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November 13, 2010

What The Hell Is Google Doing? And Why Is Obama Permitting Them To Do It?

It wasn't inevitable at all-- but Google has turned mission creep positively creepy. An information service provider that people use to search for bargains on cat trees and give them email accounts is being transformed, without our asking or our consent, into the world's biggest private espionage organization, where the targets are ordinary citizens, and the clients are... well, everyone, from stalkers to thieves to collections agents to murderers.

It's worth remembering Google's CEO's self-servingly creepy beliefs about privacy. Other people's privacy, that is-- he vindictively vindicates his own.

Schmidt's philosophy is clear with Bartiromo in the clip below: "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place." The philosophy that secrets are useful mainly to indecent people is awfully convenient for Schmidt as the CEO of a company whose value proposition revolves around info-hoarding.

When CNET attempted to put Schmidt's theories to the test -- by publishing info they had gleaned about Schmidt from Google searches -- he blacklisted them.

Since then it's been revealed he was quite serious about his credo about (other people's) privacy.

Google is hardly the only offender in privacy terms. Social networking media like Facebook also have privacy questions they need to answer. But of all organizations online, Google is the only one to have roamed the streets taking data from the airwaves. That puts them in a lamentable category of one. We must not let them off the hook; if Google can get away with this, more companies will follow in their intrusive footsteps and your privacy will become a fiction.

Google denies that anything’s wrong with Street View per se. “It’s nothing you couldn’t see walking along the street,” defenders say, as if we are all ten feet tall and have panopticonic vision which permanently records everything around us in glorious Technicolor, beaming it to the internet for later review at our or anyone else’s leisure.

Big Brother Watch supporters have told us of their concerns about (for example) images of their homes and gardens being online, showing the distance of their gate to the child’s paddling pool or the motor bike in the garage, the angles from which the pool or the bike can be seen from the house, and the type of alarm they have on their house.

This has terrible repercussions. In the UK, a murderer, Steven Hodgson, used it to target his victim’s home this year before breaking in. Then there are the more everyday privacy issues. The little boy Google showed naked in June. Or before that, another boy in March.

Then there is the sort of unpleasant and unfortunate moments in time which are bound to occur when images are captured everywhere: Ashleigh Hall’s family were very upset by images of her captured on Google Street View shortly before she was killed by the man who had stalked her on Facebook.

Pictures are only the start of Google's new mission to make everyone's personal lives searchable. For reasons that I don't think have been explained yet, Google roamed the streets intercepting people's wi-fi signals, stealing their emails, passwords, and credit card numbers.

Google admitted in May its Street View cars had snatched 600 GB of e-mail, passwords and browsing data from thousands of users in countries all over the world for the last three years.

Google apologized and made nice with countries by installing a privacy director and new data-collection rules. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission, Canada and U.K. gave Google a pass.

And here's some change you can believe in:

The FTC said Oct. 27 it ceased its investigation of the Wi-Spy incident because of Google's improved privacy practices and assurances that it had no plans to use the data it collected.

The FTC's decision came just days after Google discovered Street View collected whole e-mail, passwords and URLs, and after a $30,000-per -person fundraiser for President Obama hosted by Google executive Marissa Mayer at her home.

This proved to be an unacceptable slap on the wrist for the National Legal and Policy Center, which claimed Google was given a pass because of its supposed sway over politicians on Capitol Hill.

Third order of business for the incoming Congress (after passing a repeal of ObamaCare and cutting $100+ billion plus per year from the budget): Investigate the hell out of Google, put them all under oath, and put Obama's men under oath too.

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posted by Ace at 04:21 PM

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