Google, Schools and the Data Gold Rush

April 16, 2012

By Doug Miller

Back in the 1800s, the possibility of striking it rich simply by picking up gold nuggets that were lying in creek beds – getting something for nothing – was a lure that hundreds of thousands of people couldn’t resist. Today, personal data is the new valued resource and it has become this century’s “gold nugget lying in a creek bed” to simply be collected for free and sold for millions. You might think that the gold extracted in a typical gold rush was much more valuable than personal data could ever be, but the revenue generated from mining personal information is worth much, much more. For example, the California gold rush that lasted about 16 years generated 8.3 million troy ounces of gold which would be worth over $13 billion at today’s prices. But today, Google makes over three times that much in one year from its advertising business which is built upon mining and refining vast amounts of personal data.
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What is Google hiding from the FCC?

April 16, 2012

By Jeff Gould

Last week the FCC gave Google a verbal beatdown that, had it been delivered with karate chops rather than words, would have made Chuck Norris proud. In a 25 page report detailing its efforts to get Google to explain why it eavesdropped on the WiFi transmissions of untold thousands of home and business users, the Commission upbraided the search giant for its repeated attempts to stonewall and derail the investigation. With its relentless accumulation of compromising details the report makes for fascinating reading. But for those who don’t have the time, I offer here a brief summary and some speculation about what is really going on in this decidedly murky affair.

The eavesdropping occurred as part of Google’s effort to create a vast database of worldwide WiFi router locations that would enable location-based advertising on Android cell phones. But instead of limiting itself to collecting just the network addresses and GPS coordinates of the WiFi routers passed by its roving Google Cars (the only data needed for its declared purpose), Google also surreptitiously recorded over a two year period the content of transmissions sent by users who failed to properly secure their routers. According to information released by French regulators and cited by the FCC, the captured content included racy emails and postings to sexually explicit web sites, as well as much other material the owners certainly never intended to disclose to strangers.

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