What You Pay to Google

I do it too. I use Google’s “free” services. But they’re not free. Google makes a shit-ton of money off me. Consider this list of things The Goog knows about me:

name, age, blah blah blah – tragically that is already forfeit
thousands of web sites I’ve visited
thousands of searches I’ve done (yeah, those searches)
the full content of thousands of emails I’ve sent or received. I don’t use my gmail account, but any time I send a letter to a gmail address my words are duly noted. Every word that goes through gmail is archived.
Almost every purchase I’ve made online
Every purchase I’ve made in stores using Google wallet (which are none, because that is my pathetic line in the sand.)

Google, along with all tech companies, has to reveal what they collect about you if they want to do business in Europe. But here’s the thing: While I can get a full accounting of activity on my Google account, I can find no way to see, and delete, the data collected about me while I’m not actively logged into g-whatever. Which is most of my life.

I use Duck-Duck-Go for searching now, which is better anyway if you want to refine your search with + or -. I have not put a full embargo on gmail addresses, but it’s tempting. Somehow they have the right to read the communications of someone who has never entered into any sort of agreement with them. (I am not such a person, but they must exist.)

Google must hate Facebook for getting caught harvesting shit that is none of their business so often. If it weren’t for Facebook’s ineptitude, Google might still live in an unregulated world. As it is, they are doing their damndest to obey the letter of the law while still collecting “anonymous” data they are not responsible for revealing. It is not anonymous. If it were, it would have no value.

Screw those guys.

More On Egregious Privacy Violations

Last episode (less than an hour old now – you might want to read it first) was about a case of computer rental companies engaging in truly horrifying invasions of privacy. The article I cited finished with a mention of an interview with an anonymous representative of the company DesignerWare, in which he said that he felt his company had done no wrong. DesignerWare is the company that created the software used to steal passwords and get pictures of unsuspecting nekkid people.

They say they’ve done no wrong!? Are you shitting me? They were pure evil!

Wait, no, that’s not quite right. They enabled pure evil. They didn’t activate “Detective Mode” on those computers, the mode that allowed such terrifying transgressions. They wrote the software, and they sold it, but it wasn’t they who turned it on in situations where it wasn’t warranted.

How do we assess the responsibility of DesignerWare? People tried to sue gun makers when people were shot, but with no success. Is Detective Mode like a gun, where the manufacturer can’t be held responsible for the behavior of its customers?

On DesignerWare’s site, they even tout the features they’ve added to protect users’ privacy. But behind the scenes they put in this super-spy-mode feature to help rental companies recover their hardware.

It wasn’t DesignerWare who turned on Detective Mode when it wasn’t warranted. That was something the dickheads at their client companies did. Those bastards deserve to be strung up by their short-and-curlys. No doubt there. But was DesignerWare wrong?

The key word, I believe, is ‘warranted’. Is such an invasion of privacy ever justified? The DesignerWare people would say yes, there are legitimate cases where the rental company has the right to use every means at its disposal to recover its property. Funny thing about ‘warranted’, though – law enforcement would have to get a warrant to conduct similar surveillance. (Well, not any more, but that’s another rant.)

My argument is this: if there’s no legal or ‘warranted’ way to use that software, then at the very least DesignerWare is guilty of fraud for selling it without telling their customers that use of that feature is illegal, rendering it valueless.

Detective Mode is not a gun. Gun companies argue that it’s not their responsibility if their customers use the product illegally. They can do this because there are legal uses of the product, and most gun owners follow those laws. DesignerWare can’t argue that they’re not responsible if their customers use the product illegally, because there is no other use.

So, yep, DesignerWare is evil.