March 28, 2012

"Frustrated": The Results of My "Google Issues and Problems Survey"

Last Saturday, as a followup to Why Google Needs an Ombudsman - Now More Than Ever, I posted my Google Issues and Problems Survey.

Well over 1000 submissions have already been received, and after scanning through these rapidly, the trends are already clear enough to discuss some of the findings (in fact, the pattern of replies was already pretty obvious within the first 24 hours).

First, a few important provisos. This was what's known as a "self-selected" survey. This means that only people sufficiently motivated to participate chose to do so -- there was no "reaching out" to the population at large. This has the effect that results cannot be viewed as being suitable for accurate statistical generalization beyond the set of respondents themselves.

Also, by its very nature -- "issues and problems" -- this survey would not be expected to capture the opinions of people who do not have significant Google-related problems or issues to report.

Finally, the open-ended nature of the survey questions resulted in many people submitting what amounted to detailed essays discussing their concerns, often co-mingling various of the survey questions into combined answers. This has made quantitative analysis of those answers problematic -- so I'll be concentrating on a more qualitative discussion here.

Around 22% of the submissions involved privacy-related concerns of one sort or another. Of these, it appears that around 73% of the described issues were based on misunderstandings of actual Google privacy policies (including related confusion seeded by media articles and users misinterpreting actual Google policies).

In many cases users claimed they had attempted to obtain clarification of their concerns from Google directly without receiving substantive replies, and/or had attempted to obtain information from Google Help Forums -- but received no answers, inadequate answers, or conflicting answers from Forum participants. Usually no official responses were forthcoming, according to these submissions.

Of the 27% of privacy-related concerns that did not appear to relate to misunderstandings or misinterpretation of Google policies, a variety of issues were reported. These ranged from topics associated with search results, to Gmail issues, and a notable number of people expressing consternation about specific data in Google Maps, Street View, and/or Google Earth.

These map-related concerns usually involved either claims of inaccurate data being displayed, or accusations that Google had ignored repeated requests to remove particular Street View imagery and the like.

Many of these submissions were from persons who appeared to be very upset with (what they felt to be) potentially serious privacy-related issues, who recounted in extremely lengthy detail the history of their attempts to contact Google, and receiving no response, or non-substantive "form letters" with no appeal or "escalation" mechanisms noted, and so on. Some mentioned trying to call or even visit Google in desperation to reach someone for help.

The 78% of submissions that did not primarily involve privacy turned out to be somewhat similar to the privacy-related concerns in significant aspects. There was a roughly 55/45 split between reports that appeared to be based on misinterpretations or misunderstandings, vs. other issues.

While there were concerns and problems noted related to Maps and such in this latter category as well, there many more issues raised about Gmail (especially sudden mass loss of email) and Google Voice. Submissions like these tended to be quite boisterous regarding the importance of email and voicemail, and frustration over the inability to reach anyone at Google to provide useful assistance.

A particular Google Voice aspect that frequently was mentioned was problems related to Sprint/Google voice integration, with users claiming Sprint had told them to contact Google for help, and then being unable to obtain useful assistance from the Google side. Various of these users said they had simply given up.

One case I looked at in more detail involved someone who said he had been trying for a long period to fix a Google Search result problem that he said was very disruptive to his business, but he could find nobody at Google directly or in Google Help forums who could or would assist. The search results in question did seem very odd at first glance, but it took me only about 10 minutes of digging to determine that his problem was almost certainly DNS -- not specifically Google -- related. If someone had helped him with this early on, he wouldn't have spent a long period in public forums condemning Google.

There were also a variety of issues raised about various paid Google ad services and other fee-based Google services, mostly too detailed to go into here right now. Numerous of these involved search and ad ranking controversies of various sorts -- many of which I would classify as misunderstandings.

In a number of instances, business owners reported that they had provided credit card information to Google to "claim" their business addresses and a designated amount of free Google advertising, had never used the advertising, but still found Google-related charges on their credit cards that they had been unable to reach anyone at Google to remove. I asked one of these persons why -- if all else had failed -- they had not filed a dispute with their credit card company or bank? He replied that he saw no point since "there's no way I'm going to win against Google."

In both the privacy and non-privacy categories, the twin issues of not actually understanding Google policies or services, and/or overwhelming frustration with trying to get substantive assistance for Google-related problems, came up again and again.

Customers of paid Google services seemed relatively more satisfied with their support options, but many of these users claimed that they used both free and paid Google services, and found even the paid support to still be seriously lacking at this time across the universe of Google-related issues.

A very significant number of respondents (including those currently using free Google services exclusively) specifically noted that they'd be willing to pay (new) reasonable fees (either monthly or per-incident) to get meaningful assistance when there are problems, as exemplified by this quote from a survey participant who explicitly granted me permission to publish his comments when he sent in his form:

"... It's a sign of what I think is a greater problem with Google: there is absolutely no way to get support for ANY issue, policy or technical, for most of Google's services. For all my issues, I'd be willing to pay a small monthly fee (or even a one-time "trouble" fee) if there was a way to get the issue resolved."

That's probably enough of a survey overview for now. Once again, I want to emphasize what I said at the beginning of this posting. This was a self-selected survey, that by definition only encompasses users with problems or issues that they chose to report. Any generalizations to a larger universe of Google users would be entirely inappropriate.

However, it does seem reasonable to note the common threads that run through these submissions. It is certainly the case that it's a matter of major concern when significant numbers of users and customers are misunderstanding your services or policies, or are having longstanding problems that in many cases could have actually been easily understood or resolved under the appropriate information and/or support structures.

It is from this category of "lost users" -- who usually could have been helped very early on -- from which often come negative stories to friends and business colleagues, and complaints that trigger misleading, sensationalistic media reports, angry letters to politicians, and other unnecessary damaging impacts that in most cases could have been relatively easily avoided.

The single factor that stands out above all others in the survey results is that -- novice or expert, confused or "right on the mark" -- users abhor the frustrating feeling that they are being essentially ignored when they have issues or problems related to services that they use regularly and have come to depend upon.

Solving this problem isn't simple, and isn't without costs. But the benefits for everyone concerned would seem enormously important in the long run.

--Lauren--

Posted by Lauren at 09:02 PM | Permalink
Twitter: @laurenweinstein
Google+: Lauren Weinstein


March 24, 2012

Google Issues and Problems Survey

Blog Update (March 28, 2012): "Frustrated": The Results of My "Google Issues and Problems Survey"



To quote Jack Benny: "Wellll!"

The reaction to my posting a couple of days ago -- Why Google Needs an Ombudsman - Now More Than Ever -- has by far resulted in the most related email messages I've ever received for any of my blog or email postings in memory.

First , thank you all who responded, especially those of you who took the time to write in considerable detail.

In light of this turn of events, I'm launching a "little" survey to try better understand, in a somewhat more systematic way, any Google-related issues or problems of concern. [Update: 25 March 2012: This also includes any relevant matters related to Google's YouTube or other divisions of Google.]

I'd like to keep this as simple as possible.

Responses should be emailed to gissues@vortex.com. Choose the "Subject:" line as you wish, but please keep it relevant.

Unless you explicitly indicate otherwise, the details of your response will be kept confidential, though I may publicly summarize aggregate results. In some cases I may followup with you by email if I think more information would be useful, but if you request that I don't reply, I will honor that of course. Your email addresses related to this survey will not be used for any other purposes.

Please only include one Google-related problem or issue topic in any single email response, but feel free to send multiple emails if desired.

And without further ado, here are the survey questions:

1) Briefly, what is the nature of your issue or problem related to Google?

2) Do you personally consider this to be:

  • (a) a policy issue (related to Google, Inc. terms of service, privacy policies, user support procedures, etc.)
  • (b) an operational issue (something that isn't working in the manner you expect)
  • (c) both
  • (d) neither

3) Does this issue or problem relate to the use of:

  • (a) free Google services
  • (b) paid Google services
  • (c) both

4) On a scale of 1 through 10, how would you rate the severity of your Google-related problem or issue, where:

  • "1" is "not a big deal, so minor it really doesn't significantly affect my usage"
  • "5" is "a hassle sometimes, but I can live with it"
  • "10" is "awful, so bad I won't use the service and won't recommend it to anyone else"

5) Have you attempted to get more information about and/or assistance with your Google-related issue or problem?

6) If you answered "yes" to (5), what steps did you take to try get information or to otherwise resolve your issue or problem? (E.g., contacted Google directly, used a Google Help forum, used non-Google forums, consulted with non-Google users or experts, etc.)

7) If you answered "yes" to (5), were you able to get the information you needed and/or solve your problem to your satisfaction? If so, which of the methods that you listed in (6) were most useful?

8) If you answered "no" to (7) above (your issue or problem is still unresolved despite your efforts), what would you personally consider the appropriate resolution to be? How will you proceed if the matter remains unresolved?

9) How would you rate yourself regarding experience in the area of concern? Beginner, experienced, expert, etc.?

10) Anything else relevant you'd care to add about this Google-related issue or problem?

Please email your responses to gissues@vortex.com.

Thank you very much for taking the time to participate in this survey!

--Lauren--

Blog Update (March 28, 2012): "Frustrated": The Results of My "Google Issues and Problems Survey"

Posted by Lauren at 06:46 PM | Permalink
Twitter: @laurenweinstein
Google+: Lauren Weinstein


March 22, 2012

Why Google Needs an Ombudsman - Now More Than Ever

Blog Update (March 28, 2012): "Frustrated": The Results of My "Google Issues and Problems Survey"

Blog Update (March 24, 2012): Google Issues and Problems Survey



I knew immediately this morning that I was facing what I call a "Did you see this?" day. That's what I call the effect of checking my inbox when I get up, and seeing a long series of messages with subject lines blaring variations on "did you see this?" - "you have to read this!" - "hey lauren, what do you have to say about this?" - and so on.

In today's case, the object of so much sender "affection" was a Gizmodo article titled The Case Against Google, that might charitably be described as a quite extensive "overview" of complaints regarding recent Google practices.

As might be expected in such an piece, the author chose to illuminate his points in pretty much the worst possible light.

I've previously discussed my views regarding various issues that he describes, for example in these blog postings:

Google, Safari, and a Clamor of Cookie Confusion

Google's Privacy Policy Changes: Revolution? Evolution? Or Confusion?

A Few Thoughts on Google's "Search, plus Your World"

... and others.

And as much as I disagree with the author's interpretations on most of his points, there are two aspects of his piece with which I do agree.

First, he suggests that Google is being hammered by complaints in numbers and ways that are increasingly of concern. While I would assert that most of these complaints are exaggerated -- the results of misunderstandings, and all too often the offspring of "dirty trick" campaigns by anti-Google forces -- it is still undeniable that the pressure on Google has really ramped up lately.

He also asserts that the core product of Google is now "Google itself" -- not simply Search. He expresses "shock" at this revelation, but this evolution has actually been obvious for quite some time, nor is there anything at all nefarious about it.

The author himself notes that the kinds of services Google wants to provide (and let's face it, that most users want) cannot reasonably function in a set of isolated "silos" -- the original compartments that are the natural result of Google's adding new services gradually over a period of years.

Evolution of more integrated services not only better serves users, it permits for more easily understood unified privacy policies, data "dashboard" controls, and other useful functions.

This also helps explain why attempting head-to-head comparisons of Google+ and Facebook are essentially wrongheaded. Google+ is not actually a standalone service per se, but should be interpreted within the context of the overall Google ecosystem of which it is an increasingly key aspect.

While Google's moves creating a coordinated "Google Experience" (rather than a set of somewhat disparate and relatively compartmented applications) have brought great benefits to users, there is also a downside, as exemplified by the tone of the Gizmodo article.

A unified Google platform, especially in services application areas where Google is dominant, and particularly for persons who are not deeply versed in the details of associated technical and policy realms, can find itself portrayed as scary, even a threat -- a situation that Google's adversaries are very willing to exploit.

In my opinion, this presents a communications challenge that goes significantly beyond the scope of traditional corporate communications, which is why I've in the past invoked the "Ombudsman" concept in relation to Google, and suggested that Google could benefit significantly from such an employee.

There are various roles that an ombudsman (or ombudsman team) can productively fill, especially for corporations that need to maintain the trust of their users -- and the general public -- for the furtherance of best practices along a variety of vectors.

An ombudsman can be crucial in helping to deal appropriately and promptly with out of the ordinary user problems and complaints, that in the absence of such handling may blow out of control into breathless, damaging, and often utterly inaccurate media stampedes of dramatic (and undeserved!) condemnations. Are there decidedly nontrivial scaling issues involved in accomplishing this role effectively? Certainly. Is it possible to accomplish this economically with appropriate triage and planning? Definitely.

But particularly in the context of the unfortunately not uncommon Gizmodo article sensibilities, the ombudsman's most important function is to act as an unbiased "observer, analyst, and explainer" of issues -- often highly controversial ones -- that can arise at the interface between companies, their users, and the public at large.

This is definitely not a role for the thin-skinned. Ombudsmen are employees of their companies, but must be recognized by both their companies and the public as being honestly concerned about the interests of all involved parties, and be capable of resisting pressures to inappropriately skew any analysis.

To be effective, ombudsmen must have fairly direct access to both operational teams and high level personnel at their firms, but ombudsmen normally do not have "special powers" and cannot dictate actions to their firms, only make recommendations (typically some publicly, while others are private recommendations strictly within the firms themselves).

As you can imagine, it is not uncommon for an ombudsman to feel that they're "between a rock and a hard place" while balancing the job's complex requirements.

Yet such balance from an ombudsman can be key to helping assure that a firm's intentions and goals are not accidentally or purposely misconstrued by observers.

And though the ombudsman's role may be viewed as being somewhat thankless in various respects given the complicated interests and issues involved, and while it can frequently take something of a "leap of faith" for a firm to entrust an ombudsman in the first place, the benefits all around -- for corporate organizations and the public that depends upon them -- can be enormous.

Paradoxically, even in the most sophisticated and methodical of technological realms, often a leap of faith begins the most logical path towards the best possible tomorrow for us all.

--Lauren--

Blog Update (March 28, 2012): "Frustrated": The Results of My "Google Issues and Problems Survey"

Blog Update (March 24, 2012): Google Issues and Problems Survey

Posted by Lauren at 03:46 PM | Permalink
Twitter: @laurenweinstein
Google+: Lauren Weinstein


March 21, 2012

Saving the Internet by Ending ICANN

It was a bittersweet moment for those of us who have spent many, many moons concerned about the increasingly erratic course of ICANN, especially in recent years culminating in their atrocious, extortionist, and exploitative get-rich-quick "domainer" scheme for vast numbers of new top level domains.

Last week at one of their typically exotic meeting locales -- this time in Costa Rica -- ICANN's outgoing CEO publicly blasted his own organization's rampant conflicts of interest.

"How," asked Rod Beckstrom, "can [ICANN place commercial and financial interests in their appropriate context] if all top leadership is from the very domain-name industry it is supposed to coordinate independently?"

Indeed.

In all my past criticisms of ICANN, I've always concentrated on what I believed to be the insurmountable structural problems with the organization vis--vis the evolving Internet. I have purposely refrained from pointing fingers at the behaviors of any specific individuals within ICANN itself.

But with his own words, Beckstrom invoked into full view the demons that have poisoned a once fine organization irreparably to its very core, beyond even the scope that I noted in my recent Terrorism, Money, the Internet, and ICANN posting.

For as long as I can remember, those of us who have felt that the ever-changing ICANN status quo was unsustainable, and leading toward ever darker outcomes, have been faced with two main arguments in retort.

We've been told repeatedly to wait, that "ICANN will be fixed."

ICANN will not be fixed. It cannot be fixed. It is structurally constituted in a manner that cannot reasonably serve the broad interests of today's global Internet community and the world community at large.

Year after year we've watched ICANN suddenly shift and sway like the proverbial bull in the china shop, smashing past promises and pronouncements in its wake. And now, like an out of control starship that has lurched beyond a black hole's event horizon, it is being sucked inexorably toward a dark chaos of greed, a maelstrom of its own creation.

We've also been told -- repeatedly -- that ICANN must be preserved because "any alternative might be far worse" -- with the United Nations and/or ITU often cited as the most feared possibilities.

An Internet takeover by the ITU or UN could indeed be catastrophic. But assuming that continued blind support of ICANN would necessarily hold off such forces has been foolhardy in the extreme.

The day of reckoning is already speeding toward us.

Around the world, countries fed up with ICANN are pushing for exactly the scenario of ITU, UN management of the Net that has been justifiably feared for so long.

And even here in the U.S., our own government's Commerce Department NTIA has refused -- at least for now -- to renew ICANN's coronation for one of its key Internet functions.

The upshot of all this -- the output of the ICANN equation -- now seems glaringly obvious.

We have three choices, but we no longer have the luxury of generous time in which to make our selection among them.

We can keep throwing "good money after bad," and despite all evidence that ICANN has become unsalvageable, continue to hope for miracles, as forces antithetical to the global Internet community continue to array themselves around us, whispering in the darkness.

Or, we can sit back and perversely enjoy the spectacle of efforts to turn the Internet into a nightmarish model of cloistered and suffocating UN/ITU micromanagement, leading to a very different -- and I would assert vastly inferior and potentially repressive -- Internet than we know today.

Or ... we can chart a new route entirely. Recriminations regarding how we reached this stage are not particularly useful towards productively moving forward.

Instead, we can start right now -- today -- toward the creation of a new purpose-built international organization (or organizations) specifically dedicated to the tasks
of completely supplanting ICANN over time -- for the benefit of the global community, not mainly the well-heeled interests at the top of the current Internet DNS food chain.

These new creations would not be weighed down with the political and historical baggage of either ICANN nor other currently existing organizations. They would move us productively forward for the Internet of the 21st century, without having to continually dissemble the policies of the past.

This is not a simple task. It will take much time to reach full fruition and there is no guarantee of success. The domainer and other selfish entities benefiting from ICANN policies today -- and looking forward to even vaster riches tomorrow -- will not see their amoroso fade from the scene without a fight.

The decision time is now. The longer we wait to start toward a new way, a new alternative to ICANN, the more constrained our operational options become, and the more likely that the Chimera awaits us.

Please let me know if you or your colleagues would like to help in such an effort.

Thanks very much. Take care, all.

--Lauren--

Posted by Lauren at 08:01 PM | Permalink
Twitter: @laurenweinstein
Google+: Lauren Weinstein


March 15, 2012

Terrorism, Money, the Internet, and ICANN

Sometimes it's possible to be so closely involved with the details of a problem that one misses the larger picture, the broad arc of events that would help to better understand the processes in play.

At first glance, it would seem unlikely to draw connections between the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and current Internet governance controversies -- including the behavior of ICANN, which the NTIA has (for the moment) chosen not to recertify for key Internet functions.

And yet the connecting lines are clear enough. Not conspiracies mind you, but rather a confluence of events that have led to rampant opportunism and the suppression of fundamental rights.

The direct effects of the 9/11 attacks on our culture are among the most obvious.

After the attacks, quickly enacted laws led to broad use of secret "national security letter" demands for personal data, often aimed at Internet services. Millions of U.S. airline passengers are now subjected to x-ray body scans that have been banned in Europe as possible health risks. And our various leaders have touted the utility of torture and assassinations of U.S. citizens and others without trial or other due process.

This is but the short list. And it's apolitical, too. There's scarce evidence that there's any significant light between the operational stances of either political party in many of these regards in the long run.

Yes, the Obama administration has apparently stopped the worst torture abuses championed by the previous president. On the other hand, Obama administration officials now claim the right to target individuals for killing (especially by remote drones) without due process of any kind, based solely on assertions by the executive branch. Sometimes innocent parties are also killed by these attacks, and viewed as unfortunate but necessary "collateral damage."

To be sure, governments of all stripes have conducted assassinations throughout history, nearly always under the banner of "what's good for the country." The failed attempts to kill Fidel Castro are an open secret. We can be reasonably sure that there have been various other targets over the years, some "successfully dispatched" -- and some not.

While so much of all this is publicly framed (when mentioned at all) in terms of national security, the pervasive distorting effects of money on the process cannot be overestimated.

Almost exactly half a century ago, President and former General Dwight D. Eisenhower coined the term "military-industrial complex" to describe the influence of money over the military and associated national security decision making.

All these decades later, those influences are stronger than ever, and have now extended themselves directly into Internet affairs.

For example, the purchase and deployment of airport body scanners has taken place on a massive scale with virtually no evidence of their effectiveness nor safety, but clear indications that the enormous amounts of money involved served to enrich not only manufacturers of such devices, but some individuals associated with DHS as well.

An ongoing drumbeat for a government power grab over the Internet in the name of "cybersecurity" is another case in point. We see government security interests (e.g. agencies whose portfolios are basically to spy on communications to the greatest extent possible) and the "Internet security industry," together seeming to be creating an unholy alliance aimed at turning the Internet into a combination totally surveilled environment plus money printing machine for the giant entertainment behemoths.

The extent to which these forces are willing to go is exemplified by a classified (but safe to say, rigged) "power system cyberattack demonstration" reportedly used recently to try scare members of Congress into supporting aggressive cybersecurity legislation. I say "rigged" because virtually all such demonstrations are by definition designed with a single outcome in mind, practical probabilities be damned. Anyone who has set up demos to try convince anyone about pretty much anything knows how this works. I've been there. You may have been there as well. And while we can all agree that SCADA control systems need major security improvements, it's also true that the current government cybersecurity push is replete with far more expansive motives.

But the connections don't stop there. Once we've accepted the post-9/11 concepts that "due process" and protection of innocents are no longer a priority, it becomes enormously easier to understand much else going on with the Internet today. When trials and the Fourth Amendment -- including search warrants -- are seen by authorities not as protections, but as hindrances, the race to the bottom seems assured.

The criminalization of copyright violations (which in the past have generally been considered to be a civil matter) is a dramatic example.

The scope of enforcement efforts in this regard have become breathtaking. Domain names are seized and shut down by the U.S. around the world -- without trial -- by leveraging the obsolete DNS (Domain Name System) and ICANN complicity -- often obliterating innocent sites in the process. Unfortunate collateral damage.

Major international file-sharing sites are shut down based on copyright accusations, not trial determinations, cutting off vast numbers of innocent users from their data without recourse, with governments attempting to ridiculously invoke those sites' terms of service as an excuse. Unfortunate collateral damage.

Fears of child porn are disingenuously exploited to mandate vast personal activity data retention systems for governmental retrospective analysis, often without even a formal search warrant being required. Unfortunate collateral damage.

Vast efforts are engaged to pass website and search engine censorship and micromanagement legislation such as SOPA/PIPA -- suppressed for now but certain to reemerge in some form, designed to enrich traditional content owners at the cost of trampling free speech across the Net. Unfortunate collateral damage.

Merely linking to sites that may contain copyrighted materials without permission becomes criminalized, resulting in international criminal extraditions that in the past would have been solely in the civil court realm. Accused copyright violators treated like mass murders. Unfortunate collateral damage.

ICANN plows forward with their extortionist scheme to enrich the anointed "gold rush domainer" domain-industrial complex with a plethora of new top-level domains (gTLDs) -- regardless of the massive confusion and expenses this causes to the vast majority of the Internet community -- and appears poised to endorse further global expansion of using the DNS as a "no trial necessary" copyright enforcement and free speech suppression mechanism. Unfortunate collateral damage.

This is all our fault. It is our responsibility. We have permitted the purveyors of fear and greed to corrupt our legal system and now the Internet as well. We are smiling and nodding blankly as they forge the shackles binding us to their wills.

Responsible measures against terrorism are warranted. Reasonable enforcement actions to protect legitimate copyright concerns and help prevent the exploitation of children are appropriate.

But we can no longer permit our entire world to be warped by those parties who are themselves exploiting fears of terrorism, fears of "cyberwar," and outright copyright greed.

In the realm of the Internet at least, there are some obvious actions we should be taking to stop the ongoing decay and set a course toward a better future.

Government attempts to monitor and control the Internet in the name of security must be heavily scrutinized and minimized, particularly ongoing operational involvement (as opposed to research, development, and specific incident responses) by DHS or NSA in these areas. Government recommendations would be welcome -- government dictates are not.

Attempts to use copyright and child exploitation concerns as excuses for broad Internet control, monitoring, and censorship regimes should be soundly rejected. Not only will these be ineffective at actually stopping the targeted behaviors, they will do vast damage to free speech generally around the world.

The existing DNS system should be replaced over time by secure and distributed addressing systems not subject to preemptive and unilateral government attempts to treat them as blunderbuss weapons and often internationally extralegal copyright enforcement mechanisms.

Criminalization of mere Internet linking should cease. Search engines must be assured autonomy of their search results.

ICANN's current gTLD expansion plan should be halted. A new, purpose-built international organization (not an existing organization with political baggage like the UN or ITU) should be created to supplant and replace ICANN functionalities and responsibilities, with an eye toward what's best for the entire Internet community and the broader global community at large.

That's enough to get us started.

Not only in the wake of 9/11, but particularly since then, we have allowed our legal and technical systems to be usurped and perverted by forces allied against free speech and due process, in the name of power, control, and greed.

And through our acquiescence in these travesties, we are increasingly all becoming "unfortunate collateral damage" ourselves.

It's time to say that enough is enough.

The rape of what made us great ends now.

--Lauren--

Posted by Lauren at 01:10 PM | Permalink
Twitter: @laurenweinstein
Google+: Lauren Weinstein


March 12, 2012

Channeling Spock: Obama & Gas Prices - Google & Privacy

Despite my time spent in the Star Trek production universe many years ago, by most standards today I'm not a really hard-core Trekkie, or Trekker, or whatever the word is these days for the serious Trek convention fans.

But as I've noted in the past, I do sometimes find myself feeling somewhat Spock-like irritation at utterly illogical arguments being promoted regarding important issues.

I was reminded of this again a few days ago, when I saw recent footage of a FOX News reporter (at a presidential press conference) suggesting to the President that Obama actually wanted gasoline prices to be going up now, since this would (according to the reporter) support an alternative fuel agenda.

Obama's exasperation at this "question" was nearly palpable, and he replied with a question of his own, "Just from a political perspective, do you think the President of the United States going into re-election wants gas prices to go up higher? Is that -- is there anybody here who thinks that makes a lot of sense?"

Obviously the FOX reporter's assertion made no sense whatsoever, and was essentially political pandering to his audience, whom he presumably feels are mainly composed of idiots who would believe his outlandish contention.

But this sort of disingenuous accusations game isn't restricted to the traditional political realm -- it plays out in the tech world as well.

Case in point, the messages still appearing daily in my inbox, accusing Google of nefarious anti-privacy cookie subterfuge.

I blew apart those nonsensical arguments last month in Google, Safari, and a Clamor of Cookie Confusion, but in the name of logic I'm going to emphasize one aspect again here and now.

Just as it would be irrational for a president to want higher gas prices going into an election, what possible sense would it make for Google to purposely use cookies in ways to (supposedly "secretly") violate their users' privacy?

Gas prices aren't hidden from observers -- neither are cookie behaviors!

Presidents can be replaced at elections. Search engines can be replaced by users with a single mouse click over to a competitor.

And just as it's pretty clear that FOX News has political motives for making their inane suggestions about gasoline prices, it's also painfully obvious that there are forces (in furtherance of their own motives) all too willing to sow FUD -- Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt -- about Google, despite the utterly illogical nature of such assertions in the light of even a minuscule bit of reasoning.

It's perfectly proper for disagreements to arise regarding political issues, Internet issues, and pretty much anything else.

But differences of opinion should not be an excuse for absurd remonstrations, regardless of their motives. They serve only to blur and confuse, and while for some adherents of this approach these are their obvious goals, it would serve you humans well to reject such fallacious arguments, and to try apply at least a semblance of logic to these issues.

Live long and prosper.

--Lauren--

Posted by Lauren at 01:15 PM | Permalink
Twitter: @laurenweinstein
Google+: Lauren Weinstein