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[liberationtech] Microsoft Accesses Skype Chats

Mark Ballard markjballard at googlemail.com
Fri May 31 01:10:27 PDT 2013


Google is not transparent about it.

It started doing this with Gmail too. It didn't ask my permission. It
didn't tell me what it was doing. If you click on a link from within
one of your own personal emails, it opens via a Google redirect. Yes,
Google already handles your mail. But you trust it not to pry. It
transpires that this trust was misplaced. Google already, apparenty,
serves adverts that match a content scan it has done of your personal
communications. The question is where you would draw the line. And
where Google has drawn the line. And whether you have any control over
where the line goes at all.

So this is just the half of it. Google has also started using search
accounts, so when you log into Gmail it also logs you into search
automatically. Thus your Google searches are tracked, and your links
from Google searches are tracked, and a complete picture of your
online activity is linked to you Google account.

Add this to the scans it has taken of your personal emails, and it's
demonstrated inclination to use your personal information in any way
that suits its own interests, then you have in my opinion a thuggish
intrusion of privacy.

Google is behaving like a hoodlum with the run of the town. It has the
power and the resources to take people's personal data. It has decided
to use that power without any apparent regard for the personal space
of its customers. Who decides what my personal boundaries are? Google
does, apparenlty.

I think it is instructive to imagine who Google thinks owns the
behavioural information it gleans from your personal emails, your
searches and your links from your searches and your mails. I would say
it is my own business. Google thinks it owns that information.

Google never told me it was tracking my behaviour. It never told me
what it was doing with that data. It never asked my persmission.

Perhaps Google doesn't keep the behavioural data it collects about
people. It might treat the information as momentary - as transient as
sand falling through its fingers - that it uses to sell advertising
for that moment alone. Well then it wouldn't need to link my searches
and browsing to my Google account, would it? But it does.

Excuse me if this is common knowledge. Because it is news to me as a
mere, powerless internet user - or Google user, as it has become.

But the only reason why Google would need to link your browsing and
searching to your Gmail account (and all the other behavioural and
personal data therein) is to assemble a fixed and growing body of
behavioural data about you as an individual. It constitutes a deep
psychological profile - a computer mirror of your self. This
information is what Google thinks it owns. This information that is
the very stuff of you - the very soul of you. Google thinks it owns
this information and that it can do what it likes with it. It is most
amusing to say, but it is very serious indeed - and really, it is
necessary to follow this line of reasoning to this point before
drawing the obvious metaphors: but Google owns your soul, man.

This state of affairs has become so serious that people now assume
Google is already reading your personal communications, and that this
is normal.

As Kyle said: "Google doesn't claim that nobody can read your content,
and it's fairly obvious even to casual users that Google can see what
you're discussing".

Woah there, boy. Refer your sorry ass to the metaphor favoured by Sir
Tim Berner's Lee: when the Post Office handles my mail I work on the
assumption that it does not open my letters and read them, or snoop on
my chit-chat. This is called trust. I do not have that trust for
Google. I did nevertheless once have this trust. And it is true that I
invested this trust with Google. It is crucial to understand that
Google relied on my investing that trust with it in order to get my
business in the first place. Just like it relied on everyone's trust.
That is why it has the virtual monopoly it has on search. It's success
is a function of everyone's trust. I trusted Google not to scan my
personal mails for their content, nor to track my behaviour. It has
abused that trust.

There is a very particular way in which people have accepted this
abuse as normal, Kyle. That is, they have not necessarily deemed it
acceptable. This is how abuses of power work. People think it's wrong
but they also think they can't do anything about it. So it just passes
for normal. Google violates your privacy because it can. You
consequently become like chump citizen of a totalitarian state. You
carry on under the oppressive knowledge that someone's notching up
every step, every turn, every word. In psychic terms, you become a
gimp. Your soul becomes a rag doll. What would Google do with it? Are
there limits? Do you even know?

If your assumed trust was initially that Google would not read your
personal communications, and it abused that trust and snatched your
personal data, then what now of your assumption that it can be trusted
only to use that data in certain ways?

You don't even know what Google does with your data, let alone what it
might. This state of affairs has crept up. It is creepy. Google is a
creepy, untrustworthy, totalitarian hoodlum who owns your soul.

@markjballard



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