Data Harvesting at Google Not a Rogue Act, Report Finds

Google’s collecting of personal information from unsuspecting households was a program supervisors knew about, according to new details from the full text of a regulatory report.

Comments: 78

  1. "Even if a user was not working on a computer at the moment the Street View car slowly passed, if the device was on and the network was unencrypted, all sorts of information about what the user had been doing could be scooped up, data experts say.

    “So how did this happen? Quite simply, it was a mistake,” a Google executive wrote on a company blog in 2010. “The project leaders did not want, and had no intention of using, payload data.”

    But according to the report, the engineer suggested in his proposal that it was entirely intentional: “We are logging user traffic along with sufficient data to precisely triangulate their position at a given time, along with information about what they were doing.”

    The part of the article which speaks about unwanted invasion of privacy of "potentially hundreds of millions" of people got my attention. What is the difference between doing this, and getting into millions of personal mailboxes, opening the mail and reading it, then cataloging everything. If someone had opened personal mail, that would be a federal offense.

    Google should try following one of its own dictums "do no evil". I have no confidence in a company that says one thing, that was "accidental" and then the truth comes out. Recent proposed legislation where data gathering may be exchanged between corporations and government is also deeply troubling, short steps away from 1984.

  2. I agree Google should be punished for these privacy violations, however I do think that the mailbox analogy is wrong here. Our paper mail and mailboxes do not broadcast their contents to the public; unencrypted wifi networks do exactly that. While I don't like the idea of anyone collecting that data, it seems that responsibility for this situation extends to those who take no steps to secure their data in the first place.

  3. Reply to Jonathan Silverman- so, if my mail is in my mailbox beside the street, and the Google Street View vehicle stops and reads it, maybe that's okay? Because it's out there, unprotected, right? Delivery isn't contained, inside my house, so according to you it's fair game.

    More important here is that this kind of activity is 100% indicative of Google's goals, methods and (lack of ) ethics. And they hold the personal email of millions of people. Per your logic, because I willingly use them as my email provider, they have every right to use the nature and content of my email correspendence for any purpose. Because, after all, I willingly put it within their grasp.

  4. Regarding the claim about "all sorts of data could be scooped up" is misleading. The only data which could be gathered is the information in the WiFi packets being broadcast at the time the Street View car passed. If anyone cares to see exactly what can be captured, the packet definitions are part of IEEE standards such as 802.xx.

  5. Anytime a corporation professes to "do no evil" we should all be on guard. Google has turned out to be a rather slimy and arrogant company. Government should forcibly take the data in question and then prosecute to the full extent law allows.

    We also need laws which restrict companies ability to collect and profit for collection of personal data. Law should make mere possession of such data a severe crime punishable by extended jail terms. Holders of such data should also be subject to tort.

  6. Imposing a $25,000 fine on Google? That's like fining me a toenail clipping.

  7. So much for "Do no evil."

  8. Wasn't this the company that had the motto, "Do no evil" or "Don't be evil"? Where'd that go?

  9. $25,000? Bet the Google lawyers had a good laugh over that.

    The F.C.C. sure showed them who's boss.

  10. I believe that fine was paid from the secretary's coffee "chip-in" piggy bank.

  11. Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft, and the list goes on and on of companies we are daily trusting all of our most private information with. The only word that we have is from them saying "Oh we are not going to use this data for anything, but we need it to make sure our programs are interfacing well with your computer systems." There is no one watching out for the little guy. So, if ever you decide you want your privacy back folks, I suggest that you disconnect from everything, and only use cash. Your bank will still be tracking you but that will be about it. Good luck to us all.

  12. So, in addition to violating the Electronic Communications Act and the Stored Communications Act, Google is a bunch of liars too.

    Why is there no accountability for big corporations? Hmm, could it be they own our Congressmen?

  13. You can't play loose with certain guide lines and values that helped create our society.People have certain rights to their privacy;those rights should be respected.
    The lack of proper guidance and oversight on this matter is evident.
    Google is obviously a phenomenal company; however as the story indicates it also lacks some very vital ingredients.

  14. - Google is watching us -

    ... the sad thing about this is that they are going to get away with it. Our privacy means nothing to corporations or the government. Just look at CISPA. It essentially turns the entire internet into one conglomerated data collection algorithm. Who is standing up for us - huh!!!??? The so called "regulators" get lucrative jobs with the very corporations that they are supposed to regulate when they retire, so they don't give a damn.

    One question to ponder; "how can we stop it?" Don't look to me though, I have no idea. I'll guess I'll just shut up, play my xbox and hope that everything turns okay.

  15. This is really really messed up.

  16. Please note that Google still uses your router information, regardless of whether they continue to steal your activity data. (I'm sorry - "collect" your activity data).

    They announced last November that you could stop them from tracking that, but the mechanism was to change the name of your home network's SSID to append _nomap to the end of the name.

    This assumes that home networks are something that the average person is comfortable monkeying with - or more cynically, it means that they simply offer this, knowing that 99% of the people out there didn't hear about it, or don't understand how to do it.

    Quick quiz for Times readers - what does SSID even mean?

    We need to become an opt-in, rather than opt-out nation. For Google to force people to change their network settings to use something that only Google uses is not a working solution, because what's to prevent their competitors from coming up with a different suffix?

    Opt-in for data sharing is the right thing to do.

  17. Right. Google didn't review any of the payload data collected. The company's core business is studying, analyzing, and commercializing customer web activity. Is this any more believable than their first statement that it was a "rogue" engineer or that they ACCIDENTALLY collected the data... and stored it. Oops. Our bad.

  18. Is anyone really surprised by this report?

    Does one really think Google cares one bit about basic privacy concerns?

    If the US Postal Service admitted that many of it's "workers" were opening mail and trying to do "cool stuff" with this information, there would be riots in the street (and a lot fewer people using the USPS for awhile).

    But the joke is on you if you use google or a gmail account.

    Have a nice day....

  19. The question is simple: Who will be the next Big Brother? While everyone watches the federal government, along comes Google with a stunt like this.
    Who watches the watchers? No one, obviously.

  20. Do no evil?

  21. This is a natural phenomena. Nature is forcing us to come closer together. We need to cooperate in order to survive. But because human beings have no ability to feel this pressure consciously, we instinctively behave in ways that force us together.

    This data mining is just an example of it. People spy on each other. Steal from each other. And lie to each other in an effort to gain more from each other. This is the egoistic approach and it causes harm to all of us.

    Instead we must find ways to connect and share resources with each other reciprocally. When we interact reciprocally, we create a network of a higher qualitative order. We can't avoid coming together. But we will either do it through painful mistakes, or through pleasant conscious decision. The choice is ours. http://www.perceivingreality.com

    Peace to all of you and to all of yours.

  22. "Do no evil." I've always been suspicious of that motto. It sounds good, but it's not clear that it is or ever was a standard attainable by Google. I detest Google's continuing effort to "collect data" about people. Evil people use data about people to advance their goals.

    I wonder it that car is driving by right now reading this comment?

  23. Let me understand this, the project leaders accidentally wrote the code that collected unwanted data, stored said data in a database (by accidentally creating additional columns/tables for at least "full text of e-mails, sites visited and other data"), then Goo-ccidentally / unknowingly backed up this data to its data centres around the world? OK.

    It is interesting to learn that I can tell investigators I politely decline to answer questions cause doing so would ‘serve no useful purpose.'

  24. Google= Big Brother

    Fran Donovan
    kea'au Hawaii

  25. Besides not paying their fair share of taxes (see the Apple Tax avoidance article) Google just brushes off this incredible invasion of our privacy as the result of a rogue engineer, which we know now is a lie.

    How much more unamerican can Google become?

    And they let this engineer take the 5th? there is more to this story and Google should be paying billions in damages. Hope the Europeans get them to pay up-the US congress has been bought by Google.

  26. Give the engineer immunity and then follow the trail up the corporate hierarchy.

  27. I fail to understand why it is a violation of your privacy for someone to read the unencrypted messages broadcast over the radio of your WiFi router. If you care about the privacy of your stuff, set the switch that encrypts it, or don't broadcast it over the radio.

  28. "Managers of the Street View project told F.C.C. investigators that they never read the engineer’s proposal, called a design document."

    This is essentially the same explanation James Murdoch used in the News of the World scandal: he was alerted to the illegal activity in an email but claims he never read it. In both cases it's a far-fetch scenario that was no doubt concocted by lawyers.

  29. Of course someone from Seattle would offer a cynical view of "Do No Evil". Even though his own back yard is full of evil incarnate.

  30. Bored people become peeping Toms. Technology allows this. Sometimes I sit wondering what they'd find, tootling around my accounts and I have to laugh. Is it that interesting, oh ye who poke cookies through our systems and figure out that I like to buy books? Whoopie. I get book ads. I get ads for How To Make Middle Aged Ladies Young.
    Frankly, I bet they could figure out all that without even peeping at my e-mail

  31. Lately, I've been getting ads for Jewish burial services (and monuments, and stuff). I'm neither Jewish nor dead.

    (I'm trying to figure out where I went wrong with my mouse.)

  32. So, in the design document this engineer explicitly states that payload data will be collected. That's being rogue?

    If Google managers can't be bothered to read design documents and supervise their staff, "rogue manager" would have been a more plausible excuse. But if managers don't manage, what exactly do they do?

  33. Business people cannot be trusted to police the corporations that hire them. Only government regulation in combination with easy public scrutiny of large profit-making institutions can protect the public interest, and then only if the input to governments during the formation of regulatory powers and rules is equally open to pubic scrutiny. When will we learn? Not even the police can police themselves.

  34. This, coupled with CISPA, is what we have when corporations whose public charters and financial priorities run counter to the Bill of Rights are fined so little money by the government that the fine's true value is its demonstration of the impotence of the government (the representation of the people) in the face of the information industry.

    The way it gets reported on is pathetic. This story is such a violation, with such typically accepted corporate-speak (flat-out, sociopathic lying), that apparently Facebook, Google, and the other data-tech-information agencies are aiming to be history's FBI and CIA of the 50s and 60s: giant organizations with ridiculously limited, slow oversight, transparently dangerous to civil liberties, with unprecedented access into individual lives and functioning with an air of determined grandiose delusion that the technologically illiterate Congress does nothing to stop. And with great names like "Street View."

    This is in the technology section because of small-picture thinking. It should be in the World section. This is massive news, and I'm sure, not the only instance of one of these internet giants trolling for massive amounts of data for the unregulated data industry. It's just one we caught after ... five years of ethically (if not legally, sigh) reprehensible behavior and seventeen months of investigation.

    I guess it's not our personal information if we didn't think of how to cash in on it? Come on. This is a major human rights issue.

  35. It is a short conceptual walk from reading email from WiFi to the harvesting the contents of millions of Gmail messages. While there is no evidence Google has done this, or is thinking about it, this possibility however remote is now planted in the minds of customers because of the appearance of duplicity resulting from this media report.

    Google has its work cut out for it in terms of regaining trust from customers and government regulatory agencies.

  36. I have no doubt they are....and that the information they are harvesting has been placed at the disposal of the Democrat Party. Between admin access to Gmail and the national medical file database being built for Obamacare, the Democrats can save a fortune in private detectives to do oppo research on thier enemies.

  37. Google and Apple. Poster children for the evil ways of the 21st century, where the average citizen has lost all rights and expectations of privacy.

  38. Apple, not being dependent on selling user info, is actually strongly supporting privacy rights as a competitive marketing advantage over Android.

    Apple is not lilly white, but Google, with it's dependency on ads and its true customers - advertisers and telecoms, treats user privacy as something to be molded to its own business model.

    Remember this: Apple's customers are the buyers of its hw and content; Google's customers are the corporations it sells our privacy to.

  39. Wow!! I am not surprised. I saw an interview of top Google executives on Bloomburg recently and their smugness was very discomforting. The maxim that people in power never get enough power is just basic human nature, no matter how some may want to believe differently. That is why I will not get gmail and try and avoid searching on Google as of late.

    There is a most excellent article in the current Vanity Fair about the insecurity of the internet and seeds light on Google activities for those interested in such matters.

    http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2012/05/internet-regulation-war-sopa-p...

  40. @ Tim B: "I have no confidence in a company that says one thing, that was "accidental" and then the truth comes out."

    Large, powerful organizations are rapacious consumers of confidential data -- never its honorable guardians. The curious thing, of course, is that people somehow maintain confidence in governments which conduct themselves precisely the same way.

  41. Anybody with a laptop can listen to unencrypted traffic. Not just Google. The Google cars keep moving, so they probably only picked up a minute or so of your network traffic as they drove past one or two times. They are not parking outside of your house or business collecting data, but anyone could sit there all day listening to everything. Imagine you are out walking your dog, while you stand there, you can hear everything the people next to you say.

  42. CJ,
    Thanks for raising a key point!

    I hope you can help me understand. Are you also referring only to (i) computers using the internet, including e-mail programs, via a
    Wi-Fi connection; and (ii) cell phone conversations occurring at the same time someone is (illegally) listening outside your home/business?

    What about e-mails and other documents stored on my computer while my computer is on, but all programs are off and my computer is in sleep mode? How about if my computer is off? In terms of phone calls and, perhaps, voicemails (?), am I safe if my cell phone is off? What if it is on, but I am not using it? Is it correct that phone calls using a landline, but on a landline phone with a cordless handset, are all also at risk of illegal "listening in" either from outside my home or, perhaps (?), from far away as well?

    Thanks so much for any help/education that you can provide to me and to others who do not understand this computer/phone technology!

    Brad83

  43. The key here is the statement:

    "Even if a user was not working on a computer at the moment the Street View car slowly passed, if the device was on and the network was unencrypted, all sorts of information about what the user had been doing could be scooped up, data experts say."

    If the street view vehicle was doing "packet sniffing", which is essentially passive eavesdropping on wireless traffic, likely not much information was collected. Other than SSID's which are significant bits of information when associated with user names.

    To get more would require an active probe by the google "car computer", to obtain things like browsing history off the unprotected computers of homeowners on the street. That is malicious hacking, and if the Google employee were breaking into a bank or Military computer this would have serious consequences.

    The fact that the computer was on an unprotected network should not be an invitation to upload information off of it. I am not clear on what US law is in this reguard.

    If the wireless router has a built in firewall, or the computers on the home's wireless network have personall firewalls, this kind of intrusion would be stopped.

  44. This is one more repugnant shameless invasion of privacy on the part of the technology/media industry. Facebook, Apple, Google's long prior history of offenses, and Rupert Murdoch all come to mind.

    What I find even more troubling, however, is the absence of outrage among the "Facebook Generation". The anger seems to be primarily among those who grew up with an expectation of privacy and public scandals about government violations of privacy (e.g., Hoovers' FBI, domestic spying by CIA, or Nixon's Plumbers & Enemies List).

    The Facebook Generation seems to be all too happy to have its privacy compromised by tech/media firms. Violations of privacy are becoming a new substitute for love among an increasingly exhibitionist public -- "At least SOMEONE is interested in me! I only feel cared about when my data are being mined. Look at me! Pay attention! Shift through my data!" If that is the attitude among those whose privacy is being violated, what scruples can you expect from their peers working in the tech/media industry?

    It is not merely because the title's year is now past that "1984" and "Big Brother" seem to stir no alarm among current university students.

  45. Is it not true that authorized agencies (police, federal bureaus, etc.) are able to obtain recorded telephone conversations? Cell and cordless phones send signals that can be heard by hordes -- no authorization needed.

    Shouldn't we be addressing the whole shebang of privacy problems before someone takes over the world?

  46. I have no words to describe the sadness I feel at learning how the greed of some Organizations and the passive responses from our supposed Protectors and Regulators-- the Government -- are bringing our Great Country to a state of complete Victimization of its Citizens. Add to that the enforced Godlessness of our Great Country and the burning of Rome comes very clearly to mind---
    I believe it all stems from an apathetic voting public. Term limits for all might be a start. No lobbyists might be a good second step.If that could ever happen.
    Of all the irony-- none is greater than that engineer that designed the "mining of our e-data" can be allowed to claim the Fifth Amendment-- his Right to Privacy..Dont you think that's hilarious???Well, Actually, It's tragic.

  47. Then you are bound to feel absolutely suicidal if and when it dawns on you that government only seeks your safety when there is something in it for them; and then their success rate always falls short of the cost to the tax payer.

  48. Where is Anonymous in this? Why haven't they dumped the entire personal histories of the Fortune 500 executives to the public?

    Unless the people who make the key decisions at companies pay a price for this type of privacy invasion, nothing will ever be done about it.

  49. And it means nothing to those who see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil not to mention those who are just plain evil.

  50. For all the criticism of Google, what is missing is the personal responsibility of the people publicly broadcasting their information unencrypted. If I use an amplifier when speaking in my house and people can hear what I'm saying outside my house, whose fault is it if someone decides to record what I'm saying? If the person doing the recording understands what they can hear because I'm speaking English, whose fault is it that my speech can be understood?

    Google did not break into anyone's computing system nor, according to all reports, collect any data which was encrypted. All Google did was the equivalent of recording what people were shouting and could be clearly heard from outside their homes on the public street. Anyone with a WiFi recording device could do the same thing.

    If someone doesn't want to be overheard, lower your voice (turn down the transmitter power on your WiFi.) If someone doesn't want to be understood, speak a different language (encrypt your data.) All WiFi devices I know of provide both options.

  51. So I guess you're OK with Google (or anyone) using supersensitive infrared to look inside your house, or using supersensitive microphones to listen to the sounds bouncing off your windows.

    After all, you could just use more insulation, available in the marketplace.

  52. "We can now put this matter behind us".

    "Don't Be Evil"; if one has to *say* that... if it has that thought has to be made concrete in a Mission or Vision statement -- then there was a reason to do so.

    Perhaps it was a recognition that, from the beginning, Google's business plan was to collect data -- first, about users of it's search engine; then customers of other services (gmail, Google Plus / Analytics / personal data storage) -- and then sell it to business, industry; possibly the government.

    They wanted to become the premiere data collection corporation in the world. Perhaps they wanted to remind themselves there would be plentiful opportunity for corruption and self-delusion if they succeeded.

    I feel we don't know the whole story about what Google has done, or is doing. However, I believe that an honest enterprise doesn't need to remind itself of something any rational person knows a priori.

  53. Many of the comment posted here assume that the only source of information was the WiFi packets. Google also has access to much, much more. First, they have access to an enormous amount of email that so many users send through Google servers (this includes both senders and recipients). Then there are searches that go through Google servers. Then there is your Google search history. Then there is just the ability to sniff all internet traffic that touches networking equipment under their control. Tie that to the digital fingerprints your home network produces as passive equipment drives into range (not to mention the possibility that the equipment is programmed to do more).
    Almost no one with this kind of access and the resources to exploit it would fail to do so, at least not for long, as even if management strives to do no evil will eventually be replaced by those eager to exploit such an infrastructure. And how could governments avoid being drawn to such a treasure trove.
    The young generation appears to have no concern or recognition about what the value of privacy is, while everyone allows lobbyists and special interests to gain more and more control over our lives for the sake of money and power. And we continue to do nothing.

  54. The impact of Google's collection of payload data extends to its leadership role within the information technology industry. Other companies will undoubtedly look at their behavior and say … “if Google does it, so can I”.

    A recent experience at The University of Minnesota (my Alma mater) supports this idea. Yesterday I went over to their Minneapolis campus to look up a paper on their library system, and was told that I now have to be vetted with a photo ID before I can use their card catalog or do any research in their collection. Evidently, the University wants to track my activity (all other libraries in the local area allow anonymous login). My major field of research is electronics, and my fear is that the academics over there merely want to steal my ideas and my inventions – which they routinely do. These sorts of arbitrary 'Chinese walls' are political in nature. By denying the public open and unfettered access to their system, they place a political constraint on information, and deny education on the basis of one's political views.

    Organizations like Google or the University of Minnesota both play leadership roles in the information technology community. However, both will needlessly succumb to their own self interest unless pressured to do the right thing. In Google's case it might mean more Government regulation; or in the University's case perhaps a challenge to their public funding or their charter as a land grant college.

  55. Computer owners - take responsibility for your security. Trust no one.

  56. That is precisely the attitude that has us suffering the way we are. We distrust and hate each other. And those who have the means and the inclination, use what they have in an attempt to subjugate others.

    The only way to take responsibility for your security is to expand your network of true friendships. When you are surrounded by friends you are in no danger. If you want true security then, it stands to reason that expanding our network of friendships into a closed, reciprocal, global system of individual friendships, is the only means to establish lasting, solid, security for everyone.

    At the end of the day we must learn to understand each other so that we can come into balance. This is a very precise science. It is work that is only suitable to Human beings. And if we don't get about doing it things will get much worse. This information gathering could be used to help us all. Or it can be used to exploit us. http://www.perceivingreality.com

    Peace to you and yours.

  57. Citizen,

    "Trust no one". I'm inclined to agree with that sentiment - it’s a crap shoot when you decide to put your fate in the hands of others. Even the best friend with the greatest of intentions can fail to watch your back by accident.

    Best friends forever only exists in the form of the acronym BFF 99% of the time.

    As for taking responsibility for my own securtiy - obtaining a good virus catcher is about all I can hope for. Out smarting Google? Not a chance.

  58. This also suggests that 'big government' is needed to fight 'big business....'

  59. Privacy a distant concept to the corporate socialists.

  60. Corporations are only socialist when they spread the debt around. When they are profitable, corporations are pure capitalists.

  61. Google has been scraping and mining your data for years with g-mail and your Google searches; recently with Google+ and the mandate to unify all your Google accounts with one name, and the policy against pseudonyms or anonymous accounts, it has even more control.

    The real question isn't so much about Google's behaviour, which is reported here, but why the Internet Freedom gang of Clay Shirky, Evgeny Morozov, Rebecca MacKinnon and others are shrieking about legislation like SOPA or CISPA that are designed to put some civilian oversight over these unruly Big IT companies. THAT really is the question.

    They never complain about Google's rapacious ad game, hijacking owner's content to sell ads and forcing them to chase Google with DMCA takedown notices. They never complain about Google's outrageous privacy assault and personal data haul. Never.

    Instead, they shift the focus to what the US government *might* do and what it could do in some hypothetical edge case. They succeed in distracting from Google's evil that way -- and it's no accident, as Google and its likeminded lobbyists like the Electronic Frontier Foundation are happy to have the focus be shifted to what the government *might* do and away from what Google *has* done. It really is sinister.

    The government is a better broker of data because I can elect it, file a FOIA on it, have a congressional inquiry, a lawsuit, and the media can report on it. I can't do anything of that nature with Google!

  62. Your argument is exactly why information needs to be free. Consider also that if operating systems were open source then it would be possible for any sufficiently computer literate power user to secure their systems against unwanted intrusion and it would also allow for open inspection of code used in applications.

    Open source provides the best of transparency and security without infringing on the privacy or sovereignty of individual users. On the surface of things the intellectual property argument seems to make sense. But then you experience things like what Google and others have done (and are still doing), and you see the fallacy of the 'intellectual property' argument. It is promoted as upholding freedom but is used to hide the intentions of its owners and thus give incentive to less than honourable behavior. Freedom lies in unity. In terms of software, open source provides the greatest measure of unity/freedom. And only open source allows for seamless reciprocal interaction across heterogeneous platforms.

    Open source. Open standards. Open society. Such things are achieved through unity. And unity can only be achieved/sustained through a mutual guarantee of reciprocity/support/respect. Our social connections/intentions determine everything. For our own (private) interests? Or for the benefit of all (reciprocity/balance)? We have to learn which is best. http://www.perceivingreality.com

    Peace to you and yours.

  63. @ Benny Acosta Wichita KS “http://www.perceivingreality.com

    The link you provided to the BNEI Baruch USA educational center on the subject of Kabbalah is actually quite insightful and could be relevant to the Google discussion in a round-about way.

    Kabbalah is a form of Jewish mysticism where one is allowed to negotiate with God on spiritual matters. This negotiation takes the form of symbolic communication (as opposed to spoken or written natural language like English or French). There, he or she is guided by their symbolic conversation with the spirit world (e.g. the holy spirit). In this case, the behavior of on-line programs could be manipulated to create similar effects. Religious cults sometimes call this 'planned spontaneity' or 'mystical manipulation'.

    Military PSYOP uses similar methods to alter the behavior or belief of an individual or group without their consent, and in a way that is virtually undetectable to outsiders. It is thought that these techniques are used as training in military fields such as signals intelligence (incl. cryptography), nuclear deterrents and counter-terrorism. For example, they are rumored to be used on submarine crews to determine if they can trick the commander into turning (or not turning) their missile launch key. In terms of Kabbalah, could a person be convinced, in the milieu controlled environment of a submarine or underground silo, that God or the Devil orders them to change their command behavior?

  64. I have zero issue with Google's WiFi data gathering. If people don't secure their WiFi, so that they are broadcasting everything well off of their property, then for someone else to intecept their broadcast is no different than tuning into an AM radio station.

  65. Why do we let these companies get away with the things we do?
    It's like is something is done on a computer, no societal rules, much less laws, apply?
    Are ALL tech businesses totally amoral?

  66. "There is no such thing as a free lunch" should be changed to "there is no such thing as a free internet search". Someone has to foot the bill for all the .com millionaires . That would be us. There is no altruism in the corporate mind of Google, Yahooha, or Spambook.

  67. How ironic that Google's motto is "Do no evil.", when it seems their business model is primarily based on conducting evil activities...

  68. As usual, the Federal Communications Commission operates with blinders on. Just because there is no Federal law applicable to their investigation, that doesn't mean the California law doesn't apply to what Google did or is doing, because one of Google's main offices is in California and many people who use Google's services live in California, both classic grounds to give California courts the jurisdiction to scrutinize what Google did/is doing. I hope the California Attorney General, and California's small army of Class Action Lawyers are paying attention to what's going on.

  69. "...if operating systems were open source… any sufficiently computer literate power user could secure their systems …", said Benny A.
    Well that's a big if and a lot of good that does the 95% of us that are not sufficiently computer literate power users. I use a applications on a computer everyday but, there is more technical knowledge so far above my head so as to be unobtainable for all practical purposes. So, for the rest of us who are not code developers able to modify applications to our heart's content I guess we are at the mercy of the Googles of the world.
    I don't trust the government any more than I trust Google et al. We’re all humans when given the power, opportunity and perceived immunity law 99.9% of the time we take advantage of the situation- in government's case make that 100% of the time.
    You have personal data on others and it won't be long until more powerful people will insist you provide the information to them... or else. So even the best of us will be confronted with having to do what would otherwise be unthinkable.
    The internet in concept is great but in the end its people that screw it up. So it is with everything we have ever created or discovered – situation normal, all fouled up as usual.
    Maybe we should just let the environmentalist have their way and go back to living in caves, it would be so much less complicated that way”, he said with tongue in cheek.

  70. Somebody asked the question: "Why are we so complacent?"

    I was pondering this same question last week and I think I may have an answer. It started after 9/11 when we entrusted our safety to our government. First came the Patriot Act. Yes, it's been rather invasive but they have to catch the bad guys, you know.

    Then along comes the TSA. You know the friskers in the airports. Rather invasive but, again, they have to catch those bad guys (including four year olds with cerebral palsy and 84 year old women.)

    Then along comes the financial crisis in 2007. Howls of protest rose up against the idea of bailing out those banks. But, again, the government knew better than the public, so the bail outs began.

    Then there is Obama Care. A behemoth of a bill that isn't what the public asked for but hey, it's for our own good so we should just shut up and sit down.

    Then here in NYC we have our own Mayor Bloomberg who felt it was his right to run for a third term, despite voter approved term limits. The City Council, led by Christine Quinn, overrode our desires and lifted term limits. The result was a third term for a man who runs this city like a mini-kingdom.

    And this is just our government. Throw in Google, Facebook, GPS, cookies, etc., and it is enough to numb a person into complacency. No one in charge is listening to our protests. In fact, it seems at times that the government and corporations are working hand in hand. Is Google part of the Patriot Act and we just didn't know it?

  71. Name one search engine that doesn't. It's their job.

  72. Google's been stealing information for years. Why is anyone surprised by this?

  73. Google did nothing that any user of wireless could do. If not encrypted your open to the world.

  74. Is someone being forced to use Google?

    I know that the self-proclaimed Obamessiah likes them.

    Shouldn't that be good enough for the common folk?

  75. That "rogue engineer" should be prosecuted along with the people who failed to catch this script and approved the program.

  76. Just remember, that with a company, you always have the option to refuse to buy/use their products if you don't like their policies.

    But once the government takes control, you no longer have any options.

    Can anyone name a large government program that has been run efficiently and without excessive regulations, controls, and eventually an erosion of you freedom of choice?

    Government is necessary, but a smaller less intrusive government is better than the Orwellian behemoth that we have today.

  77. Wow - the richest company in the world fined $25K. That''ll show them a thing or two.

    Used to be Google supposedly believed in "Don't be evil." Looks like they're embracing evil in competition with Obama.