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Google Patents Privacy Your Rights Online

Google Patents Guilt-By-Association 199

theodp writes "Guilt by association is defined as the attribution of guilt (without proof) to individuals because the people they associate with are guilty. It's also at the heart of U.S. Patent No. 8,306,922, which was awarded to Google on Tuesday for Detecting Content on a Social Network Using Links, the invention of three Googlers. In its patent application, Google argues that if an individual posts content to social networks such as Facebook, MySpace, Orkut, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc. 'that is illegal (e.g., content violating copyright law, content violating penal statutes, etc.), inappropriate for minors (e.g., pornography, "R" or "NC-17" rated videos, adult content, etc.), in contravention of an end user licensing agreement (EULA), etc.', then their friends 'may be likely to post content to their profile pages related to similar topics.' Google further explains: 'For instance, a first user and a second user that are designated as friends on a social network may be friends based upon a set of common interests (e.g., the first user and the second user are both interested in tennis). If the first user adds content to its profile page that is related to sports, then the friendship (link) between the first user and the second user can indicate that the profile page of the second user is likely to contain content related to sports as well.' By extension, the same holds true for porn, pirated videos and music, etc., right? So, would you feel comfortable being judged by the online company you keep?"
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Google Patents Guilt-By-Association

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  • by DaTrueDave ( 992134 ) * on Friday November 09, 2012 @11:15AM (#41931903)

    I don't see how it does anything to indicate someone's guilt or innocence. Can it detect trends and probabilities that should be investigated? Sure, but so does a 24-hour tip-line where anyone can call and report suspicious activity.

    This is just a tool that can be used and abused by law enforcement, just like their guns, their search warrants and their overall authority. Society has to give them a certain level of trust to fulfill the duties that we expect of them. Sure, sometimes we get burned. There are bad apples everywhere. But reining in the authority that law enforcement is entrusted with is OUR JOB, not theirs. We, as voters and taxpayers, are responsible for electing representatives who will determine the level of authority that law enforcement gets to use to enforce the law.

  • Statistics (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nerdfest ( 867930 ) on Friday November 09, 2012 @11:16AM (#41931917)

    So,they've managed to patent using statistics? Is anyone actually doing their job in the patent office?

  • Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by anom ( 809433 ) on Friday November 09, 2012 @11:17AM (#41931929)

    "So, would you feel comfortable being judged by the online company you keep?"

    That is pretty much how people are judged in real life too (minus the word online).

  • by Remus Shepherd ( 32833 ) <> on Friday November 09, 2012 @11:19AM (#41931959) Homepage

    Bwa-ha-hah. The porn I like is nothing like the porn my friends like, and vice versa. Not even my girlfriend and I agree on porn. I'm also willing to bet that the illegal activities I've done in my life are nothing like the ones my friends have committed.

    Where did Google get this correlation theory? It seems completely counter to my experience of human beings as individuals.

  • by Fishead ( 658061 ) on Friday November 09, 2012 @11:21AM (#41931989)

    And that is why instead of Google Drive, I'm looking for an alternative that encrypts my family photo's rather than analyzes them.

    I don't THINK I have anything illegal in my photo drive, but you never know what may be spotted by a robot looking through my thousands of photos.

  • Re:Statistics (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 09, 2012 @11:22AM (#41932011)

    If the USPTO can grant patents on rounded corners(Apple) why not this ?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 09, 2012 @11:23AM (#41932019)

    It's also at the heart of U.S. Patent...awarded to Google on Tuesday for Detecting Content on a Social Network...

    Look, we've been over this again and again. Don't fucking social network. Are you really that starved for attention and distraction, that you have no friends you could call or text, that you're willing to give up what little privacy you have for 1,000 fake friends?

    Anybody who didn't learn those lessons during the MySpace days should be smacked in the mouth with a rolled-up newspaper.

    -- Ethanol-fueled

  • Oddly good news. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 09, 2012 @11:23AM (#41932025)

    If Google didn't patent this someone else would and then any relationship-linking done by Google would be at the risk of patent infringment. That is a problem with the patent system, not Google in particular.

    This is one of those cases where decent behavior intersects poorly with mathematics. Most of the people I consider friends do share the same view of copyright that I do (i.e. Lawrence Lessig's view) and some of that is simply due to my recommending his book and advocating its principles. That said, Mom is a friend and has never changed any of her views based on my input (e.g. she still runs Windows Vista). So in my single person anecdote I can still see the strong exception and the obvious correlation. Spread over millions of people I'm guessing the correlation between shared views on honesty/dishonesty issues is pretty strong.

    The question isn't about the patent, its about what they will do about it. The people who purchased YouTube, and spent $millions digitizing books are not going to become *AA puppets any more than absolutely required by law.

    So if this idea must be patented (as our current system dictates it must) I'd rather Google had it than Apple or Microsoft.

  • Re:Well... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by macbass ( 868593 ) on Friday November 09, 2012 @11:36AM (#41932197)
    Except that my online company includes friends at locations thousands of miles away, kind of hard to keep up with them like the friends closer by. Additionally, while I haven't RTFA this appears to allow no room for error and assumes my friends are (mostly) mindless clones who automatically repeat or repost what I do. I don't know about you all, but I find this one step closer to welcoming our evil overlords. Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty? Have I not lost my wide-eyed innocence yet?
  • by Sun.Jedi ( 1280674 ) on Friday November 09, 2012 @11:38AM (#41932229) Journal

    We have retarded patent, copyright, and trademark laws in the US. This is not news.

    DING fries are done

  • by Bob9113 ( 14996 ) on Friday November 09, 2012 @11:42AM (#41932295) Homepage

    "By extension, the same holds true for porn, pirated videos and music, etc., right? So, would you feel comfortable being judged by the online company you keep?"

    Definitely. Most of the people whose company I enjoy favor a liberal interpretation of the authority of copyright and prefer adult-oriented content to PG and lighter fare. They speak ill of their government when it is justified (and sometimes when it is not) and accept that the four boxes of liberty are all unfortunate necessities. And they believe that even suspected terrorists who worship the wrong deity are endowed by their creator with the rights documented in the Declaration, Constitution, and Bill of Rights.

    I rather like that sort of person, and hope that the world sees me as one of them. I think people who are not proud to fit that description tend to lie somewhere between pretentious and dull, and are detrimental to our advancement as a productive, open, honest, and self-aware society.

  • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Shotgun ( 30919 ) on Friday November 09, 2012 @11:51AM (#41932391)

    Except that my online company includes friends at locations thousands of miles away

    And yet, they are still friends. The association begs the question, "Why are they friends?" If you like and share their comments about the joys of smoking pot, even though you live in NC, it is an indication that you lean toward approving of the use of pot. No big deal, in and of itself, but if combined with an extremely large utility bill, and a propensity for buying large amounts of gardening chemicals, even though you live in a town home, and being caught with a large roll of cash, there may be a suspicion that you might be growing and selling pot. At least, that will be the argument used by the police to get a warrant to break down you door and pointlessly ruin your life.

    Birds of a feather, flock together, and you WILL be known by the company you keep. These cliches don't go away just because you keep the company digitally.

  • by stanlyb ( 1839382 ) on Friday November 09, 2012 @11:55AM (#41932459)
    You mean, now i am guilty because i just read your post???
  • Re:Well... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by stanlyb ( 1839382 ) on Friday November 09, 2012 @11:59AM (#41932493)
    Because, my friend, i may wanna to kill you, in my thoughts, but that does now make me guilty. It would, only if i explicitly express my desire, and/or actually do it. But what you say is actually that once that thought crosses my mind, i am guilty by association. Welcome Minority Report, it appears it was not science fiction.
  • by sabt-pestnu ( 967671 ) on Friday November 09, 2012 @12:35PM (#41932873)

    Nothing illegal in your photo drive?

    Do you have a flag of Taiwan [] in a picture? Perhaps you took a picture of your car []? (Especially if you post it on your company's vanity page...) Or maybe there was a stranger in the background []?

    It's not so much what is illegal in your photos, as it is "who takes offense at your pictures". And when anyone can sue (civil court) anyone for anything, there doesn't even have to be a law against it.

Man is an animal that makes bargains: no other animal does this-- no dog exchanges bones with another. -- Adam Smith