July 05, 2013

The Government Masters of Hypocrisy -- vs. Google

It would be just swell to wake up one morning, check the news, and not feel like I was trapped in a 21st century version of the film "Groundhog Day" or some sort of twisted parallel universe where the Mad Hatter rules supreme.

But it appears that we're still doomed to endless replays of "I Got You Babe" and calls of "I want a clean cup!" into the foreseeable future.

To wit, one need only note the new statements of feigned outrage from the EU, complaining about Google's privacy policies, generally similar in focus to those we've seen from the FTC here in the USA at various times.

These are much the same European countries, we note with bemusement, who have either been revealed to be running (or can be assumed to operate) major communications surveillance operations against their own citizens and international traffic, in manners similar to those that have brought our own NSA into an unwelcome (for the agency itself, anyway) spotlight.

Over the last few days we've heard much about the UK's massive comm spying ops, and just yesterday France's own vast efforts along these same lines were revealed. Sacrebleu!

And if anyone really believes that Germany and pretty much all other western countries with sufficient resources -- plus our old friends like China, Russia, and the rest -- aren't engaging in the same "Spy vs. Spy" routines, there's an old bridge over the East River you might wish to consider purchasing.

The reality is that even while governments profess outrage over spying from other countries, their own surveillance systems are hungrily sucking up everything they can get their hands on.

This isn't new at all.

But in the past, this kind of hypocrisy wasn't generally used to try damage major corporations like Google that serve consumers' privacy and other interests.

I'm not at all a fan of conspiracy theories. Yet it isn't necessary to believe them to smell a smokescreen of government misdirection aimed at diverting attention from enormous personal privacy abuses by governments, through repeatedly trying to scapegoat Google policies that not only don't do damage to consumers, but actually serve consumers' key interests far better than government does nowadays.

So while governments are vacuuming up phone, mail, and financial records, all personally identifiable, we see public attacks by government on harmless, anonymous ad personalization systems, benign browser cookies, and accidental collection of harmless data from open Wi-Fi systems.

If one were actually of a more conspiratorial bent, one might even ponder if Google's forceful pushback related to overly broad government data demands and other associated actions inspired some parties to promote the hyperbolic and discredited (though still widely repeated in the press) false claims of the NSA "PRISM" program having direct access to Google servers.

But again, we need not invoke conspiracies, nor even a high degree of government coordination, to explain this kind of government hypocrisy.

For hypocrisy is indeed as old as governments themselves -- and diversionary smokescreens are a tried and true technique to be sure.

The difference this time, is that the magnitude of public revelations about government surveillance programs around the world -- that we always knew existed but were rarely spoken of in public -- allows us to more clearly see the scope of hypocrisy aimed at Google by USA and EU regulators and politicians.

And that clarity may help make this Mad Hatter Groundhog Day universe a bit more understandable at that.

Clean cups, anyone?

(Disclaimer: I'm an occasional consultant to Google. My postings would be exactly the same if I weren't.)

Posted by Lauren at July 5, 2013 12:05 PM | Permalink
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