By Erin Sherbert
By Erin Sherbert
By Leif Haven
By Erin Sherbert
By Chris Roberts
By Kate Conger
By Brian Rinker
By Rachel Swan
The U.S. government has made clear its wishes to monitor telephone calls without search warrants in an ongoing Texas privacy lawsuit involving AT&T. Don't think for a minute that the government wouldn't like to peruse Google's e-mail files under the rationale of homeland security.
Google pries beyond its corporate homeland. The company misleadingly invites users into an invasive tracking program called "Web History" that allows the company to follow consumers' non-Google-related Web browsing.
Acquiring DoubleClick would give Google access to even more personal information, which could be cross-referenced into a personal-profiling system rivaling the 1980s KGB, privacy advocates fear. Microsoft, fearing a brave, new, Microsoft-moot age, has emphasized these privacy fears.
"Google seeks to record nearly everything you see and do on the Internet and use it to serve ads," Wired.com's ace privacy journalist Ryan Singel (with whom I attended the dinner) quoted Microsoft attorney Brad King as saying. "This country doesn't let the phone company listen to our phone calls and then serve ads."
Based upon the takes-one-to-know-one theory of evaluating critics of corporate wrongdoing, I think it's worth contemplating Microsoft's claim, self-interested as it may be.
Seven years ago, privacy was also on the lips of the technology obsessed, who predicted Orwellian horrors that never came to pass. At that time business, planners imagined cellular telephones fitted with GPS units, bank information, Web browsers, and various keys. They would be used to open car doors and houses, and to pay at tollbooths and vending machines. And they would do much of their business over the World Wide Web. Artificial intelligence was becoming so tiny and cheap, it was predicted, that most of the physical environment would, in one way or another, be engaged in digital contemplation. Tiny brains everywhere would whisper into all-knowing cellular telephones. Phones would whisper back. And the conversation would be sucked into consumer profiles so sharp that marketers would see into our souls.
Much of this failed to materialize; cell phone companies whose business plans included pestering customers every time they drove by a pizzeria or dry-cleaner went bust. People continued using metal, nondigital key rings.
But it turned out that the commercial souljackers didn't need to follow people outdoors. We've come to them by conducting incrementally greater portions of our lives on the Internet.
Google has demonstrated in myriad ways that it is not interested in the concept of personal privacy. The company tracks what its users do across all of its services and draws users into a program that records their travels throughout the Web, not to mention the mining of letters sent to and from Gmail. DoubleClick is the new Johnny Appleseed of Internet "cookies," providing advertising to thousands of Web sites, planting these little personal monitoring devices as it goes, thus creating ever more detailed personal profiles, which could create crystal-ball omniscience when combined with Google's personal data trove.
Google is a young company that hasn't yet learned social values, is how Carlson, the Microsoft technical strategy director, explained the company's John Poindexteresque penchant for personal profiling. I'm no Microsoft fan; the company may own as much personal information as Google does. But it hasn't yet begun to mine it and sort it and analyze it in ways quite as creepy as Google.
Google's informal corporate slogan, "Don't Be Evil," is widely interpreted to mean "Don't Be Microsoft," Wired's Singel reminded me.
Perhaps the company's new slogan should be, "New Boss, Same as the Old Boss."