April 17, 2007 7:00 PM PDT

Privacy concerns dog Google-DoubleClick deal

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The scary scenario for privacy advocates would be if Google were to combine its own storehouse of data on users--yielded through cookies and other personal information given up for services like Gmail--with DoubleClick's data. It would then have unparalleled visibility into people's online behavior, a point brought home last year when AOL accidentally leaked the search histories of users.

What's more, with Google venturing into ad sales for offline media, including radio, TV and print, the company could eventually have a user profile database that goes well beyond what DoubleClick ever planned. Google, for example, just introduced a free voice-activated local-search service for the cell phone and landlines.

"You start to add on more and more collections of information, and they have the ability to tie all of this together, and that poses a major potential for privacy risk in the future," said Ari Schwartz, deputy director for the Center for Democracy and Technology, an advocacy group in Washington.

Merger may spur dialogue on practices
Still, privacy advocates think the merger could be an opportunity to talk to Google about its practices and put together some clear privacy standards for the industry.

The CDT has urged the FTC to hold a workshop on behavioral targeting to set best practices in the industry and get players like Microsoft, Google and Yahoo to agree on them. The organization wants to ensure that people have control in the event that these companies begin to merge consumer information from search and Web-surfing records to personalize ads.

Google currently targets ads to people based only on the context of their searches. A search for lemon pie recipes, for example, might yield an ad for Martha Stewart's recipe database. It also uses IP addresses to target people by their location.

Schwartz, whose CDT brought privacy action against DoubleClick in 2000, said Google called the center after the purchase was finished. Although CDT is still talking to Google, he said the group has some concerns with the acquisition that aren't necessarily related to DoubleClick's collection practices. They deal more with the wide-ranging projects Google has tackled without developing clear privacy policies for each one.

For example, Google is forward about letting people know about the privacy implications involved with installing its Toolbar application, saying "it's not the usual yada yada yada" and that it will collect Web-surfing footprints from the user if he or she opts in. In contrast, Schwartz said Google has been unclear on how long it takes Gmail to get rid of e-mail, once a user has deleted it, unlike rival Yahoo.

Earlier this year, Google also changed its data retention policy. Now the company will purge search query data associated with cookies and IP addresses after 18 to 24 months, rather than its previous policy of keeping them forever. Still, privacy advocates would like to see Google come up with data retention policies for other services on its site, such as histories associated with watching videos on YouTube.

"There's a complexity there about where they're going. They've had this goal of collecting all of the world's information and making it publicly searchable, but they haven't had the corresponding policy to protect privacy," Schwartz said.

"They've had a shadow of protection in what they discuss by 'not doing evil,' but they don't have that bigger vision," he added.

Opsahl said he would like to see Google consider rendering the IP addresses that DoubleClick collects through its ad servers more private, the way Google itself has done.

Google recently said it will remove the last quartet of the IP address associated with an individual computer so the number is lumped into a larger set of 256 IP numbers. That way, it can target people based on country, not by computer. "It's a step in the right direction; it's not complete anonymity," he said.

The goal, Opsahl said, is "to minimize the amount of information collected to only the necessary info to operate the business, and keep it for minimum amount of time. That's something to continue the dialogue with Google about."

Some think Google just hasn't yet been able to articulate its vision for consumer privacy. On a conference call announcing the DoubleClick deal Friday, even one of Google's co-founders had difficulty articulating his company's plans.

"Overall, we care very much about end-user privacy, and that's really going to take the No. 1 priority when we contemplate new kinds of ad products," co-founder Sergey Brin said.

"So I think anything along those lines..." and Brin trailed off. Then he added: "There are quite a few challenges with such a plan, with respect to how we feel about privacy."

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10 comments

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I trust Google
In the past, when a company becomes as big as Google, there is always a sense that they are up to something secretive and unmoral. But I do not think that this will be the case with Google. I think they focus very hard on pleasing their customers and doing what's right. I think they are making the world a better place, and making some money while doing it. Naturally they are trying to spread themselves and want to be the best. Naturally they want to grow and evolve and develop as a company. But I do not think what they are doing is necessarily evil. I don't think they have bad intentions. No business is perfect, but Google comes pretty darn close.
Posted by coryschulz (326 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Why trust Google?
The only reason everybody likes Google is because they aren't Microsoft. Google is assumed to be the perfect company, working only for their customers; in reality, they censor search results in China, and in general everything they do is for the sole purpose of making money and gaining power.

Take the illegal copying of books for example. It's blatant violation of copyright law. Google thinks they can take everything that anybody else has created and offer it for free, while putting their own ads around it to make money for themselves. An excellent "do-good" idea: pretend to be freeing information when you are really stealing it.

Google is no better than Microsoft was, and is worse than Microsoft now.
Posted by istill316 (199 comments )
Link Flag
Google Reputation at a crossroads
I like the search that g. provides.. good products sell themselves. [napster, utoob etc]
I hate their tool bar, & yahoo's as well..it's too possive.
Now, Double clik has a very bad indelible reputation.. i go [and always will] to great lengths to block any thing from dblclk. I suspect/assume they still sneak in malware to the unwary regardless of damages to users, especially the less technical, part time users. (innocents)
Google needs to erase dblclk...and all its practises.

Agressive advertising indicates a bad product. Ex/ If a crapware is forced on me when i buy a computer, then i automatically rid that from computer and take extra care to avoid that Co. everafter. Since i don't like trickery & force used on me. EG: its the main reason i will never use Rxxxx, you don't need the full sp. to know who that is lol thats how bad their agression has been.
too bad that their huge advertising $ is automatically trashed.. dont the adv. execs know how most folks feel about this?

Google may suffer huge loss of loyalty, should any dblclk techniques show up in their products. If i can not filter out the agressive tactics when using google search... i will ban it from my systems forever.
I hope Google sees the folly of trying to squeeze more out of advertising than people want to give. On other hand, if Google can clean up the adv. techniques and prove the same.. more loyalty will be created, this means a public evisceration of dblclk.

They have taken on a very bad stain.... my guard is up even now...since they have joined with the equivalent of a Burglar.[spyware/malware is burglary]
Dblclk crashed me a few times in past.. They are never going to be forgiven, never, never, ever.. for that since they lied about it & keep on with malware. even if i were inaccurate as of now, the impression is indelible.. Reformat the whole deal, publicly, or dump it!

Google could get some massive public hero points by umasking (reveal & disavow all past dblclk practises) publicly Slaying that beast...If they dare :) thats what i'd do if i were google exec. then public would probably erect a monument to Google for that.. Thats the kind of loyalty that lasts and lasts...
Jsta thought from a consumer...
Hey google! :) are you listening? i will be soo happy if you slay my old enemy, the burglar.(cc google cust support)
Posted by jstacat (7 comments )
Link Flag
business is about business
Never feel for a businessman. After all of this, what has been really intended is profit.

"The filtering system was supposed to have launched last year at YouTube, which Google acquired for $1.6 billion in October 2006. Delays in rolling it out have angered movie and television executives. Executives at NBC and Viacom have accused Google of dragging its feet on preventing YouTube users from uploading clips from hit shows and movies."

They had the technology to filter the uploads, but they did not want to employ it so soon because they were arrogant enough that they felt they could get around the laws; and they rather got meaningless attacks by other companies like Viacom while they were making millions of millions of dollars from selling advertisement on the popular video-sharing website.
Posted by iRhapsody (46 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Get over it people.. install adblock plus for firefox
There is a great free utility called adblock plus which will block ads from doubleclick, google, yes even the annoying flash ads on this website. Plus it auto updates every night to download more filters. It is free and easy to use

<a class="jive-link-external" href="https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/1865" target="_newWindow">https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/1865</a>

To block in internet explorer and all other programs which use the internet.

You can also add a customized hosts file, but those get a little messier to maintain. You can google for otheres but here is an example of one

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.mvps.org/winhelp2002/hosts.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.mvps.org/winhelp2002/hosts.htm</a>

KieranMullen
Posted by kieranmullen (1070 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What is Google really concentrating on?
Their DoubleClick Deal? Legal Problems? YouTube technology? Advertising Monopoly? One thing they are not concentrating on is making their search engine better, their utilities better, and adding any real innovation in their online products. Wow Google Earth, that was exciting for a few minutes. .. They are growing too much, too fast. Which can be great for the company and it's shareholders, but bad for the consumers who use &#38; champion their services.

Why would you trust Google? Remember the privacy/security problems with their Desktop Search? We have seen this before and we will see it again. Remember when Apple was King (then went to crap), then Microsoft (9ME,Office XP,Vista, ugh), now Google. Apple, at least reinvented itself (when Jobs Returned) with REAL innovation and is now reaping its rewards. The Google now, is not the Google of old. How little we forget....
Posted by ZeroJCF (51 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Google is Evil?
I hear a lot of people whining about Google Privacy. And while I agree about your comments about Microsoft and Apple (still pretty bad though in my opinion) but when it comes to Google, I get it free, and with very few ads.

I've yet to encounter any spooky privacy issues that some people have been complaining about.

You could be right, I just haven't seen any evidence. And if any, nothing like AOL Search's insane scandal.
Posted by AdemoS (8 comments )
Link Flag
Linux, Et Ux
Google should make ad blocks unneccesary.. that would be common hospitality for their valued customer? why should i have to wrangle around with small s-ware co who bring own raft of problems to my computer (zone, p cillin &#38; etc good example)
I have recently begun a full court press to get with linux...ever Since the Vista Debacle. MSFT cust support is ummm, not friendly, to say the least!
The entire world would much rather have had an SP-3 than the current headache, which is bound to become a planet sized Migraine.. mark my words...
i have already as of 8 mo ago, abandoned the MSFT mail client/MSN. in favor of yahoo. MSFT search can not even find its own websites!
In Msft effort to force Msn-msgr, they damaged their own abilities, crash my sys, waste my time...So i Leave, for good.
J Bo
"The Wise are Conquered by the Innocent" ... jimbo
Posted by jstacat (7 comments )
Reply Link Flag
google
Trust Google, these guys sell you out at the drop of a hat, they've done it already in China and other 3rd world hell holes. What makes you think Google already hasn't sold us out??

Greedy Scum, that is all Google and MS and Cisco and Oracle and Yahoo are. Greedy low life that will allow their info to be used to catch "freedom supporting" users, I have yet to hear about how they have helped authorities capture pedophiles or any other disgusting scumbags, but they bend over and spread their cheecks for any government trying to repress their people.
Posted by oscar-pie (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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