Sep. 20th, 2011 09:57 pm
marahmarie: my initials (MM) (Default)
[personal profile] marahmarie

So, Google finally rolled out Google Plus to the masses (for expediency, I simply write it out as Google+). Of course I don't care. I won't use it unless I fall and hit my head so hard that my tastes, beliefs, and/or whomever I hang out with all change drastically. I have reasons to not only avoid it but intensely dislike it.

There are good reasons to avoid not just TechCrunch, but any website that makes you use your legal name to sign in, leave a comment, join a chat, or post a blog. Not only do such "real-name" policies leech privacy; they also get people playing Bingo with you that not using a real name is a sign of your cowardice or other insidious moral flaws while claiming that websites that want your real name are just trying to help you "connect".

They're not trying to help you connect: for the most part, they'll simply use your real name to force you to buy what they now give away for free. They'll also use your real name, as TechCrunch does, to monitor and censor whatever you say that doesn't match up with their overall sense of what they want you to say.

China has forced citizens to use real names to sign on to the Internet, view website content and post comments and blogs for a while (yet Google's real-names policy is even pissing off the Chinese). The purpose of this monitoring is to suppress political rebellion. Google is following in China's - and in the US, also Facebook's and TechCrunch's - steps in trying to make such behavior voluntary (you don't have to use the Internet or any particular website) but mandatory (you must use your really real real name if you do) but in the US, the stated reason for that is simply "to make money". All kinds of money. Lots and lots of money!

"Making money" might sound innocuous compared to "suppressing political rebellion", but many things dependent on user trust start off innocently enough only to turn sour as soon as a business's priorities change.

Any business intent on stripping your anonymity away does not have your best interests at heart. Making a voluntary system (one you don't have to use) but then adding mandatory rules about identifying yourself in order to use it is just trying to get you inured to the idea that your privacy doesn't matter and shouldn't exist, as though you have no right to it.

But for all the talk of how you have no privacy, you have as much as any business lets you have - no more, no less. People-identifying sites such as Spokeo, 123People, etc., will strip your privacy away with a variety of surefire methods and there's almost nothing you can do about it (but on Spokeo, you can finally opt out).

But when Google Plus tries to force you to give up your privacy, there is something you can do about it: don't use it. Don't give them what they want. Just don't.

I don't use Google+ - nor Facebook - for the fact that neither company respects my privacy. Every bit of data they collect they use to 1) gather statistics on "who" does potentially profitable types of "what" and 2) run personalized ads instantly or in the future targeted at you and/or groups of people just like you. Most information they gather is stored long-term, depending on what the law says on the storage and retrieval of it (or doesn't say - you can't break a law that doesn't exist, which allows most companies some leeway in regard to certain data).

Not only am I distrustful of Facebook and Google for forcing you to use your legal identity but I also don't trust that they will remain free of government interference, which will only further complicate our ability to remain private if we so choose. Australia has taken a huge step backward in this regard. The Chinese government, as we know, already runs most "private" Chinese websites themselves (even requiring they be licensed annually).

The US could follow suit at any time (and when they do, they'll use the always-handy "#terrorists" hashtag to scare everyone into shutting up about it). Sooner or later it might be the government which will not only own but also act upon every bit of personal information that websites like Facebook and Google now collect on you.

I don't believe user privacy should be respected because I'm worried what can be "revealed" about me, which probably isn't that much. For a recent job offer I got, I had to pass an FBI background check just to get to the next interview level - which I did. There's nothing too dark or ugly in my history to go on the offense about, but it's not about me. It's about society - the privacy of our husbands, wives, children, grandchildren, mothers, fathers, extended family, friends and neighbors. Privacy should always be respected - in most normal instances, anyhow - no matter what sort of live(s) we or they lead.

People are too willing to give up their privacy for nothing - the "privilege" of using Google+ or keeping in touch with those they know and care about on Facebook. People trust that any entity, from big-name websites to the government itself, will 1) store their information securely and discreetly, 2) never reveal anything personal to the public or an investigative agency without their permission and foreknowledge, and 3) never use their personal information "just" to make money. Wrong - on all counts.

Really. Wrong. The number of banking and major retail and blog websites that have been hacked for user's financial details and names and passwords has been staggering, and most websites aren't completely secure against hackers even if they've never been hacked.

On another level, Twitter was set to auto-post everyone's exact location with each Tweet until users put up a ruckus about it (before the geolocation "feature" was rolled out). Many other online apps do the same thing, though most now offer you the choice to keep your location private. And if you post a screenshot of Google, don't forget you'll be posting your location, too, unless you hide it somehow.

Not to mention that under the Patriot Act, the government can subpoena information from any website strictly by IP address - so if you sign in and/or post with your real name during each IP session, that makes the government's information harvesting that much easier.

Sites like Facebook and Google take no interest in your safety, privacy or personal opinion of them. They'll combine what you tell them with every search, blog post, comment, and purchase you make to get as much money and information out of you as possible - all at the expense of every privacy protection you want to put or keep in place. Worse, they could become incapacitated under future government interference, especially that done in the name of terrorism. Before that day comes, people need to become much more aware of the pitfalls of forced "sharing".

(no subject)

Date: Sep. 21st, 2011 03:51 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] dee
Australia has taken huge steps backward in this regard.
Woah woah, steady on.

Firstly, the Internet filter thing in Australia is pretty much dead; it was a wedge-politics issue designed to appease conservative religious groups and general social fear-mongers that was never really going to get anywhere due to various factors that don't matter right now. It wasn't a police-state style PATRIOT Act; it was a "WON'T SOMEONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN!" moral panic.

Secondly, Australia's privacy laws dealing with the use of citizen data -- for both public and private spheres -- crap all over the US'. Very little of what US-based companies do with personal user data is legal here (well, "legal"; it's in breach of the NPPs and possibly actionable by the government). Of course, it's never been tested (to my knowledge) since the companies just argue that they're operating under US laws and can do whatever they like. It certainly annoys the government -- the Office of the Privacy Commissioner being a federal government agency -- however.

Speaking of: Government use of private data is even more tightly controlled, and there's also a power/legitimacy/authority argument in here about exactly how much "privacy" do you have a "right" to when it comes to the state (do I have the "right" to the police not investigating my "private" crimes?). This isn't an facile Ayn Randian "OMG TEH GUBBERNMENTS IS EEEEBIL!" thing; it's got to do with the very core of how western democracies function.

So... yeah. Long story short: Australia is not the example to be using here. >_>

Re: "not the example"...

Date: Sep. 21st, 2011 05:00 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] dee
The filter was never implemented, and baseline Australian "censorship" of the internet is pretty comparable to what it is the the US. (Yes, the US censors the internet too; they just tend to pretend it's about "piracy" or "THINK OF THE CHILDREN!" I'll also point out this graphic, which was on the original Wiki page you linked.)

Here there's a very tiny blacklist of sites (IIRC it's about 20) that are blocked at a national level. The blacklist is technically secret, but it's well-known it's very, very deeply criminal stuff (child porn, terrorism). Whenever there's even a hint of suspicion anything else sneaks on -- we've had some reports of euthanasia information and, of all things, the Westboro Baptist Church -- it's a HUGE DEAL in the media, and the reports either turn out to be fake or to mysterious vanish.

Basically people are hyper-vigilant about it, and the government is pretty sensitive over the handling of it.

Note also that some of the stuff that gets incorrectly reported as Australian "censorship" actually has to do with the fact that, a) hate speech isn't considered "constitutionally protected free speech" here, and b) our libel laws are different. So yes, if you have a site telling damaging stories about and/or inciting hatred towards an individual or group it can be taken down. Most Aussies are pretty okay with that; there's not the cultural idea here that individual free speech should always automatically trump social cohesion, so... eh.

(no subject)

Date: Sep. 21st, 2011 06:38 pm (UTC)
sophie: A cartoon-like representation of a girl standing on a hill, with brown hair, blue eyes, a flowery top, and blue skirt. ☀ (Default)
From: [personal profile] sophie

This is an excellent post. :D I can't comment on the Australia censorship-or-not issue as I don't know anything about it, but otherwise - yes. Yes, yes, yes.

(no subject)

Date: Sep. 21st, 2011 11:01 pm (UTC)
lethe1: (lom: headdesk)
From: [personal profile] lethe1
I don't use Google+ - nor Facebook - for the fact that neither company respects privacy.

Me neither. I am shocked and appalled at the number of people around me who don't seem to find it an issue, and happily share intimate details of their own (and their loved ones'!) lives with all and sundry on those sites.