You have probably seen that Google-watch wants us to nominate Google for the Big Brother Awards. Google-watch is one of the most paranoid sites I’ve ever seen. (Others find them odd as well.) They have a true hangup on privacy in a way that makes me feel that these guys never use the same phone twice, never buys their paper in the same shop and never ever travel together in the same viecle. The stuff they worry about is stuff that any webmaster records if he wants to keep track of what is going on.
Here is their list of reasons why Google should be named Big Brother of the year. My comments are in italics. Before you read it (or re-read it because you have probably seen it before) you might want to open the Baloney Detection Kit in a new window.
1. Google’s immortal cookie:
Google was the first search engine to use a cookie that expires in 2038. This was at a time when federal websites were prohibited from using persistent cookies altogether. Now it’s years later, and immortal cookies are commonplace among search engines; Google set the standard because no one bothered to challenge them. This cookie places a unique ID number on your hard disk. Anytime you land on a Google page, you get a Google cookie if you don’t already have one. If you have one, they read and record your unique ID number.
– This is hardly something unique for Google. Did you ever try to turn cookie warnings on in your browser and visit any newspaper or other bannerlined site like New York Times (2030) or Yahoo! (2006)?
2. Google records everything they can:
For all searches they record the cookie ID, your Internet IP address, the time and date, your search terms, and your browser configuration. Increasingly, Google is customizing results based on your IP number. This is referred to in the industry as ”IP delivery based on geolocation.”
– So what? I do that too. I don’t use a cookie to do it but your numbers are stored in my database for sure. I do it to be able to track what areas my visitors find interesting. Where they came from to see if that is a site worth visiting. You can check out some of the results on my referral page.
3. Google retains all data indefinitely:
Google has no data retention policies. There is evidence that they are able to easily access all the user information they collect and save.
– What good would their collected statistics do them if they couldn’t?
4. Google won’t say why they need this data:
Inquiries to Google about their privacy policies are ignored. When the New York Times (2002-11-28) asked Sergey Brin about whether Google ever gets subpoenaed for this information, he had no comment.
– I would like to know some more about the context here. I searched NYT and found the abstract. Remember reading the article, but can’t recall what the issue was.
5. Google hires spooks:
Matt Cutts, a key Google engineer, used to work for the National Security Agency. Google wants to hire more people with security clearances, so that they can peddle their corporate assets to the spooks in Washington.
– Yeah? I’ve seen the Google-watch article about this and it looks to me that asking for full security clearance is a way to ensure a clean record. Now I don’t really know wat full security clearance is in USA, but here in Sweden it’s something like having done your military service, a clean police record and not listed as a child molestor or security risk. I’m not at all convinced that they are hiring spooks. If Matt Cutts is a brilliant engineer with a lot of creativity I gather he wanted out from NSA. Wouldn’t you?
6. Google’s toolbar is spyware:
– Well I’m happy that I use a Mac! And now I see why there is no Google toolbar for my browsers. I think Microsoft is to blame for this security breach, but to say that Google has complete access… Isn’t that to push it a bit?
And the idea of letting the toolbar find un-indexed or very popular sites is genial i think. What better way is there to find out which search results that where actually usedful and clicked on?
7. Google’s cache copy is illegal:
Judging from Ninth Circuit precedent on the application of U.S. copyright laws to the Internet, Google’s cache copy appears to be illegal. The only way a webmaster can avoid having his site cached on Google is to put a ”noarchive” meta in the header of every page on his site. Surfers like the cache, but webmasters don’t. Many webmasters have deleted questionable material from their sites, only to discover later that the problem pages live merrily on in Google’s cache. The cache copy should be ”opt-in” for webmasters, not ”opt-out.”
– I am probably one of the happiest Google cache users in the world. Last year I managed to completely erase MySQL table just hours before I threw out my back-up. The table was holding page data for a site I work with and I found just about every page available in Googles cache. I just say thank you Google for that.
8. Google is not your friend:
Young, stupid script kiddies and many bloggers still think Google is ”way kool,” so by now Google enjoys a 75 percent monopoly for all external referrals to most websites. No webmaster can avoid seeking Google’s approval these days, assuming he wants to increase traffic to his site. If he tries to take advantage of some of the known weaknesses in Google’s semi-secret algorithms, he may find himself penalized by Google, and his traffic disappears. There are no detailed, published standards issued by Google, and there is no appeal process for penalized sites. Google is completely unaccountable. Most of the time they don’t even answer email from webmasters.
– I would really like to see some examples of what they are talking about here. The Page Rank article doesn’t do that in enough deapth. Sure. I’ve seen sites I work with go up and down and sometimes vanish out from Googles index, just to mysteriously come back a few days after. I use every technique I know of to try to take advantage of what I know, and that goes for any search engine out there. Google gives me the most hits. Now if you use the technique of building false pages, keyword spamming, false domaines with lots of links contining keywords that’s something else. But I would really like to see some examples here. I haven’t seen them att Google-watch.
9. Google is a privacy time bomb:
With 150 million searches per day, most from outside the U.S., Google amounts to a privacy disaster waiting to happen. Those newly-commissioned data-mining bureaucrats in Washington can only dream about the sort of slick efficiency that Google has already achieved. Google deserves your nomination for corporate Big Brother of the Year.
– Yup! And so is the whole WWW. My hard disk is too. And I am one of the happy Google users from the outside. And if I make a bot of my own that caches stuff it will be even more horrible. Just imagine the stuff I would be interrested in saving for the future…