Google Vs Privacy

Concerns have grown over the privacy implications of Google's ever increasing empire as its mission to organise the world's information leads it to encroach on ever more personal information. The potential consequences of one company holding some much information have worried some. Google's mantra of "do no evil" and anti-corporate mentality offer some reassurances but what if this changes in the future (such as when the founders retire), or if external agencies are able to access this information for less noble motives.

Government Surveillance

In 2006, the US Government made attempts to force Google to yield information in the name of law and order. 1 Legal action was taken to force Google to submit (anonymous) search entry terms to them. Challenged by Google, the court partially ruled in their favour and declined the Government access to user’s search terms on the grounds of public privacy. Concessions were made though with the Department of justice being granted access to 50,000 random URLs, used in testing software’s pornography filtering system.

With homeland security a major concern for any US government who can say similar attempts won't be tried in the future?

Government surveillance on its citizens is not a new concept however, even in the 'land of the free'. In 2008, The National Conference for Media Reform discussed the history of government surveillance, from how telegraph transmissions were being intercepted in the 19th century to the current battleground of the internet. This discussion starts at around 7 minutes in. Privacy in the Age of AT&T, Google and the NSA

Street view

Street View technology caused a stir with privacy watchdogs as it not only captured geographic images, but also the images if individuals going about their daily business, oblivious that they were being recorded for posterity. Privacy International raised concerns with the ICO over the failure of Google's face blurring technology and the embarrassment caused to some individuals at being recorded in compromising situations such as a man filmed smoking when his wife was unaware of his habit. 2

Blackman notes that current US privacy laws do not stop Google from broadcasting live video feeds of the nation's streets if it so wished. 3 Future technological advances mean that there is scope for users to be able to use Google to view images from any time, date and location. Dubbed 'omnivelliance' by Blakeman because of the ever present monitoring of human activity it does present a dystopian vision of what Google could evolve in to.

Chrome & Enisa

The European Network and Information Security Agency raised privacy concerns related to Google's Chrome Operating System due for launch in 2010. A six page letter4 addressed to Google's Eric Schmidt to use Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) encryption as standard in all the applications it provides for its users and therefore avoid the issue of crackers stealing authentication cookies which are sent unencrypted from the user to Google's servers, which will in turn avoid internet identity theft.

2. PRIVACY INTERNATIONAL [online] ]cited 11 January 2010][347]=x-347-564039
3. BLAKEMAN, J. Omniveillance, Google, Privacy in Public, and the Right to Your Digital Identity: A Tort for Recording and Disseminating an Individual's Image over the Internet. Santa Clara Law Review [online]. 2008, 49, [cited 11 January 2010] pp. 319-392
4. OPEN LETTER TO ERIC SCHMIDT [online] ]cited 10 December 2009]
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