EU

Google's privacy policy? Why the EU should just back off

The European Union is up in arms over Google's privacy policy changes. But linking our apps and using the data to guide our choices and the information we see is a vital step toward a sentient web that will make us all more efficient.

The EU regulations were drafted for a long-gone and irrelevant world based on paper, fax machines and telephones. Photo: Shutterstock

Written in San Jose and dispatched to TechRepublic a few days later from a coffee shop via a free wi-fi service at 15Mbps.

Google announces that it is about to change its privacy policy - and the European Union has a hissy fit. What's the big deal?

All the information that Google gathers about us - what we do, who we are, what we search for, watch, query, and communicate with - is to be linked so it can bias the search results and advertisements we see on our screens. Hurrah. Google bring it on - let's have even more.

This move is a big deal, but not because the EU is getting upset, but because it is another vital step on the path to a sentient web.

It is what we do in our heads. It is what we do in groups and in companies - we share information, experience, knowledge and wisdom. Well, hey-ho, we are going to get our machines to do the same - and about time.

I don't know about you but I need all the help I can get. I certainly can't work any harder or longer, so I need to work more efficiently. But that need has been around for decades. The difference is that a bigger, better, faster, more powerful laptop won't help me because I am the limiting factor. I can't read, think, type, search and assimilate things any faster. Only an intelligent machine can help me get smarter and work more effectively.

The problem is that I can't get an IBM Watson inside my laptop. However, it is feasible that he will be available in the Cloud. And if he is, then like the secretary of old he has to watch what I do, how I do it, and then go and figure out how to help me. Making me more efficient and effective - that is the name of the game.

To my mind it is a great pity that Google is restricting its new policy to just Google Apps. If it could be extended to everything on my laptop and mobile phone, I reckon I would gain even more.

We don't have to fast-forward too many years into the future to see that we will need a data aggregator to feed an artificial intelligence designed to help us become more efficient, creative, and effective.

So what's the EU gripe? Time to change these laws and attitudes, methinks. After all, they were drafted for a world based on paper, fax machines and telephones, which is long gone and irrelevant.

About

Peter Cochrane is an engineer, scientist, entrepreneur, futurist and consultant. He is the former CTO and head of research at BT, with a career in telecoms and IT spanning more than 40 years.

62 comments
sandeepseeram
sandeepseeram

Advantage Microsoft... now it will be Adwords vs. Adchoices Sandeep Seeram

Cylon Model 12
Cylon Model 12 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

I read the article as a piece of satire. I might be wrong but I just could not take the article's points seriously. Privacy is already an issue with all the apps and instant communication possibilities out there that no one can want a sentient web. I am just going to pretend that this article was submitted a few weeks early for April 1st.

andrew232006
andrew232006 like.author.displayName 1 Like

I don't want a sentient web. I really don't like who this sentient web is working for. Let's give the web some morals first.

learn4ever
learn4ever

I think if you're going to author an article like this one, the responsibility is on YOU to tell US what the gripe is before refuting it... don't end the article that way! How do I even know you understand their stance? Credibility lost.

Anonymoos
Anonymoos like.author.displayName 1 Like

Before going further, check WEBSTER out:http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sentient Now relate it to the authors article:This move is a big deal, but not because the EU is getting upset, but because it is another vital step on the path to a sentient web. The author describes himself as: "Peter Cochrane is an engineer, scientist, entrepreneur, futurist and consultant." Specifically, What kind of "Engineer, Scientist, entrepreneur, futurist and consultant." What are his achievements? Which universities have awarded the degrees. The comment: "Time to change these laws and attitudes, methinks. After all, they were drafted for a world based on paper, fax machines and telephones, which is long gone and irrelevant. By gosh, had he thought about the fact that the internet is built basically on the tenents mentioned above. Yah, let's get rid of telephones - y'all in favor of dumping your Smartphones? Reality needs to set in!? I would be willing to wager the author has file drawer with paper to document what is deemed as necessary information. Else, if the internet (IE his computer failed and all files lost) he would be in a world of hurt. Just think about you as individual and your needs to have ALL kinds of backup to secure your private and business lives. A menial example I experienced today. My wonderful electrical utility has been overcharging me. Do you think they have a way for me to retrieve past billing (other than potentially the phone and paper). HMMMM, guess there IS a need for those things. What proof do I have - check register, cancelled checks (retrieve on the internet from the bank and then need to photocopy everything and forward the material as my "proof". Hmmm, more need for paper. Let's look at the author's solution - "the Time to change these laws and attitudes, methinks. After all, they were drafted for a world based on paper, fax machines and telephones, which is long gone and irrelevant." True, however, would you like to have GOOGLE et al have that type of access to your financial data. Not only access, someone(s) at GOOGLE or one of their business subscribers could "tiddle" with your account? Sound great?????? Sorry, but I would recommend that the author look below the surface of what he recommends and finds all the processes impacted and jeapordies? That my friends is called System Analysis. Sorry but I have to say this: To be a "futurist" ya got ta know: what/how/when/where/when/(who) before making proposing absolute solutions. I have to do more work - but I LOVE and PROTECT my privacy! I only have trust in (depends on your religious beliefs) GOD. I sincerely apologize to anyone who may be upset by that statement. Lastly, how safe are you on the Internet. Just think about all the hacking which has occurred with corporations, governments, military. Is your password, Anti-virus, Mal ware, communications (firewall) doing the job? If you have gotten this far - Thank you!

wendygoerl
wendygoerl like.author.displayName 1 Like

It's the "digital push." What do I mean by that? Imagine a bell curve (representing analog) measured over 6 (whatever units you want to use) on the x-axis, and 0-1 on the y-axis: At 0-x it we have 0; at 1-x it starts to curve; at 2-x the curve begins to level off; at 3-x, it's pretty much level at 1-y; then the whole curve reverses, coming back to 0 at 6-x. Then we get all this "digital stuff" (including the "efficiency" of things like Google+). it also starts at 0, then at 2-x abruptly jumps to the 1-value, then at 4-x abruptly drops back to 0. Proponents say: "Look! All those people who were betweeen 2-x and 4-x get the1-value!" but what about the poeple between 0-1-x, and 5-6-x, who were at some positive value, but are now at 0? To give an example: i was searching for an artilce about a girl who, after being raped , was strapped to a gurney in a hospital and left for hours that way. I thought it was from "48 Hours." so I searched: rape victim gurney "48 Hours" What did I get? Things from the "New York TIMES" (I was searching for "hours," so I'm probably interested in returns with "time" in them), articles about getting out of BED (since "bed" is synonimous with "gurney"), and other totally irrelevant returns.

d3d4E4
d3d4E4

A bunch of Don Quiotes fighting windmills. Let???s face the fact that purpose of the web is to collect and disseminate information. Whatever you do on the web is a public knowledge, no matter what the ???privacy policies??? say, or the ???privacy watchdogs??? are supposedly guarding. So wake up, smell the roses and live with it. If not, don???t use the web.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas like.author.displayName 1 Like

They've successfully used their mercantile power to bend corporate entities over backwards before. They're not afraid of intervening in the market, unlike those weenies in the US government, and look how much love everybody has for THEM. That's right, trying to please everybody will get you hated by all. The EU, luckily, has decided to try and please the consumers on this. And we're well satisfied with their performance in this area. Half the EULAs of the world don't apply to us on account of these Quixotes. Well tilted, say I.

peter
peter like.author.displayName 1 Like

d3d4E4 = In any public debate the negative voices always outgun the positive. That's the way it always is! A lot of time the negative reaction is emotional and unthinking, but I am more prone to ponder and try and weigh the pros and cons. The technology that cannot be used for evil has not been invented yet. But in a commercial world you only lose the customers trust the once. Google are not doing anything radical or new here, it's just that the naysayers and lawyers are not sleepwalking anymore. Thanks for your support - much appreciated.

cpcca
cpcca like.author.displayName 1 Like

The author seems to doubt his ability to think or be competitive without a "Big Brother" showing him the way; he needs it to: "... help me because I am the limiting factor. I cant read, think, type, search and assimilate things any faster. Only an intelligent machine can help me get smarter and work more effectively". I find it ironic that he uses the word sentinent to describe his ideal web experience. Sentinent is AN INDIVIDUAL " having the power of sense perception or sensation; conscious". To hand that over to a corpration, AN ARTIFICIAL ENTITY, which is pursuing a profit driven agenda is a slippery slope. It comes down to a critical simple choice really. Does the sentinent individual think for himself or does he forfeit that freedom to corporate slanted "groupthink"? Time to put down Ayn Rand and reread Orwell. We are way beyond 1984 already.

peter
peter

cpcca@... = In this one sentence you reveal your limited thinking: Sentinent is AN INDIVIDUAL. Might be time to read more sci-fi, and read up on distributed intelligence research. Old definitions get outmoded just like laws and have to be updated and rewritten.

LedLincoln
LedLincoln like.author.displayName 1 Like

The EU is one of the few entities with enough power and enough backbone to protect individuals from excessive corporate power and greed. Thank goodness they're on these issues.

peter
peter

LedLincoln = Really - your talking about one of the biggest gravy trains on the plane with pretty huge levels of unnecessary bureaucracy, unparalleled levels of inefficiency, and a collection of bankrupt states...hmmm

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas like.author.displayName 1 Like

Protecting our privacy is the best thing the EU does. Even if all else they did was as horrible as you claim, it'd still be worth it. You're trying to use their shortcomings to snuff out their strengths, pretty immoral of you.

Slayer_
Slayer_

They always collected your data and used it for their purposes, the only difference is they bothered the make their privacy policy more readable. Does it say in there that they intend to sell your browsing habits to third parties? For many many years google has been tracking us, and you don't need an account to be tracked. Google analytics appears to be on every website now.

peter
peter

Slayer = Spot on! And if they upset us - the users - our walking away will hurt more than any political smoke and mirrors.

cd003284
cd003284

All this optimism assumes responsible, ethical, legal use of our data, while every day brings more reasons not to risk that assumption. This is an interesting article, but only in terms of potential, not likelihood.

peter
peter

cd003284@ = I regularly get emails from government departments that are cc instead of Bcc. They make the laws and them break them! I just take the opportunity to link with all the interesting people who's email addresses I get gratis. So on further examination. Who loses and misplaces more than any other body? Government! Companies cannot afford to - they lose the trust of their customers and their dead in the water. A bank, telco, card co et al live in fear of customer data being leaked...and they do a lot about trying to prevent it happening. BUT the dark side gets mor cunning and nothing is perfect... Thanks for the input :-)

Snak
Snak like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

I don't want Google to know who I am, what I like and what I do. I don't want Google to invade my mind to discover the keys to what it is that makes me open my wallet. I want my internet to be soulless. If I decide I want my computer to 'know' my choices then fair enough. I'll use bookmarks or links. I'll happily use cookies as long as I retain control of them. To be honest, the less I see of Google the better. And the less Google 'sees' of me is infinitely more so.

peter
peter

Snak = Absolutely not - if only I had been that smart and with enough funds - ho hum!

jls65
jls65

Ok, giving that (your blog), I can partially agree to your statement that Google uses this data for quicker access to what we all use and need. But I think the E.U. is right. I pointed out this in a previous blog when Google announced their new policy.....How much intell do they realy need? And, will Google release ALL Information on what data is collected, and to their extent of it being used? Lets face it, Gmail already knows any detail you send via email (great for storage by the way), would they use this info, could they sell this info? Hmmmmmm,,,, Google, I hope your reading this! Let someone (maybe from Tech Rep) have a meeting/ tour, and release the real deal! I don't care about you making money, you need too! It's about my privacy!

peter
peter

jls65 = I'll settle for partial agreement - let's see how it pans out - but the EU really are control freaks!

alfowler
alfowler

The EU is a pretty good watchdog and it uses its powers in the interest of its members. I will wait to see how this process will plan out before I make up my mind on its importance.

peter
peter

alfowler@... = They are great at spending taxpayers contributions for sure...but I'm not so happy as you re their effectiveness....it will be interesting to see ho all this pans out!

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

"The Provider has no liability under this EULA, unless you live in the EU, in which case the provider has liability in accordance to the law". Speaks volumes. It also speaks volumes that the bloodsucker industry needs people to run the kind of interference you're trying to run. I do appreciate that you participate in the discussion, but you might want to adjust your software keyboard, it's a bit messy. You could also be clearer about what you mean, and provide more concrete details.

cunnind
cunnind like.author.displayName 1 Like

The EU are right to protect our privacy. We have already seen the FBI is to monitor conversations on Facebook and now Twitter is selling copies of all it's users conversations. One reason NOT to use these comercial spy programs. Why is the US so keen to monitor all our lives? Is there no privacy from BBig Brother uncle Sam?

peter
peter

cunnind = But that is exactly what they are not doing. They are meddling with your freedom!

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

"Uncle Sam" has been bought and paid for by Corporate entities... not the yanks' fault - apart from letting it happen, I guess.

peter
peter

AnsuGisalas = Could just be that they are more enlightened and future facing?

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

Watch your language! Future facing? You kiss your mother with that mouth?

mailman30
mailman30 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

I am in agreement with them. Google act as if they own the web. I will not do business with any company that require me to sign on google.

peter
peter

mailman30 = Can't imagine why anyone would want to ask you to do anything of the kind!

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

but if the EU fails to keep them honest, I'll have to start...

nickweavers
nickweavers

I agree that a sentient web is a wonderful goal, but agree entirely with @bboyd.

peter
peter

nickweavers = Well it is coming rather fast in the form of AI in The Cloud. The naysayers will no doubt do their bit as usual, but I don't see any slowdown in technology, creativity and silicon evolution. All we have to do is wait. Watson is just the tip of the iceberg.

peter
peter

nickweavers = Hurrah - a degree of agreement :-)

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas like.author.displayName 1 Like

Well, I fully expect a sentient web to be smart enough to see what's wrong with the world... people :^0

peter
peter

AnsuGisalas = Machines are smart, but they aint mean - unless we teach them that is. If we program them to kill people - then that is another debate and another problem set...

HAL 9000
HAL 9000 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

So are they smart enough to work out that Humans destroy more than they produce? Once the Smart Web does that what's the next Computer Logic telling itself Humans are not needed and then it starts to take steps to eliminate them. [b]SKYNET[/b] by any another name still has the same effect. :^0 Col

random2010
random2010 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 5 Like

What a one-sided article! Fails to understand or even mention the valid reasons behind the opposing point of view. The thrust of this article seems to be about 'efficiency' for the end user, but what I see is our privacy being taken away in order to provide better advertising / marketing, not better 'efficiency'

peter
peter

random2010 It aint an article it's a blog! And I figured that with all the noise from the naysayers I needn't bother repeating their misguided views.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

BT has always been staunchly behind the notion of private enterprise screwing over the consumer! :^0

peter
peter

AnsuGisalas = How did BT get in here? I don't work for BT - just my own company!

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas like.author.displayName 1 Like

The EU privacy protections are the result of a tug'o'war; the Corpies are trying to loosen it up, while the people are trying to defend themselves from corporate spying. We don't need no stinkin' commentators shilling the Corpies' viewpoints. The idea that a "sentient web" will arise, which will make people "more effective" is [i][b]TOTAL BUNK[/i][/b]. People already have all the tools they need to be "more effective"... and we all know it. We're not living up to our potential of "more effective" because we are [i][b]PROCRASTINATING[/b][/i]. If the Corpies are allowed to rape our privacy to make this "magical web", and IF it "magically" makes us "more effective"... then we'll only [i][b]PROCRASTINATE HARDER[/b][/i]. In the old days, people like Cochrane would be tarred and feathered for trying to sell us all out. Maybe it's time to be traditional about it?

peter
peter

AnsuGisalas = I appreciate your depth of thought and analysis. In my country we stopped thinking like this around 1500.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

You produce a cheap piece of raving, incoherent propaganda, and this level of comment is all I'll bother with. You have to earn the respect it takes to make me make a serious effort.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 6 Like

if you don't want to control nasties on the Web and allow them to make it into Skynet you're welcome but you don't have to force your misguided beliefs on anyone else and nor do you have the right to. Google on the other hand is welcome to try but they also have to expect Governments to put up objections and prevent them from getting their way on [b]World Domination.[/b] Nothing new there. ;) If you find the Eu's actions so objectionable perhaps you shouldn't ever go near the place as most people there feel that they are doing the right thing in protecting them from the Big Bad Corporations who will do as they please when they want and to who they want. :0 Col

peter
peter

HAL 9000 = I don't believe in belief systems. And how do you know what 'most people think' - a bit of a misguided assumption don't you think! And boy have you got a shock coming when IPv6 takes over....I'll blog that one when I get a chance :-)

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

I'd not say another word about the "misguided assumptions" of others. What with the stones and the glass houses.

peter
peter like.author.displayName 1 Like

HAL 9000 = 42!

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