July 14, 2005 4:00 AM PDT

Google balances privacy, reach

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identifiable information. For example, Google does not correlate Gmail accounts with users' searches.

Google's Desktop Search, an application that lets users search for personal files and Web history stored locally on their computer, also created a stir when it was launched last year. Privacy advocates worried that someone with access to a user's computer could easily search for sensitive data.

A free version of Google's Desktop Search for businesses has an option that allows users to require a password to access it. The free consumer version of it does not.

Other privacy concerns were raised with Google's Web Accelerator, downloadable software for broadband users that was designed to speed access to Web pages by serving up cached or compressed copies of Web sites from Google's servers. However, the service does not really retain any more data than a user's Internet service provider can.

Underpinning many of the privacy concerns is the longevity of Google's data retention.

The log files created during Web searches, and which don't personally identify the user, are kept for as long as the data "is useful," Wong said. She did not give any time frame or elaborate.

"Overall, the issues with Google are not any different from the issues you have with Yahoo, Microsoft and others."
--Danny Sullivan, editor, Search Engine Watch

Google is able to link log file data, cookies and Google accounts to help it identify attempts to manipulate Web site ranking on its search pages, help track down originators of denial-of-service attacks against Web sites, and provide improvements to services in general, Wong said.

Concerned Googlers can either choose not to register for Google services or use two browsers, one for their Web searches and another for Gmail and other Google services.

For the more paranoid there are anonymizing proxy networks, such as the EFF's Tor, that bounce Internet communication through a series of routers that encrypt and decrypt it so that the origination and destination cannot be traced.

"Before you Google for something, think about whether you want that on your permanent record," Bankston advised. "If not, don't Google, or take steps so the search can't be tied back to you."

Google is no DoubleClick
In fairness, the level of anxiety hasn't come close to what online ad network DoubleClick faced in the late 1990s. DoubleClick became the subject of a Federal Trade Communication lawsuit for its attempt to combine offline and online consumer data. It settled federal and state suits and eventually phased out its Internet ad profiling service.

In a question-and-answer session during Google's media day in May Schmidt addressed the trade-off between privacy issues and offering better services.

"Our general philosophy on those things is very much to allow people to opt in," Schmidt said. "There are always options to not use that set of technology and remain anonymous with respect to the functionality that you're using on Google."

Gartner analyst Allen Weiner opined: "Overall, I think the privacy concerns are probably overblown."

Search engines have reached a plateau in their ability to serve up the best results, Weiner said, adding that tracking users' ongoing searches will lead to improvements.

"Have search engines gotten to the point where they have developed enough trust with consumers in order to get them to give up some of their privacy?" he asked rhetorically. "At some point there's a leap of faith that needs to occur."

And it's not as though Google is the only company asking Web surfers to make that leap, said Danny Sullivan editor of Search Engine Watch. "Overall, the issues with Google are not any different from the issues you have with Yahoo, Microsoft and others. They tend to get singled out, and unfairly, in my view," Sullivan said. "They're the biggest, and they make a big target for someone to take a swing at. It's not that the issues are not important. It's that they are applicable to the search industry" as a whole.

Trust is the key. As software industry analyst Stephen O'Grady wrote in his Tecosystems blog late last year: "Google is nearing a crossroads in determining its future path. They can take the Microsoft fork--and face the same scrutiny Microsoft does, or they can learn what the folks from Redmond have: Trust is hard to earn, easy to lose and nearly impossible to win back."

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37 comments

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Google mode presents new business model
While some people scream privacy, some of us prefer 'publicy'. We pay our bills on time, we respect others, we don't break laws. If Google collects data with a similar code of ethics, they could perform 'subsciption screening' so we receive notice of things of interest from >reputable< companies.
Posted by gthurman (67 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Somebody's Watching Me
This article reminds me of an eighties song by Rockwell...

"I always feel that somebody's watchin' me
Is it just a dream?"

.... No, it's an Internet Search Engine.

"I always feel like somebody's watching me
I can't enjoy my tea!"
Posted by Collants (18 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Poor journalism
CNET blew it big time with this story, in two ways.

First, it equated information accessible via the Internet with information published in an article that will be read by millions. There is an important distinction between pointing out the accessibility of information, and publishing that information. The Google search engine is just a tool to find information which is already out there. This tool can be used for good or for evil. CNET just demonstrated the latter. It was grossly irresponsible journalism, and should be condemned by journalists everywhere. Didn't you learn anything from Maureen O'Gara's mistake?

Secondly, the whole point of the article was information that Google may be collecting and storing in their private inaccessible archives. While this may be an interesting topic, it is orthogonal to the public accessibility today of information on the Internet, which Google's search engines may make easier to find. The author seems to be confusing and mingling the two separate issues.
Posted by spongeman57 (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
sorry but you miss the point
Once the information is accessible to Google it is PUBLIC INFORMATION. The reporter certainly did nothing wrong in publishing information about Schmidt. There isn't anything preventing anyone in the world from doing precisely what she's done.

Your skin seems as thin as Schmidt's.
Posted by richards1052 (5 comments )
Link Flag
Here Here
I found it hard to read the whole article because i knew what the writer was getting at, he/she was trying to have a swing at google, it was quite obvious and i still don't understand why.

They have Un-personal identifiable information, they have words that we have searched for, and i might elaborate on words... millions of words, that would take all of Google's staff months just to see what we have searched for let alone find out what our 'beliefs, religion' and etc.

i find this article quite upsetting coming from Cnet as Cnet has always published top notch reporting up until this piece of reporting, using really lame lines to make it seem google are trying to avoid answering questions, such as when they just wrote the writer a answer for everything that was asked, and the writer had the nerve to write underneath that 'google wouldn't elaborate'

personally, i could quite easily write just as good smear campaign on any body. Hmm such as how Paul's Milk knows how much milk i drink and therefore can personally identify my, which is not as far fetched as this reporter is getting at.

Overall, quite pathetic reporting and seems everyone else agrees and i severely hope that this writers credentials are being re-looked, as well with her/his job

Patriot.Aus ***
Posted by Patriot (7 comments )
Link Flag
This is not poor journalism. Can you not see the privacy implications of every word you have ever searched using google being stored on their servers for an indefinite amount of time? not to mention that if you use gmail, the amount of personal information that could be obtained from that. The fact is that google has expanded and is doing everything. Aim is now available through gmail and the conversations are saved. It is impossible to leave your personal life or personal information out of your email and Instant messaging conversations. some of the information, such as medical information should not be accessible to anyone but yourself. But when the government wants some of this information, the legal route is just too much red tape for them. They will go (and have gone) to these services that collect way too much information about a person such as google, yahoo, etc. luckily, so far google has fought this but as we all know, everyone has a price, and the value of this information is growing steadily as more people put their information out there on google and as google continues to build more buildings to house the ridiculous amount of data it is storing. How long before google offers Mark zuckerberg an offer that he can't refuse? I don't have anything against google, but this is going in the direction of 1984. (not that it hasn't already happened with our government, it is just the fact that google is so brazen about this as if its ok)
Posted by e1462 (2 comments )
Link Flag
This is not poor journalism. Can you not see the privacy implications of every word you have ever searched using google being stored on their servers for an indefinite amount of time? not to mention that if you use gmail, the amount of personal information that could be obtained from that. The fact is that google has expanded and is doing everything. Aim is now available through gmail and the conversations are saved. It is impossible to leave your personal life or personal information out of your email and Instant messaging conversations. some of the information, such as medical information should not be accessible to anyone but yourself. But when the government wants some of this information, the legal route is just too much red tape for them. They will go (and have gone) to these services that collect way too much information about a person such as google, yahoo, etc. luckily, so far google has fought this but as we all know, everyone has a price, and the value of this information is growing steadily as more people put their information out there on google and as google continues to build more buildings to house the ridiculous amount of data it is storing. How long before google offers Mark zuckerberg an offer that he can't refuse? I don't have anything against google, but this is going in the direction of 1984. (not that it hasn't already happened with our government, it is just the fact that google is so brazen about this as if its ok)
Posted by e1462 (2 comments )
Link Flag
Is Google Evil?
See the meme graph results.

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.realmeme.com/Main/savinggoogle/index.jsp" target="_newWindow">http://www.realmeme.com/Main/savinggoogle/index.jsp</a>
Posted by Broward Horne (88 comments )
Reply Link Flag
interesting
People hate google when its founders get thin-skinned, grossly rich, etc., but the googlies restore their "cool" with products like Gmail. The googlies need to ration themselves to a limited number of uncool activities (like getting richer) and continue launching cool product extensions. And restoring diplomatic relations with C-net with a fulsome apology for being thin-skinned would be a really cool thing to do.
Posted by (1 comment )
Link Flag
Eric Schmidt has might thin skin
I just don't get Google's churlish response to this article. It's a perfectly &#38; responsible article. All the information about Schmidt was publicly available using his own company's technology. These people really have to get a life. It's not like the reporter went dumpster diving or dredged up former lovers or wives who wanted to tell all about him.

If Schmidt wants to be as prickly and thin-skinned as Bill Gates, then he'll have to pay the price in earning the public's disdain for his arrogance.
Posted by richards1052 (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Google's Response is Absurd
The report only used fairly innocuous information, she could have revealed much more personal information such as whom the Schmidt's dined with at the White House or what night Bill Cinton was at their house or to be serious, much more revealing information on his family which could possibly compromise their safety. If Eric really cares so passionately about this , Google should allow web sites to "opt out" of Google to protect the privacy of the people who may be on their sites.
Posted by mbaprof (1 comment )
Link Flag
Ahh, but probing for personal factoids via Google is exactly like dumpster diving - daring and delicious (uh, no not de.licio.us). And the way Google massively and indiscriminately collects odds and ends could well be likened to a data or content garbage dump. In the future, we will mine our garbage dumps for recyclable materials the same way we mine Google for recyclable data.
Posted by outtanames999 (11 comments )
Link Flag
If there's nothing wrong with it he would have provided solid answers. Since those are not available he resorts to banning Cnet from Google press conferences. Nice.... I feel so much more confident in the cloud. The direction this is going is like a bad scifi movie.
Posted by russkeller (163 comments )
Link Flag
Eric Schmidt
It was suprising that, inorder to prove what an effective information company Google was- that you felt the need to actually publish the personal information on an individual (like the rest of us care). We would have believed your word for it had you just blanked out Eric Schmidt's wife's name, etc., and boasted that you had that information via Googling Schmidt.

It comes off as being paparazzi tabloid.

Madeleine

PS- The fact that Google can withhold information and did not do so on its own CEO, well......
Posted by Madeleine Laury (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Anti-google garbish news...
This is real garbish news... It's not realistic, it's real anti-google fanatism!

For instance, there are lots of tools like google desktop, that provide the ability to find content in documents, emails, etc... This story is trying to "say" to the readers that google save your private information, and that's not true...

This jornalist should apologize for the implicity evil side use of google that he sugest the google tools are about...

For instance, you can use biotech to destroy and biotech to cure, you can use lots of things to good and to evil... nuclear power can be used for good and for evil... but this jornalist only wrote with his evil fanatic anti-google mind!

You should be ashamed... get apologize!

Joao Oliveira
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Um, it's anti-google, but true
I mean. Have you ever run a server? I have. Everything you do on a website is saved into a server log unless the server administrator states otherwise. I'm sure this isn't the case with google, given their popularity, people likely attempt to hack them regularly. Don't go around saying what google doesn't do with their servers when you don't know how server administration works.
Posted by (41 comments )
Link Flag
does anyone think anymore?
Ok, the article, as I understand it, was concerned that google was maybe missing the mark with privacy concerns. So, in response, google has limited the publication of private information by not talking to cnet. so, hasn't google just done something to address privacy concerns? you don't need to worry about all that sensitive data bein exposed on cnet for a while...

On another note, however, cnet made a big fuss about all google's caches and databanks, but found all their info from private web sites as far as I can tell; not by digging through google's trash.

So, in summary, while google's response may seem over the top, in a way it is a very logical response. Also, although the reporter no doubt meant well, I think that she may have been trying to dig up resentment for search companies a little too much.
Posted by (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Better explained by Isaac Asimov
Isaac wrote that there would be a device that could show you the past. People didn't just use it to see 1775, they used it to see 10 minutes ago, two days ago, last week, last month, anywhere anyone.
Privace became history, life became a fish bowl.

Thanks Google!
Posted by (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Google may try to protect privacy
But will they succeed? Google has this info, and they can do as they please with it. Most likely, they'll with hold it to address said privacy concerns. What's to say an untrustworthy employee at google won't do something unauthorized with the data though? What's to say a hacker won't break into the info and steal it? Lastly, what's to say that law enforcement officers use the powers of the DMCA, the Patriot Act, or some other equally controvertial law to get this information? Google itself may address privacy concerns strongly. It's individuals that merit worrying about.
Posted by (41 comments )
Reply Link Flag
thats not true
most of the 'personal information' that u see in google is collected from public sources. IF u r that important then the information is accurate...most of the time the information is not accurate
Posted by (1 comment )
Link Flag
Try this for a strategy
Instead of all complaining about all the information Google, and News.com, for that matter collect. Remember ONE inportant fact. Information is ONLY useful if it is ACCURATE.

Unless it is vital to do otherwise e.g. when applying for a loan, there is is the simple effective strategy that knocks them ALL flat.
Enter totally bum and spurious information whenever possible.

I maybe the CEO of an avionics Company to one Company, a Brain Surgeon to another. I may live in the USA, the UK or Europe or Iraq, depending upon how I feel.

Why do I do this? Simple - they have NO RIGHT to require you to answer their personal and totally irrelevant questions - look at the ones required to join this outfit as an example. Were they necessary? Of course not they are just being nosey and hope that this information will assist them in some way or another mostly for THEIR benefit NOT yours. And yes a lot of this private information does leek out, and I suspect much is sold under the counter as well. Information equates to MONEY.

So play them at their own game whenever possible and finally give them a Yahoo or HotMail typed email address. Thats normally pretty useless to them as well.

Regards

Cheyanne Bodie or is it Fred Flintstone or Cliff Richard? It's my memory playing tricks again - now where are those tablets the doctor gave me?
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
One hardly knows where to begin. Of course you can use INACCURATE information. It quite useful to spread lies and distortions. Here's some inaccurate information about August: his name is really April. See what I mean?
Posted by outtanames999 (11 comments )
Link Flag
google adsense/adwords
The article didn't mention the most freaky part of google. With the google adsense program, they can track down every click on the internet. Coupling this information with the complete google database and they know with websites you visit. Even when you don't use any google product at all.

When a webmaster places the 'google ads' on his website, he gives google the permission to collect any kind of information about himself and the visitors of his website. The code they have to put on their website contains a key to session tracking, cookie placement, site statistics, etc. Enough to track everybody on the internet!

It isn't just technical possible, i think they abuse it already. Just read the terms of use from the google adsense program:
"Google may retain and use, subject to the terms of the Google Privacy Policy (located at <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.google.com/privacy.html," target="_newWindow">http://www.google.com/privacy.html,</a> or such other URL as Google may provide from time to time), all information You provide, including but not limited to Site demographics and contact and billing information. You agree that Google may transfer and disclose to third parties personally identifiable information about You for the purpose of approving and enabling Your participation in the Program, including to third parties that reside in jurisdictions with less restrictive data laws than Your own. Google may also provide information in response to valid legal process, such as subpoenas, search warrants and court orders, or to establish or exercise its legal rights or defend against legal claims. Google disclaims all responsibility, and will not be liable to You, however, for any disclosure of that information by any such third party. Google may share non-personally-identifiable information about You, including Site URLs, Site-specific statistics and similar information collected by Google, with advertisers, business partners, sponsors, and other third parties. In addition, You grant Google the right to access, index and cache the Site(s), or any portion thereof, including by automated means including Web spiders or crawlers."
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Adsense Paranoia
I understand why many people would not want their click paths tracked as it can be considered as an invasion of pricacy. I just don't feel that Google will mis use its data. Google AdWords and the subsequent AdSense program is one of their biggest revenue machines and is pretty much the reason Google makes money. The share holders know this and thats what drives the company now. They wouldn't want the apple cart disturbed! For more info on Google Adsense visit www.TheAdSenseFiles.co.uk
Posted by tstolber (1 comment )
Link Flag
Living in an increasingly paranoid world.
In case you don't want to be tracked by a search engine, just don't use them! I personally trust google, and don't mind the data they collect. Anyone who is more suspicious, however, always has the option of not using any of the search engines or alike.

I didn't like the author's tone in the article. Publicly available data and publicizing data are two completely different things. I wish he had been more careful.

I think the issues raised by the article are gaining more attention that they should have been. The last two hours I spent on the issue was a waste of time.
Posted by (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Two hours
What eles did you do other than read the article and wright a responce that took you two hours?
Posted by feedbackuser5 (25 comments )
Link Flag
It's all public information
Thins information could be found in almost an other search engine,
what is the fuss all about?
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Jean-Pierre Khoueiri of ConstantClick.com speaks on Google
If the information Google collects is in any way used in an unethical manner, the first complaint will cause a media storm that will likely force the comapny to react to citizens concerns. The only thing Googlers can do is wait and hope Google sticks to it's credo: "Do no evil"!
Posted by www.ConstantClick.com (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Google vs. ISP
A similar situation occurs at the ISP level itself.
Posted by jpally (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Dr. Eric Schmidt has very many mafia friends, some of whom produce p_rn, even child p_rn from captive women and children, which is how Google got sued for profiteering from deliberatly promoted child p_rnography &#38; why they withheld the identities of child p_rn distributors from police. http://endmafia.com
Posted by keeef091 (10 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Google's claim on others' personal works as writings are, personal financial dealings and matters of utilizing own purchased internet use, meaning to be confidential and with others trusting, I don't mean to lame myself by giving what is mine away to goons trusting that slanderous soveriegnty is their real offering.

Bleeding is appropriate. As a real Laws Enforcement priority.
Posted by wgadstar (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Time to bump this article because it was so prescient. Basically, we've known since 2005 that all our information was public. So why is everyone so surprised now?
Posted by Thomas_Badger (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Well, here I am, 8+ years later, wondering how many people who want their lives and the information attached to it kept private, are now using some type of "cloud" service to store files. If you would have a problem with the contents of your cloud information, or for that matter the information you have on your hard drive, being found in text, on paper, in an envelope you left on a bus bench, you really DO have a problem. In that case you will want to keep a supply of notepads and pencils handy, and don't forget to keep your Library Card current. That's how it was done before you owned a computer, and used Google more often in a day than you used a toilet. Remember?

I have an e-mail account with my real name attached to it. I have another one that has an alias. I use it when I'm at a location somewhere else in town. That computer is logged on as "user" and is used by several other people aged eight to eighty, none of whom use their own ID. This might not make me untraceable, but it would certainly make it very difficult. If you're doing something online that you really don't want known to anyone else, and you use your own ID, I'd say that you deserve no sympathy if you suffer for doing so. I'm doing nothing that's illegal, just no ones business but mine. However, if you do use an alias, a certain segment of society will automatically be convinced that you're up to no good.
Posted by jimmy6p (1726 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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