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[liberationtech] Microsoft Accesses Skype Chats

Alster alster at tachanka.org
Fri May 31 06:21:08 PDT 2013


Pranesh Prakash:
> I noticed recently that (all?) URLs sent via Google Hangouts 
> automatically get replaced by a Google URL redirection (the way their 
> search results do if you're logged in).

That's not limited to when you're logged in. And Google is not
transparent about it, in fact they deliver code to make it look like
there was no redirection before you click on a link in Google search
results. Of course, Google only wants the best for everyone and is "not
evil".

Yes, that's sarcasm. Google, like every company not run as, say, a fully
family owned and run business without external shareholders (there it
isn't necessarily the case, though still quite likely since they will
have to compete with other companies), is driven by the expectation and
requirement to monetize whatever they can, and this is guaranteed to
impact ethics as soon as the pressure grows strong enough.

Of course there could be, can be, and I would think most likely are
legitimate uses for this URL redirection (such as the warning screens
when you're about to visit a known phishing site), but I bet  there is
more to it. After all, you could work around this by just embedding this
information directly in search results, or not displaying such search
results unless set in preferences.

But then, there is also a pretty obvious non legitimate use case there:
tracking. And Google is all about tracking. Initially this was not the
case, but during the past 10 years this has changed rapidly. Every new
service introduced within the recent years has, if you think about it, a
lot of benefit if the primary goal is to know more about your users.

Just think about

* Gmail, with its laughable privacy policy (yes they do say they will
track you, and anyone who can sum up 1 + 1 knows this means you cannot
use them for political work, and then you shouldn't rely on not directly
paid services for doing anything sensitive anyways - there are viable
alternatives), which is surely not suitable for organizations who care
about keeping content of their e-mails to themselves, but is still used
by way too many organizations, and many universities

* Doubleclick, which was already one of the world's largest ad networks
before Google bought it, embedding tracking cookies on every other
website you visit, and was then combined with Google Ads for much even
more reach (and sales)

* Recaptcha, a way to look nice, because you're offering a useful
feature, and on the other hand get integrated into loads of websites
which this way ensure users' data ends up with Google

* Google+, together with the Google+ icon which, just like Facebooks',
is always pulled form Googles' servers, since they so need to now who is
accessing websites which have the logo on it.

* Google APIs are added to loads of websites, and loaded by (nearly)
every web browser which accesses those websites. They always load data
from Google servers, even if it's just about loading some Javascript you
could easily host yourself.

* Google Analytics, now embedded into pretty much every second website
you visit on a daily basis

* The "accidental" collection of information on the location of wireless
networks as they were mapping for streetview.

I could go on for much longer. If you take all these opportunities for
Google to collect information and think about how this enables them to
track your movements across multiple websites (*some* Google service is
basically embedded on every website nowadays), even without cookies (but
it workseven  better with global cookies so Google uses them whereever
they can), just based on your browsers' unique signature (definitely
when combined with your IP address) [1], then it can become quite
obvious how embedding Google services to your website and using them to
send e-mail (and making your buddies send e-mail to them) is not going
to increase your karma.

It causes me pain each time I read an article which supports the view
that Google is somehow doing good. It is not. Just like any other
company, that's not what their business is about. And by their sheer
size, they are actually pretty evil, since they have the power to
centralize way too much information. And they happily will.
And this is never "a good thing".

Definitely, other corporations are no better, some are worse. But none
of them is as huge, as uncontrolled, and as widely deployed and enabled
to collect every one of your daily actions online.

There are alternatives to Google services. Use them, for your own good,
and for the good of people you interact with.

The myth of Google being "for the people" needs to be crushed.

Al
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