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11/22/2013
11:20 AM
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Google Settles With State AGs On Privacy

Google agrees to pay $17 million to 37 states to settle claims it circumvented cookie-blocking controls in Apple's Safari browser.

Image credit: Flickr user ssoosay.
Image credit: Flickr user ssoosay.

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Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/23/2013 | 10:56:59 PM
Re: Narrow scope
Yeah, for true privacy, hidden services like Tor are still the way to go.

As Bruce Schneier put it in a September blog post on security in the wake of NSA revelations: "Use Tor to anonymize yourself. Yes, the NSA targets Tor users, but it's work for them. The less obvious you are, the safer you are."

Anything that makes it harder for a government agency to track you presumably makes it harder for marketers to track you.
Tom Murphy
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Tom Murphy,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/22/2013 | 4:07:38 PM
Re: Narrow scope
Now you're talking, Tom. The internet is a network controlled by the end user.  If we can block people from tracking us at that level, it's comparable to pulling down the shade in our homes -- and everyone should have that right. 

I wonder if that's a feature that computer makers can build right into the machine because, clearly, trying to build it into  browswer didn't work in this case. 
Or do we all need to start bouncing our signals aroudn the world like spammers to avoid being connected with our words.

 
Thomas Claburn
100%
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Moderator
11/22/2013 | 4:01:57 PM
Re: Narrow scope
The only way I see tracking diminishing is if those being tracked have equal power to obscure their footprints, as compared to those who are tracking them. And that's just not the way the law works: It's illegal to jam someone else's cell phone for example, to carry a set of lights to blind surveillance cameras, or to emit high-frequency radiation from a device to cripple nearby electronics. Tracking is set up as a right and tracking avoidance is considered suspicious. But it's time to revisit those assumptions. 
Tom Murphy
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50%
Tom Murphy,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/22/2013 | 3:48:19 PM
Re: Narrow scope
Tom: You're right of course, but the concept of tracking is not. That's the point. One technology merely replaces another, and barring one in one context won't resolve the underlying issue. 
Thomas Claburn
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50%
Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Moderator
11/22/2013 | 3:44:47 PM
Re: Narrow scope
"While this could be a step in a long path to ending cookies..."

Cookies are already slated for obsolecence. See:

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304682504579157780178992984

 
Tom Murphy
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50%
Tom Murphy,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/22/2013 | 12:33:17 PM
Narrow scope
While this could be a step in a long path to ending cookies, this seems quite limited in scope. First, it's a settlement involving Google's efforts on Apple browsers -- both big players, but this won't affect the majority of users who use other browsers and/or search engines. Second, the language says: "Google shall not employ HTTP form POST functionality that uses JavaScript." That blocks a leading way to deploy cookies, but not any others.  Third, not all browswer makers will want to bar cookies given that some cookies are useful to consumers and the browser may not gain wide acceptance in the broader, cookie-addicted industry.

Don't get me wrong. I'm pro-privacy, but I think the FTC and other governmental organizations need to address the issue on a broader level than through expensive, time-consuming, one-off settlements.  And they need to do it without causing serious economic harm to a surprisingly still-fragile and still-evolving Internet economy.  This can help shape this economy as it matures and create a stable, secure business environment that respects privacy.

Is that asking too much from an industry that is less than 20 years old?  Isn't it better to tackle this now before these issues start gaining the patina of accepted practices?
melgross
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50%
melgross,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/22/2013 | 12:21:06 PM
Some fine!
This is a slap on the wrist. Big companies assume that they might be caught at some point. They weigh the advantage of what they're doing against any fines and court costs they may incurr, and then go and do it. Google is notorious. User data is the lifeblood of their company. They are really just a glorified advertising company, after all. The fine for this should have been ten times as much, possibly more. Fines should be high enough to grab back any possible benefits the violation may have received, plus a tripling of the number. This will deter companies from doing this. What we have here is Google laughing all the way to the bank.
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