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Doug's Mailbag: Google, Privacy and You

Readers aren't done raking Google and its CEO Eric Schmidt over the coals for some comments he made about Internet privacy:

I always remind my clients that ANY information they put on the Internet automatically is geographically under new ownership. It is no longer owned by the originator, but is instead owned by whoever has it on their server. Once it's on someone else's server, it is fair game for any hacker that can get to it. MySpace, Facebook, etc. are ALL traps for your crap. Don't use them if you want your privacy.

So while Schmidt is obviously inept at interpersonal conversation, he is almost right. But he's STILL a boob.

Like most people who become insanely wealthy without learning how to change a diaper, Schmidt obviously needs to read privacy literature from established researchers in the 1960s before opening that massively influential yap. The main idea: the right to be left alone.

You mentioned Google taking snapshots of our kids in the yard -- how about Obama telling the census bureau to GPS everyone's doorstep with their data! Google Voice provides a transcript on every phone call, even if you don't want it. Google Mail provides advertising based on all documents (purportedly deleted or not). Google Docs allow "them" to see what you are working on, how long, when and from where. Google even "allows" one to install a nice search tool for my own private information (didn't realize I collected that much crap that I couldn't find it without Google).

I see bits and pieces of Google invading my privacy by "indexing" what I buy online, what searches I do -- basically keeping track of me in some huge database (for what purposes, I'll never know). I checked Wiki and found numerous other sites and blogs where people are pointing at Google bots "crawling" the Web, indexing blogs and even Wikipedia stuff. It makes the hair on my back stand up! I even found an article saying that the CIA is using Google to spy on people!

For what it's worth, I'm using Bing now (screw Google). I reboot often, clear my history, use third-party privacy tools to clean the index.dat files, and always worry about who's looking over my shoulder and what they are trying to steal. My credit card number, my account information, my serials or product registrations -- who knows? And why does the government allow Google to monopolize the search engine business and get away with it, without someone like Eliot Spitzer ("the untouchable") filing a monopoly federal lawsuit for invasion of privacy?

Here are a few more of your thoughts on Microsoft and the case of the stolen Plurk code:

No, you're not too soft on Microsoft, not this time. Yes, they were caught stealing code (or more correctly, some employees were) but they didn't try to squirm out. I think that even "evil empires" need to be cut a break every once in a while.

What I like seeing in general is a softening by Microsoft in many of these cases. They seem to have truly realized that there are valid alternatives that end users are starting to consider using.

You wrote, "The Stacker lawsuit is a brilliant example where Microsoft used code from a hard drive compression it rather forcibly licensed from a third party." Really? That's an old bag of worms.

According to Wikipedia, "Stac, in an effort led by attorney Morgan Chu, sued Microsoft for infringement of two of its data compression patents, and won; in 1994, a California jury ruled the infringement by Microsoft was not willful."

More letters coming on Friday. Meanwhile, tell us what you think by leaving a comment below or sending an e-mail to [email protected]

Posted by Doug Barney on 01/06/2010 at 1:17 PM


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