Sunday, February 10, 2013

As the Internet Privacy Debate Intensifies, Microsoft Attacks Google's "Creepy Line"

Last week, attention increased on the European Union’s efforts to increase control over how Internet focused services collect and use data about its citizens. Jacob Kohnstamm, Chairman of the Dutch Data Protection Authority said, “In the US, privacy is a consumer business” andIn Europe, data protection is a fundamental right. We think what’s right or wrong isn’t decided in Silicon Valley, but is decided in our capitals.”

On Monday, several U.S. advocacy groups sent a letter to senior White House officials supporting the EU’s efforts (including American Civil Liberties Union, Center for Digital Democracy and Electronic Privacy Information Center) stating, “users around the world are experiencing increases in identity theft, security breaches, government surveillance, and secretive, discriminatory profiling. Users find that personal information given for one purpose is often used for another purpose, often without their knowledge or consent. Our personal data - our privacy - is being abused by both the commercial sector and governments. In fact, the line is increasingly blurred as personal data passes between both with few restrictions.”

On Thursday, Microsoft added its perspective by launching its “Don't Get Scroogled by Gmail” campaign that said “Google goes through every single word of personal Gmail messages and uses that information to sell and target ads” and “Google even goes through emails from non-Gmail users to generate advertising income. Gmail goes through all incoming email messages, from any email provider, and sells ads based on the content of those emails.” They also highlight Google Chairman Eric Schmidt comments at The Atlantic Washington Ideas Forum 2010 including “We don’t need you to type at all. We know where you are, with your permission; we know where you’ve been, with your permission; we can more or less know what you’re thinking about” and “ There is what I call the creepy line. The Google policy on a lot of things is to get right up to the creepy line and not cross it.

  • While many high profile U.S companies have benefited from a lax approach to Internet privacy protection, it is unlikely that many Internet users are aware of how profiles of their behaviors are tracked, analyzed and sold/traded to marketers and others without their knowledge. 
  • While many users are likely to accept the use of their behavior profile as a trade-off for “free” on-line services, any alternations to the current fluid access and use of this information would have a significant impact on many Internet business models.


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