Thursday 31 May 2012

A suggestion for Jon Ungoed-Thomas and Philip Johnston, published on a blog provided "free" by Google

Two articles in the Sunday Times by Jon Ungoed-Thomas – Your emails, sex secrets and health details – all harvested by Google and Google grabs secrets of private lives – and one in the Telegraph next day by Philip Johnston – That car in your street was a Google Street View search engine.

While Google was filming our streets it was also collecting information about our WiFi networks. Without permission and without telling anyone. That was a mistake, said Google when they were found out, which is an odd thing for Google to say. The whole point about Google is that they don't make mistakes.

The US Federal Communications Commission are fining Google $25,000 for impeding their investigation of the matter. Google had revenues in 2011 of $37.905 billion on which it made profits of $9.737 billion. The fine amounts to 81 seconds of profits and is thought not to have dealt a mortal blow to the company's share price.

According to Jon Ungoed-Thomas, Google's telecommunications interception system was designed by Mr Marius Milner, a Trinity College Cambridge maths graduate, who handed it over to Google recommending that they'd better get a ruling from a privacy lawyer before using it.

At which point the claim that Google's Street View cars used Mr Milner's system by mistake all over the world for several years starts to look a bit threadbare.

We all know that Google record our web searches and read our email and do something with the information they glean there about our preferences and interests. We never pay them for the use of any of their excellent services. We know there's something odd there. Where does the $38 billion annual revenue come from? We latter-day Dr Faustuses prefer not to ask.

Mr Johnston muses in his article about the attitude of the young today, incontinently spraying their personal information all over the web, no sense of decency, or privacy, no dignity. Or words to that effect. He is rewarded for this perfectly sensible observation by being called an "old fart" by one of Google's astrosurfers commenting below the line.

DMossEsq made a much politer comment but it was deleted. Several times. Every time it was submitted. So quickly that it must have been deleted by an automated old fart.

No such indignity on the Sunday Times website (a website readers pay for, incidentally), where the comment was published and is still there:
... Note that the Department of Business Innovation and Skills want Google to help provide us all with "personal data stores" as part of the department's midata project.

And that the Cabinet Office look to Google to provide us with electronic identities so that public services can all become "digital by default".

And that Whitehall's plans for a G-Cloud – a government cloud – rely on Google and others storing our data on their servers in a gigantic leap of faith in so-called "cloud computing".

HMG seems to be desperate to invite Google into our lives and to hand over the responsibility for public administration to Google in a re-run of the Pied Piper of Hamelin,

Why? Have they given up? Is government too difficult for them?
There's the story Messrs Ungoed-Thomas and Johnston should be writing, surely – in the name of modernisation and transformational government, the middle-aged delinquents of Whitehall are openly planning to hand over our personal data en masse to Google and others. How much will that free lunch cost us?

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