June 28, 2007

Google Privacy Fluff

Philipp Lenssen asked Google about data restrictions, and received a statement concerning "We restrict access internally in a number of ways. [details]".

I left a comment in part:

There's never going to be an official answer which says "Security? What security? We believe in open sourcing our business records. We don't take any precautions, anyone whatsoever can traipse through them at will".

It's important to understand that there's a difference between privacy, and business confidential data. Google's logs fall under both regimes. In many instances, the same incentives apply. But what happens when there's a difference? This is the argument I keep having with some of Google defender's - the Google Search Subpoena case was NOT a privacy case. Google's objections were mainly about business confidential data, which they then "spun" as privacy. Posturing about the extensive procedures Google takes to protect its business records is not wrong, but it's not about privacy either.

We don't know about what happens in serious privacy challenges. There's no way to independently check on Google's statements.

To understand the difference, consider the AT&T wiretapping case

"The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed a class-action lawsuit against AT&T on January 31, 2006, accusing the telecom giant of violating the law and the privacy of its customers by collaborating with the National Security Agency (NSA) in its massive, illegal program to wiretap and data-mine Americans' communications."

AT&T surely could have a spokesflacker say all sorts of things about how seriously they protect customer privacy. Without some independent checks, taking such statements on faith is not warranted (pun unintended but still relevant)

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in google | on June 28, 2007 11:59 PM (Infothought permalink)
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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Fluff is right. I'd been meaning to comment on that post as well - glad you beat me to it.

Posted by: Michael Zimmer at June 29, 2007 09:42 AM