Gmail and Health URLs: Why Google cares less about your privacy, and why you should care

Google love is a powerful force, as I often underscore. BUT, should Google love exempt the Google corporation from scrutiny of its stated and real desire to manipulate all of the “the world’s information,

Google love is a powerful force, as I often underscore (see “Google: The Anti-Microsoft”). BUT:

Should Google love be unconditional?

Should Google love blind users of the risks they run by using its services?

Should Google love exempt the Google corporation from scrutiny of its stated and real desire to manipulate all of the “the world’s information,” personal, public and private, in support of its multi-billion dollar profit objectives?

NO. Google Gmail is not email business as usual and Google Health URLs do not incarnate a virtual Hippocratic Oath.

In “Free Google GMail: The High price you pay,” I put forth the economic-focused data mining objectives Google targets with Gmail, as stated by Google SVP Engineering & Research, Alan Eustace.

Eusatce has emphasized Google’s long-term “strategic benefits” form its free-to-the-user email product:

a good place for us to experiment with our advertising technologies and targeting technologies which I think are very useful to us.

It could be a significant revenue stream in the future, but there are other reasons also for us to be in the email market.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt on Google’s data ambitions:

If you think about it, all the world’s information includes personal information. Personal information is held in online word processing, online spreadsheets, online calendar, online email.

The world is a very big place and Google has very much a worldwide mission… not just from an information perspective, but also from a monetization perspective…

We don’t see any signs of approaching any limits to this vision. The opportunities before us really are unlimited at this point.

In “Why does Google trap user data” I critique Schmidt’s recent PR campaign portraying the company he leads as a champion for the rights of its users and underscore that his exhortations on the importance of user data “portability” are not reflected within Google’s operating principles:

If Schmidt is keen on letting “people move their data around,” why doesn’t he guarantee that Google users can move their data out of Google systems?

Google does not make any assurances about any of its users being able to access any of their own data, correct it and/or delete it from Google systems.

Google Gmail privacy policy:

Residual copies of deleted messages and accounts may take up to 60 days to be deleted from our active servers and may remain in our offline backup systems.

Google umbrella privacy policy:

Accessing and updating personal information

When you use Google services, we make good faith efforts to provide you with access to your personal information and either to correct this data if it is inaccurate or to delete such data at your request if it is not otherwise required to be retained by law or for legitimate business purposes. We ask individual users to identify themselves and the information requested to be accessed, corrected or removed before processing such requests, and we may decline to process requests that are unreasonably repetitive or systematic, require disproportionate technical effort, jeopardize the privacy of others, or would be extremely impractical (for instance, requests concerning information residing on backup tapes), or for which access is not otherwise required. In any case where we provide information access and correction, we perform this service free of charge, except if doing so would require a disproportionate effort.

SO WHAT, is a typical Gmail user response: “I have nothing to hide, I trust Google, Google is secure…”

Such flippant retorts are as naïve as Google’s “do no evil” slogan.

Nothing is risk-free: Risks of fraud, data manipulation and identity theft can be reduced, however, by choosing email systems which provide for more user control and which are not integrated within data mining business models.

What about Google’s plan for “Health URLs”?

Privacy Rights Clearinghouse reports on “Medical Privacy in the Electronic Age”:

Like it or not, you are not the only one with an interest in control of personal health information. The balancing act between your interests and those of other stakeholders is often tipped on the side of government, the medical profession, related businesses, and public interests.

Google Health URLs would be the tipping point.

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