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Google Privacy Your Rights Online

Your Location 'Extremely Valuable' To Google 164

An anonymous reader writes "Google recently wrote off concerns about its mobile devices sending precise user location data back to its servers, but recently uncovered emails illustrate that user location is instrumental in its strategy. Andy Rubin, Senior Vice President of Mobile at Google, wrote to Larry Page, founder and now CEO, explaining that location data from mobile phones was 'extremely valuable to Google,' especially given the privacy blow-up concerning its Street View cars at the time."
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Your Location 'Extremely Valuable' To Google

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 02, 2011 @07:28AM (#35998864)

    It should be illegal to collect and retain location data of any kind on anyone for any reason short of a duly issued warrant. Maps,etc, can query Google and info returned, just no logs kept at all. Why not? The only people that would be against this are people that want to maintain control of some kind. Smartphones are just the thin edge of a wedge of the death of personal privacy.

    Let's see, your smartphone is:

    1. a location-tracking device showing where you are, have been, and may be going
    2. a veritable microphone listening device
    3. a record of who you know and communicate with

    What more could they want? People say the data these devices generate and store won't be misused. Bah! They are misused everyday and everyone knows it. The fact this stuff has come to light will in no way alter, stop, or slow down the tracking of people. We need some serious privacy laws, even more strict that say, Germany, has. People have a right to not be tracked and databased at every turn. This is the reason I have basically stopped using Google products.

  • by rips123 ( 654488 ) on Monday May 02, 2011 @07:42AM (#35998974)
    Its no surprise that if you know where someone is you can deliver more targeted results. Is this really news? Besides, Google has a good track record of protecting consumer privacy and making it clear what they collect. Apple collected all their data without telling users and Facebook has a track record of both violating privacy as default policy and refusing to share it with others.
  • by leuk_he ( 194174 ) on Monday May 02, 2011 @07:55AM (#35999094) Homepage Journal

    They are not named cell phones because they can be smuggeld easy into a prison cell, they are called that way because the phone can determine easily what cell it it in. Telephone carriers always had access to this information. You might not have been aware that that data was available and stored. (e.g. in poland you can see the streetname you are walking in because the cell are note named ONLY after the provider).

    The whole problem is that companies should announce that they collect this information and what they are doing with this information. Announcing that this information is anonymously shared with partners in a 40 pages eula is too vague. maybe an opt-out should be available I am not sure about that.

    Not using products fromx.com is not the solution. (x in apple, google, RIM )

  • by joh ( 27088 ) on Monday May 02, 2011 @08:00AM (#35999156)

    Every piece of information about your customers/users is extremely valuable. But it depends on what you do with it; how you get it; and how you protect it.

    I think there is a huge difference between having information about your customers as a group (or as sub-groups) and having information about identifiable customers. There's nothing wrong with Google (or Apple) knowing that 500 customers are at a certain point on a road and not moving since an hour. But there's everything wrong with being able to know who these customers are or being able to track every single one of them over days, weeks or months.

    And the point is not what you do with this information or how you get it: The point should be to make sure by technical means that you CAN'T get such personal information to begin with. As soon as we have to trust companies to not abuse such information it's too late. Exactly this is the reason that Big Brother in 1984 was called Big Brother (and not Evil Bully): It's the seemingly benign, well-meaning and powerful entity you trust and get abused by.

    Location data that is anonymous (or uses random IDs that frequently change) can't be abused easily. You can use this to count devices in a certain place or to deliver ads to the right devices but since you have no idea which phone the data comes from and who owns the phone there's a limit what you can do with it. It's enough information to offer useful services from it and not enough to abuse it.

  • by XxtraLarGe ( 551297 ) on Monday May 02, 2011 @08:06AM (#35999220) Journal
    ... it must be o.k. After all, if you can't trust a company with a motto like "Don't be evil", who could you trust. It did occur to me though, that if you wanted to be evil, "Don't be evil" would probably be a pretty good motto.
  • by vlm ( 69642 ) on Monday May 02, 2011 @08:16AM (#35999344)

    Location data that is anonymous (or uses random IDs that frequently change) can't be abused easily

    Sure it can, any time you are in the real world.

    GOOG report shows "The anonymous owner of this phone supports rights for X people, where X is a minority opinion" therefore evil majority member guy beats up the anonymous phone's owner. I only used majority / minority language to gain support, its just as evil when swapped around or there is no majority / minority issue.

    There is also a semi-anonymous failure mode. "The anonymous owner of this phone, which happens to be located at the Lat/Lon coordinates of this interview room, often visits websites which are mostly popular amongst people of the political persuasion generally opposite to yours". Result -> "I'm sorry to inform you we found a candidate more closely suited to the position, who would be a better fit with the team."

  • by RobotRunAmok ( 595286 ) on Monday May 02, 2011 @08:20AM (#35999374)

    Apple is in the business of selling hardware and software. Theirs is a Business-to-Consumer model.

    Google is in the business of selling you. Theirs is a Business-to-Business model, like the fisherman who puts a free worm on his hook, catches the fish, and sells it to market. Unfortunately for the fish, it never questioned why a free worm was just sort of dangling there in the water.

    Google provides free software, e-books, search engines, etc., as its bait. And based upon your slavish fanboi gushing, you've fallen for it hook, line, and sinker...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 02, 2011 @08:22AM (#35999386)
    Wasn't Android going to be open? Why are you keeping HoneyComb's source code locked behind the Google doors? Fucking hypocrite!
  • by Nerdfest ( 867930 ) on Monday May 02, 2011 @08:44AM (#35999574)
    They give you a pile of services like Gmail, Google Calendar, Picasa, Google Apps, Google Reader, Google docs, etc. It ain't free, it's a trade.
  • by countertrolling ( 1585477 ) on Monday May 02, 2011 @08:52AM (#35999668) Journal

    They just haven't gotten caught.. I would just say they know what they are doing. The plain fact is that you will never know, unless there's an 'accident'.. Please remember, information gathering is Google's primary function, so I would expect them to be more careful in their work. Facebook boy is a punk.

  • by sydneyfong ( 410107 ) on Monday May 02, 2011 @09:28AM (#36000048) Homepage Journal

    If your claim is only that "you lose nothing extra" since Apple and Facebook already sells your info, then you *may* have a point.

    But all is lost when you say Google handles it with a "good track record". What makes you think that? Sure, with Facebook you're literally giving away your private information, but Google works very hard to build a profile of you, without you noticing, and has an established business in selling these information to advertisers.

    I'm not saying Apple and Facebook are saints when it comes to these matters, but you're truly tending towards fanboy-dom when you think that Google, which almost solely relies on such things to survive, is any better than the other two.

    I mean, I hope you're not those who reads this news and think "meh, what's the big deal, Apple does it too" -- while being outraged at the evil Apple empire a week ago when the news about iPhone location tracking surfaced.

"More software projects have gone awry for lack of calendar time than for all other causes combined." -- Fred Brooks, Jr., _The Mythical Man Month_