Does Google’s California Privacy Case Impact Public Sector and Business Users?

September 25, 2013

By Doug Miller

Many of us have been following a legal case being fought in California in which 10 plaintiffs are suing Google over its practice of scanning the content of private Gmail messages for the purposes of showing ads related to the content of the user’s email.

The plaintiffs and many privacy organizations claim Google “unlawfully opens up, reads, and acquires the content of people’s private email messages” and this violates California’s privacy laws and federal wiretapping statutes. Google states that it has always done this and “all users of email must necessarily expect that their emails will be subject to automated processing.” Google also states that the revenue gained by delivering context-sensitive ads to Gmail users enables it to offer a free service. In fact, Google was just awarded a patent related to scanning the content of emails, ranking the content and matching ads to the content. Read the rest of this entry »


Why Is Google Dragging Its Heels on European Privacy?

February 28, 2013

CNIL

By Doug Miller

Last week saw the latest chapter unfold in Google’s privacy battle with the European Union. In October 2012, France’s Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertes, or CNIL published a set of recommendations, on behalf of 27 European data protection authorities, suggesting that Google should address the “uncontrolled combination of data across services” and other data collection issues in its new privacy policy. The CNIL has now announced that Google has not provided a satisfactory response and it will proceed with recommending “repressive action” against Google. My colleague Jeff Gould published a piece this week on Google’s new battle with Europe and asked the question: who will win? Perhaps an equally interesting question to ask is: why isn’t Google complying with European privacy requests? No one can know for sure what Google’s management is thinking but one set of circumstances may be a factor in its lack of response. Read the rest of this entry »


The Orphans of Android

January 9, 2013

By Doug Miller

We’ve all read reports about mobile market share and the rapid rise of Android as a smartphone and tablet platform. Some reports – depending on how and what you measure – have Android share at just over 50% (comScore MobiLens US smartphones) and some as high as 72% (Gartner’s worldwide mobile device sales). One thing that has always puzzled me is why I see so few people using Android devices. Walking through an airport, a grocery store, a conference, a business meeting or on the street, I have been keeping an informal tally of what types of mobile devices people are using. I’m not sure what others see, but I sure see a lot of Apple mobile devices out there. I see people still using PCs on the plane (but a lot less than a couple of years ago), I see people with Kindles reading books and a random mix of other devices, but I just don’t see a lot of Android phones or tablets. While this is by no means a scientific sample, there may be a reason why we don’t see more Android devices out in the wild.
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FTC and Google – no market, no foul

January 4, 2013

By Doug Miller

In reading the coverage of the FTC announcement that it was not going to pursue any real action against Google for favoritism of its own products in the web search market, I was surprised to see how few commentators have raised the point that there can’t be a search “market” when no one pays for that service. And that the users of web search are, in fact, the product that Google sells to the consumers of the market it does monopolize – online advertising. Or the fact that by using its advertising revenues to provide services to users for free or greatly discounted it can collapse those markets and own them as well.
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European Data Protection and Cloud Business Models on a Collision Course

November 26, 2012

By Doug Miller

Last week I attended the Europe Data Protection Congress 2012 in Brussels hosted by the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP). After three days of attending sessions, listening to some of the best-known European experts speak about data protection and privacy, and talking to dozens of other attendees, I walked away with one very clear observation: European data protection interests are on a collision course with the current business models of companies such as Facebook and Google which rely on personal data to thrive.
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Google – Let Us Opt Out of Your Data Mining Machine

October 16, 2012

By Doug Miller

The French data protection agency (aka the CNIL), acting on behalf of a large group of European data protection agencies, today announced that it was taking action to push Google to make a number of changes to its privacy policy that came into effect earlier this year.

One of the big issues for the CNIL is the lack of control for the user over the amount of data that is collected when you use a Google cloud service or how that data can be used. There is no opt-out for users if they don’t want their browsing habits and internet content mined for the purpose of enhancing Google’s search or displaying more relevant Google ads.
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Google+ for Business: Read the Terms

October 1, 2012

By Doug Miller

On August 29, Google announced a preview of its Google+ social networking offering as a premium product for business. Google+ for Business will be made available to contracted Google Apps customers (including Google Apps for Business, Government and Education). This is exciting news for Google Apps customers who want to take advantage of Google+ in their workplace but want more control over how the service is used. Some of the key features include:

  • Private company sharing
  • Private online video meetings
  • Ability to restrict user’s posts
  • Ability for administrators to control default company settings

However there is one thing company owners need to be aware of that may not be obvious with this new offering. This service is not part of the Google Apps suite – at least not yet.
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Here’s why Google’s Safarigate hack was really dangerous

August 10, 2012

By Jeff Gould

My friend and co-blogger Doug Miller argues below that Google’s cunning hack of Safari to circumvent the Apple browser’s default blocking of third party cookies was not just a bad act, but criminal mischief.

Some readers might find this claim a little too strong. Granted, they will say, Google broke the rules. But where’s the harm? After all, the only bad consequence was that some Safari users got tracked by DoubleClick and served some targeted ads they otherwise might not have seen. Perhaps Nike sold a few more pairs of shoes than they had a right to expect. But no state secrets were lost. So why all the talk about criminal action?

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FTC’s Google Safari Settlement: Impact on Government Computing

August 9, 2012

Why we need a criminal investigation to finish the job the FTC couldn’t

By Doug Miller

By just about any accepted definition, Google’s overriding of default security settlings and unauthorized intentional access of Apple’s Safari web browser on users’ systems that led to the recent FTC investigation and settlement should be considered illegal hacking that warrants criminal investigation. That is, Google surreptitiously loaded executable code onto users’ devices, ran that code to weaken the browser’s security settings, and then used the weakened security environment to load third-party cookies to enhance the relevance of ads displayed to the user. This was done to provide Google with revenue from the additional ads. Since advertising generates 96% of Google’s revenue, the motive for hacking seems clear. Hacking for profit is against the law. Google should not get a pass for what is a criminal act.
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The Bank of Google

May 31, 2012

By Doug Miller

This week I read about Google’s new achievement of ISO 27001 compliance for its Google Apps offering. One of the more interesting news pieces was a story in Wired where Eran Feigenbaun (aka Eran Raven) Google’s Director of Security for Google Apps was interviewed and compared Google Apps to a bank “in the days when a bank was a new idea”. His actual quote was:

“It’s very similar to the situation banks were in hundreds of years ago. They had to convince us to give them our money, to take the money out from under the mattress and put it in the bank.”

The more I think about it, the more I agree with Mr. Feigenbaun. Google is like a bank for our data. But before I dive more into the banking analogy, I think it is worth noting that it makes total sense for Google to do everything it possibly can to secure its infrastructure by conforming with ISO 27001 and other standards.
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