And I suggest, regardless of politics, we all focus and really think about this.
From Cnet/Declan’s blog:
A top Republican in the House of Representatives is demanding that Google answer a barrage of questions about privacy, some of which are related to the company’s proposed purchase of the DoubleClick advertising firm.
Rep. Joe Barton, who has positioned himself as a privacy advocate and previously criticized the merger last month, complained in a letter to Google CEO Eric Schmidt that the company had initially agreed to let his aides visit the so-called Googleplex in Mountain View, Calif. but then didn’t confirm a date. Barton is the senior Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has Internet regulation as one of its responsibilities.
Interesting to see what Barton wants to know about, his letter to Google outlining his requests about the company’s information use and technology is very, very extensive. Snippets:
To help us better understand the privacy and consumer protection implications of this transaction, please respond to the following questions:
1. Please describe Google’s retention policy with respect to the following data. Include in your response a description of the type of data retained (for example, URL, Internet Protocol [IP] address, date, time of connectivity); the length of time the data is retained; where the data is retained; who has access to the retained data; and how the data is removed, deleted, or anonymized once the retention period lapses.
a. Search queries on Google search;
b. Search queries on Google maps;
c. Search queries on Google news;
d. Search queries on Google images;
e. Email sent, received, or drafted on Gmail;
f. Information or data collected or retained through a website’s use of Google Analytics;
g. Information or data collected or retained from an individual’s use of Google Desktop Search, including the Google Desktop Search feature, Search Across Computers;
h. Google Maps for Mobile;
i. Google Web History Program for registered Google users/Google users with sign-in accounts;
j. Information or data collected or retained from an individual’s use of Picasa;
k. Information or data collected or retained from an individual’s use of Calendar;
2. Please explain how Google uses the information or data described in Question 1(a) – (l), including, but not limited to, the following uses: perfecting Google’s search algorithm; operating Google’s advertising programs such as AdWords and AdSense; and research or analysis of user activity on www.google.com.
… 5. In particular, please explain whether Google Maps directs advertisements to IP addresses based on that user’s Google Maps search query history.
6. Please explain how and why information is combined or shared across platforms when consumers opt-in for personalized services and whether Google first requires consent prior to such information-sharing. (For instance, whether search query data is shared with or linked to a user’s Gmail account.)
a. Please describe how Google interprets “reasonably linked.”
b. Please explain in what circumstances Google links information
such that an individual can be identified.
c. Please explain whether Google considers an IP address to be “personal information.”
d. Please explain whether technology exists to personally identify or determine the personal characteristics, including, but not limited to, name, email address, physical address or location, age, gender, or ethnicity of an Internet user based on that user’s IP address.
e. Please explain whether Google is capable of identifying or determining personal characteristics, including, but not limited to, name, email address, physical address or location, age, gender, or ethnicity of an Internet user based on that user’s IP address.
…. 20. If the merger of Google and DoubleClick is approved, please describe what use Google plans to make of the data retained and collected by DoubleClick (for example, data from DoubleClick’s tracking cookies or DoubleClick click-stream data), and whether Google plans to combine or merge DoubleClick’s data with data Google retains from individual search queries and other user activity on www.google.com.
a. If Google does not intend to merge or combine the data Google retains with the information or data retained or collected by DoubleClick, please describe the efficiencies of the Google-DoubleClick merger. (emphasis mine) b. If Google does not intend to merge or combine the data Google retains with the information or data retained or collected by DoubleClick, please explain how the information will be segregated.
…24. The House passed the Securely Protect Yourself Against Cyber Trespass (SPY ACT) in the current and prior two Congresses. The SPY ACT, H.R. 964, sponsored by Representatives Mary Bono and Adolphus Towns, mandates an opt-in privacy regime by prohibiting the collection of personal information from a computer without a user’s notice and consent prior to the execution of any information collection program. H.R. 964 also demands that a user be able to easily remove or disable the information collection program. Please explain whether Google’s applications are subject to H.R. 964′s consent requirements. If the answer is no, please explain why these programs, which collect personal information, are not subject to the consent regime established by H.R. 964.
I for one and very, very happy Rep. Barton has laid this out, and very eager to see what response will be given.
Update: Henry speculates that this may be the work of MSFT.
Ask.com has launched AskEraser, giving searchers the ability to search anonymously. Ask.com told us about this tool back in July, and six months later, it’s now live for all searchers to use.
Google has proven willing to use its lawyesr when needed, in this case involving Perfect Ten, I am happy with the result. Not because I’m all about thumbnails of nudes, though I find nothing wrong with ‘em, but because anything that strengthens fair use is a good thing, I think.
Facebook has released the details of its new approach to user control:
Under the changes outlined late Thursday, Facebook’s 55 million users will be given greater control over whether they want to participate in a three-week-old program that circulates potentially sensitive information about their online purchases and other activities.
Facebook provided two different opportunities to block the details from being shared, but many users said they never saw the “opt-out” notices before they disappeared from the screen.
With the reforms, Facebook promised its users will now have to give their explicit consent, or “opt-in,” before any information is passed along.
More coverage in the Times.
From the release (more here):
“We believe it’s important to put our money where our principles are,”
said Eric Schmidt, Chairman and CEO, Google. “Consumers deserve more
competition and innovation than they have in today’s wireless world.
No matter which bidder ultimately prevails, the real winners of this
auction are American consumers who likely will see more choices than
ever before in how they access the Internet.”
In the wake of mounting criticism, Facebook executives are discussing changes to a controversial advertising tool that publicizes users’ Web activities outside of the popular social network. Alterations to the recently introduced Beacon system could be announced as early as Nov. 29, BusinessWeek.com has learned.
Chris Sacca, whose blog I follow, is a director of special projects at Google. His latest has been figuring out wireless with a team of minded colleagues. This post is quite worth the read.
Turns out, a lot of people at Google cared deeply about these issues. So we built a humbling team of like-minded folks to explore what we could do to make the wireless industry more open. At first, it was comprised of all volunteers, though we have since grown to much bigger ranks including dozens of full-time RF engineers and policy gurus. In fact, we have now grown too big for the room in which we hold our meetings and chairs are scarce.
PS – a good speculation on what it all means (Google’s entry into telcom) here on Gigaom.