Bigger Big Brother, Part 2

June 15th, 2007 4 Comments

Thanks to Eddie and Steve for weighing in on the discussion I started yesterday.

I think fundamentally, we disagree about who has more damaging information. I say Amazon does. Eddie and Steve say Google. My argument is that purchase history (even without exposing credit cards) can be more damaging than search/email/feed reading/documents. I say that buying a gun tells you more about someone than searching for guns. Anyway, it’s moot.

The larger question for me is: Would we trust Google more with our privacy if we paid them?

Say you had to pay Google a monthly fee to use Universal Search, GMail, Docs & Spreadsheets or other services beyond search. Would that make you feel more comfortable? Or would you even pay for it? I wouldn’t. If this is true, what is the price point for privacy?

Google’s been getting pummeled lately on privacy issues. I think it’s harsh to criticize Google as “hostile to privacy” when users are unwilling to pay for it. The interweb has always been a Wild West, largely free, but unpoliced and dangerous to privacy. Shouldn’t the onus fall on each person to take care of personal privacy or not participate?

I guess the alternative is absolute transparency. The New York Times Magazine has a fascinating (albeit long) article on this.

To be clear, I don’t think either Amazon or Google has Big Brother intentions.

Weigh in with comments.


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4 Responses to “Bigger Big Brother, Part 2”

  1. Jake Kuramoto Says:

    This is funny, how to get yourself removed from Street View:
    http://blog.wired.com/27bstroke6/2007/06/want_off_street.html

  2. Jake Kuramoto Says:

    This is funny, how to get yourself removed from Street View:
    http://blog.wired.com/27bstroke6/2007/06/want_off_street.html

  3. Steven Chan Says:

    I think both Amazon and Google are benign, although the latter’s DoubleClick acquisition is troubling. They are also prominent enough to receive extraordinary scrutiny, which is always a good deterrent to stepping out of line.

    I expect a commitment to privacy regardless of whether I pay for a net-based service. This is the net-equivalent of being entitled to courtesy and respect when I walk into a brick-and-mortar retail business.

    It’s up to the individual user to read those excruciating Privacy Policies before they surrender anything revealing about their identity.

    We can’t delegate that responsibility to anyone else even if there are governmental privacy regulations. Laws exist primarily to deter and punish offenders; they don’t actually prevent anyone from breaking the law.

    If I’m not comfortable with a website’s posted privacy policy, I either give them clearly-flagged junk data (e.g. “Anonymous User” in Anytown, USA), or go somewhere else. It’s a big web; there are lots of viable alternatives to selling your identity to someone who’s going to abuse that privilege.

    Cheers,
    Steven

  4. Steven Chan Says:

    I think both Amazon and Google are benign, although the latter’s DoubleClick acquisition is troubling. They are also prominent enough to receive extraordinary scrutiny, which is always a good deterrent to stepping out of line.

    I expect a commitment to privacy regardless of whether I pay for a net-based service. This is the net-equivalent of being entitled to courtesy and respect when I walk into a brick-and-mortar retail business.

    It’s up to the individual user to read those excruciating Privacy Policies before they surrender anything revealing about their identity.

    We can’t delegate that responsibility to anyone else even if there are governmental privacy regulations. Laws exist primarily to deter and punish offenders; they don’t actually prevent anyone from breaking the law.

    If I’m not comfortable with a website’s posted privacy policy, I either give them clearly-flagged junk data (e.g. “Anonymous User” in Anytown, USA), or go somewhere else. It’s a big web; there are lots of viable alternatives to selling your identity to someone who’s going to abuse that privilege.

    Cheers,
    Steven

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