert tracking.

My junk mail constantly alerts me of serreptitious folks who can easily download available software to track my e-mail and even read the contents should they wish - and who knows what else. So who's computer is truly safe anyway? Not to mention all those nasty little bugs, worms, viruses and tracking cookies that latch-on to your puter whenever you innocently surf the web.

And just a personal rant - NO - I don't DO porno -please! I mean really..how many kinds of penis enHANCEmEnts are there? Why do I even care to know this?...and how come my junkmail keeps informing me of so many little "mini-men" who want to EnLARgE themselves?! Sheesh - enough already! Thank heavens for my so-called "protective screens" that at least try to keep them from infiltrating my private(?) inbox.  - then again.....*?!

The age of information IS exciting..I will not argue with that. But we definately must constantly be vigilant of what all that means and move accordingly.
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iyah360
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« Reply #2 on: October 18, 2004, 12:23:52 PM »

http://www.google-watch.org/cgi-bin/cookie.htm
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Tracey
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« Reply #3 on: October 22, 2004, 11:59:38 AM »

Just another perspective...was talking to my grown son about this article..he said..."Yeah well...at least google is telling you about it. Others are probably doing something similar..they're just not telling you about it." Point. I guess if you really feel you have sensitive information worth protecting.. sending it via e-mail is probably not a good idea irregardless of what server you use.  

The fact is...e-mail is an "electronic paper trail" that can be traced by those who wish to dig into your dirt. Computer savy techs do have their ways of getting around such things in order to find out what they want irregardless of public privacy measures. If I choose Hotmail...am I really any safer than Gmail? I doubt it. Or perhaps maybe for just a little while longer.

I honestly feel it's only a short matter of time before other such friendly 'cookies' jump on Google's cyberwagon. After all, how can one NOT notice how much the puter industry (and other interested parties) want your personal info. If Google has indeed pioneered such a great cookie that has the capability to 'connect the dots' to all your private data and archive it for a zillion years...you can bet it's only a matter of time.

Let's face it...most of us don't even have a clue about the internal workings of our computer - and most likely never will. We just log on and BLAH... open to whomever takes the time to figure out how to worm their way into our personal stuff -  and we, none the wiser. It appears there are many ways to get around what was meant to keep out, which means one has to constantly upgrade their software just to stay on par and keep one step ahead of the cunning techno sharks. That of course is IF you are even aware that you need certain software just to protect yourself.

I can only imagine what truly goes on behind these screens and what serreptitious ones have access to.

Ever notice how computer programs create problems only to sell you more software to fix the problems? Sharks.




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Ayinde
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« Reply #4 on: October 22, 2004, 12:56:50 PM »

The information was posted for consideration.

Thank heavens there are people out there who monitor the conduct of these companies and report it. Their reports, and consumers’ reaction, do shape the written policies of companies. The written policy is what gives you legal redress if companies were found to be in breach of it.

I don’t buy the point that Google gives this info up-front, about possibly retaining emails even after you delete them. The fact is these types of practices are usually buried in their lengthy privacy policies, and legal agreements people must accept to use their service. It is articles like the one above that spell it out for the layman.

If people deal with companies that promise in writing to do otherwise, at least they can be assured that other privacy watch groups can alert them if the company is found to be in breach of their policies, and as such they can legally sue, and be compensated. There is a difference.

What companies retain about emails and other such services, does not only affect the user of a single account, but it affects the people who receive and send emails to those accounts.

I am sure you will agree that it is better to be more aware when making decisions than simply throwing caution to the wind.  To simply say that we do not know what so many others are doing etc. is no excuse for not doing one’s best to protect their rights and that of others. We can be better informed by reading the reviews from those privacy advocacy groups, and by acting in the best way possible we can help shape general policies.

If a company says when a person deletes an email it is gone, and 'nothing' is retained of it, then that gives a user of the service legal protection. If they were found to be doing otherwise the company can be sued, and that can serve as a deterrent.
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Tracey
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« Reply #5 on: October 24, 2004, 12:51:36 PM »

True enough, privacy policy advocates are indeed a godsend for the lay person who, like myself, cannot even begin to comprehend the long complicated jargon used to explain what in fact you are agreeing to sign on to. Thanks be it is they, the privacy advocates, who are able to go over these policies with a fine toothed comb to ensure that companies are abiding by their statements, and that legal recourse is an option if found in breach of their agreements.

The point is well articulated why privacy policy advocates are not only a necessity but also a valuable component in keeping a legal and ethical eye over companies that most assuredly would run astray if left unto themselves.

Yes, perhaps it is a bit premature to think Google is "upfront" about anything but rather is responding only to what privacy advocates are uncovering and reporting on. Despite their questionable practices however… stock is up…and folks are beginning to pay attention...... http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/business/business-media-google.html?hp&ex=1098504000&en=adc0d0210ddb4fc9&ei=5094&partner=ho

This might also have something to do with it: "The rationale behind going public is business expansion; but Google can't add services unless people trust it."®

I still can't help but feel that no matter who's minding the store..someone keeps trying to peek through my window...


Vincent Laforet/The New York Times

Here is an abstract relating to questionable internet security issues...

"Schemes known as "phishing'' use e-mail messages to lure unwitting consumers to Web sites masquerading as home pages of trusted banks and credit card issuers, corporate security specialists say. Online visitors are then induced to reveal passwords as well as bank account, Social Security and credit card numbers."

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/24/business/yourmoney/24theft.html?hp&ex=1098676800&en=1893227980a002da&ei=5094&partner=homepage



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