Google trying to take privacy seriously

Google trying to take privacy seriously

Summary: This week was a very interesting week as far as Google and privacy goes. First, a burglary (the same on that affected CNET earlier last month) was confirmed to have affected all Google employees hired before December 31, 2005.


This week was a very interesting week as far as Google and privacy goes. First, a burglary (the same on that affected CNET earlier last month) was confirmed to have affected all Google employees hired before December 31, 2005. There's nothing Google could have done about it, but it's definitely a blow for those involved. Employee records contain everything from names to social security numbers, and unfortunately, Google's were stored unencrypted on the stolen computers. Google has offered to cover the cost for a one year subscription to a credit monitoring service.

On top of this problem, Google was ordered by a judge to hand over terabytes of YouTube logs to Viacom in the lawsuit against Google. Even though this is clearly something that affects the privacy of anyone that has ever used YouTube, it gets worse.

Most people would consider the disclosure of which IP addresses watched which videos a privacy nightmare, and I'm sure that would be the grounds Google will likely try to oppose the decision on. Unfortunately, Google's own words on their Public Policy blog were referenced in the judges order to hand over data.

"the IP addresses recorded by every website on the planet without additional information should not be considered personal data, because these websites usually cannot identify the human beings behind these number strings." -- Google Privacy Policy Blog

I'm pretty sure there is a big shoe sticking out of their mouth right about now.

The most recent Google/privacy related news was that Google put a link to their privacy policy directly on their homepage -- it used to be that you needed to dig around to find it. I'm glad Google did that, but does it really deserve this gigantic explanation on the Official Google Blog, especially since they were likely pressured into it anyway?

What do you think about the most recent privacy related issues coming out of Google in the last week?

Topics: Security, Google, Government, Government US, Legal

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  • Too much cuteness

    Going by that Google blog ( ), it looks like they're starting to get a little disconnected from reality. Their excuse for delaying putting the "privacy" link on the home page is a cute - but overboard - obsession with a word count? Sounds like too much pointy-haired-boss syndrome to me.

    (Pst, and you can save another word by removing the "About Google" link, replacing it with a "Google" link to the "About Google" page just after the copyright notice, like "(c)2008 [u]Google[/u]")
  • RE: Google trying to take privacy seriously

    When did Google ever TRY to take privacy seriously. Where was I?
  • RE: Google trying to take privacy seriously

    The whole thing is a legal can of worms which I did not see American judges opening. I hope this will be overturned for it has very serious implications all over the world.

    While the state may potentially be the foremost violator of civil liberties, big corporations come a close second, so I do not feel sorry for Google for that reason. While I am sure that Google will "take the issue seriously" because being seen not to be is certainly bad for business, it has not rolled over for that same reason.

    As for Google's privacy policy, it has been made obsolete as ISPs tend now to allocate fixed IP addresses, which can easily be traced. They should revise it pronto, and explain it on those grounds.
  • RE: Google trying to take privacy seriously

    Maybe it is time for everyone to realize we can trust neither governments nor Google itself to preserve customers privacy. An even more ominous precedent was set in Brazil this past week, when Google agreed to provide content and access logs to a congress investigation committee. The investigation is related to the distribution of kid porn photos in Google's Orkut, a social networking system very popular in Brazil. Google Brazil agreed to the request without much of a fight, faced with economic sanctions. The content they agreed to provide is in members only discussion groups. It could be an action of little consequence if it weren't for the fact that Google uses a centralized authentication system for all its services. Would they also agree to open email content if pressured to do so?

    At least in the US they are putting something of a fight against this absurd privacy violation. But in other countries where the repercussion is not as intense they just concede at the slightest threat.
  • Privacy?? Don't farm it out, handle it yourself.

    Apparently Google's not going to contest the ruling. Remember, they're just a company, not the constitution.

    You want privacy? Vote for it, or take care of it yourself. Complain, use fake user IDs (careful, that's starting to be against the law), use a (pay-for) proxy service, bugmenot. Good luck.
  • RE: Google trying to take privacy seriously

    Do you think Viacom is the only company interested in what we watch? No, I am sure that the goverment is happy every little thing that removes us from our privacy is a plus for them it just weakens the american people so that they start to accept the bigger plan with ID's having chips in them they eventually will have us all enslaved these are just building blocks for a bigger picture. Go to Google video and watch endgame! I am possitive you will want to learn more so Google this CNN Lou Dobbs North American Union. And watch the News clip's! It is outrageous what is going on and no ones doing a thing! God Speed....
  • RE: Google trying to take privacy seriously

    I have recently read an article that basically argued that Google has to realize it is no longer a startup. It is now an established force on the internet. The article was written by a former employee who had left Google for Microsoft

    These look like growing pains. Google is not on the level of Facebook anymore. They are on the level of MS, Yahoo and the like. They need to realize that they need teams of people to focus on the boring stuff like working through all possible legal scenarios, and developing long term strategies in all their departments, and providing employees with good longterm career plans. You know, stuff that IBM, MS, and HP spend a lot of time dealing with.

    It's no longer just about staying up all night on coffee and pizza to work on the next cool hack.

    This is only one of a number of fronts they are having to face issues on because, well, now they have "arrived." So what's next?
  • RE: Google trying to take privacy seriously

    Logging our IP addresses is a violation of our privacy to
    begin with. Why is Google capturing this information in the
    first place?
  • RE: Google trying to take privacy seriously


    I dsdn't see much of a uproar when Mark Klein exposed that AT&T was rrecording every single internet transmission from it's secret little lab in room 641 in an upstairs building in San Francisco.

    watch it and learn the truth, you have no privacy..

    makes me wonder why they even need to subpoena googles records, they already have the information.
  • RE: Google trying to take privacy seriously

    Are you encrypting all your gmail messages?

    You should.
  • RE: Google trying to take privacy seriously

    First, a burglary (the same <i>on</i>...<p>
    Change to:<br>
    First, a burglary (the same <i>one</i>...<p>
  • RE: Google trying to take privacy seriously

    It is a scary day indeed when a competitor can ask for and receive all of your viewer's data. What they should have gotten was specific search results, or a subset of the data, not all of the raw log files. Once they have them they can do anything with them. Do I believe only certain people will look at them? No way. Viacom wants to see the most popular YouTube videos and make programs like them. How obvious is this and how stupid is the justice system? This is truly the end of privacy.
  • RE: Google trying to take privacy seriously

    I love the Google products I use but frankly I'm very disappointed with Google's various responses this week. I don't mind that Google has tons of information on me because they use that information to make money and make great products that I love to use and, at least up until now, I've generally trusted them to keep my data fairly safe - safe from hackers and even more importantly safe from the government. But the more Google gives in, the more breaches of security that occur on Google's computers, the less safe I feel as a consumer and the more likely I am to stop using their products. Frankly, with all the money Google has made by virtue of the trust their customers have put in them, they have an amazing opportunity to do something GOOD for privacy rights in this country. A good start would be to not surrender sensitive information, take things like privacy policies seriously, and generally treat the information they have on their customers at least as sensitive as they would want their own data treated.
  • Oh Really!

    Google is run by a bunch of out of control kids! What would
    theyt know about privacy?
  • Don't trust Google

    Google has the biggest database of information about more people all over the world of any agency, public or private. Signing in to Google is signing away your privacy. They cannot do anything about it as it is part of their business model. Use the Google search engine if you like, but avoid any services that involve signing in.
  • RE: Google trying to take privacy seriously

    One thing that is often missing from the Viacom discussion is that Google would not be able to give away any data if it simply did not track users in the first place.

    But as a typical U.S. company, it will probably claim that user tracking is better for the customer experience. Or that they need to do it to keep the costs down. Or whatever.

    This will not end of course as U.S. companies always complain about the cost of their own operations, if nothing else. Hiring people in the land of $10 wages is soooo expensive, ha ha.

    The more ridiculous issue is, however, that user behavior tracking IS a breach of user privacy. Google should not act like they care about privacy while accumulating Terabytes of information regarding user behavior. Bastards!
    • How else will page rank and targetted ads work?

      Oh yea, non-technical people have no clue but they do have opinions...

      If you don't like it, don't use it.
  • Naysayers aren't making a very good case.

    You're upset because Google is turning over info on Pedophiles and Pirates? You're worried because Google logs may get you caught for participating in Child Pornography? or "stealing" digital content (I am going to avoid expressing my opinion regarding digital content laws, as that is a separate topic)?

    You aren't building a very good case for your protection of privacy position. Kinda like complaining about surveillance camera's in stores, because they might use it as evidence to convict you of shoplifting. Surely there must be a better argument.

    An aside about privacy. What degree/aspect of privacy and/or anonymity (two very different things that seem to frequently be treated as a single idea) are we trying to protect? The reality is, as soon as I walk out my front door, I have no privacy. Anyone who wants can follow me around with a camera. (It doesn't happen because I am not nearly as interesting as Britney Spears, but it could happen nonetheless). If you don't have a clear and reasonable target, how to you hope to "win the war?"


    Secondly, can't a back-up system fail mysteriously, to destroy this data and protect all private individuals? Someone 'working for Google' could SURELY arrange this?????

    Viacom are 'legally obliged' to only use such data relative to this case, BUT what if a Viacom employee mysteriously loses this data, say to another big media company.......

    GOOGLE HAS TO PREVENT VIACOM GETTING THIS DATA. For ALL PEOPLE USING FIXED IP ADDRESSES, probably MOST gamers, this is an incredible threat to their privacy.

    IP addresses DO mean human beings, eg young people
    prosecuted for down loading Nursery Rhymes.

  • RE: J. Edgar Google

    Google's real privacy problem is that they are collecting more private info on more people than anyone ever, and that information is power -- and Google has no accountability for it -- a lot like J.Edgar Hoover... See my post on this: