I have decided to post

I have decided to post the direct comments that were made about my piece on Google. For the most part they were dismissive, or critical. I’m glad with the reaction, and that it generated a certain amount of debate. The comments made by Pyra’s (now Google’s) Steve Jenson, along with my reply are here.  

Below are the main comments with emails deleted.

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I don’t get sent to google.co.uk

I am British.

Please adjust your tin helmet. It only feeds other people’s paranoia.

nick sweeney  3/8/03; 10:38:55 PM
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Oooooh. So Google writes a cookie. Dates it for a date that makes it years out from expiring. Oh, and let’s add that they atually are interested in (1) what browser I’ve used in prior trips and (2) in tayloring my search output so that more language specific sites come to the top.

But get this: when some John Doe DEMANDED an explanation and none was forthcoming, IT’S A CONSPIRACY!

Maybe the realities are this: (1) They were so busy ROFL they just couldn’t get up to give you a reply. (2) The REAL conspiracy is coming from these Radio blog whiners (not to be confused with Winer – but yes, he is a member of this group) who had Google actually snub them.

DD  3/9/03; 4:39:05 AM
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Hmm, are you sure AllTheWeb isn’t keeping records either?

Seb  3/9/03; 7:32:16 AM
 
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You asked in your response to Steve, “Am I being paranoid?”

If you compare the Google Privacy Policy to others on the web, you’ll find it’s quite typical of what ANY company reveals. In fact, if you look at the AllTheWeb Privacy Policy ((e.g. http://www.alltheweb.com/info/about/privacy_policy.html), you’ll find it’s as general as Google’s (if not more so).

AllTheWeb stores cookies for 10 years, Google for 35. The 25-year difference is insignificant when you realize that most people won’t have the same computer, nevertheless the same cookie file, in 3 years. AllTheWeb stores the same information Google does (“IP Address, time of day, browser type, browser language, and any search terms you query”)

The privacy policy that is almost identical to that of your preferred, AllTheWeb, and pretty par for the course among all web services. Are you going to stop using AllTheWeb as well?

Google’t attempt to protect their brand certainly aren’t conspiratorial. Cf. actions by the owners of the brands Kleenex, Teflon, Xerox, Scotch brand adhesive tape, etc. to protect their trademark. You know that yo-yo, aspirin, escalator, thermos, and brasseire were all once trademarked brands that weren’t protected by their owners? By the way, you might want to learn the difference between trademark and copyright — they’re not the same thing. You can’t copyright a brand name.

Interested in conspiracy? Check your sources. You refer to Dave Winer’s (CEO of Userland) comments on Scripting News and to Google-watch.org as your anti-Google sources.

It’s important to note that Dave Winer never (publicly) had anything but glowing, postive things to say about Google until Google acquired Pyra, his primary competitor. (See http://scriptingnews.userland.com/backissues/2003/03/06#weaningOffGoogle.) Dave Winer is certainly not an unbiased commentator by any means.

And the primary complaint of Daniel Brandt, the man behind Google Watch (which you also offer as an authoritative source), isn’t the privacy issue, but Google PageRank. Why does he abhor PageRank? Because his own site doesn’t do well — see Brandt’s own comments in the Salon Article, “Meet Mr. Anti-Google” at http://www.salon.com/tech/feature/2002/08/29/google_watch/print.html.

You seem concerned by Google, but wholly unconcerned that the fear, uncertainy, and doubt that is being spread is championed by people, like Winer and Brandt, who have a vested interest how Google treats their businesses.

Let’s see, are you being paranoid?

The answer is, undoubtedly, yes.

DC Greg 3/9/03; 7:48:35 AM
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Suspicion of Google is all fine and good, but don’t let your distrust of Google send you running into the arms of someone as bad or worse.

For example, alltheweb was recently acquired by overture, a company founded on the idea of pay-for-placement in the main search results list. They may have moderated their approach, but this is where they came from and I think it tells you a lot about what alltheweb will become.

As the above poster points out, it is pretty likely that alltheweb is collecting similar information to Google. Given overtures approach, I would think them more likely to abuse that information than Google, and by abuse, I mean sell it to the highest bidder rather than surrender it to the US government.

If you are worried about government snooping, I’m not sure that it is productive to focus on Google. Whatever integrity they, or any other company has, it will inevitably be compromised on the altar of shareholder value when the governement brings its big legal guns to bear (including the secrecy of evidence collected by a grand jury). Sergie and Larry and Eric Schmidt can resign over it, but that won’t stop the spooks from getting your data. On this front, its probably more productive to focus on your elected (and un-elected) representitives.

Abuse of this information, whether buy the goverment or private interests, is a big problem, and it is a problem that needs good laws as part of the solution.

AC  3/9/03; 11:46:26 AM
 
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Of course, any company/technology that is pervasive must also be evil, right? It’s like you’re only now waking to the fact that things taken for granted (i.e., good search, http, oxygen, gravity, etc.) involve some level of trust.

Are you mad that Google has abused your information, or because they *could* somehow abuse it? I haven’t seen anything on your page that gives me any reason to believe that Google has commited a breach of ethics. I also don’t see how purchasing Pyra destroys some imaginary pact Google had with the general public.

Maybe you should readjust your perspective and realize that unless you take specific measures, your web experience is inherently trackable.

Ed 3/10/03; 9:57:58 AM
 
You’ve GOT to be kidding me. Perhaps you should use more tinfoil to keep the CIA from sending in mind control rays from their orbital lasers.

Guess what? All that browser/IP address/date/time/search term information you’re complaining that Google has? ANYONE running a web server and with half a brain can EASILY track that in server logs. It’s built into web servers. Maybe it’s a conspiracy started by Tim Berners-Lee- isn’t CERN a division of the NSA?

Next, the way Google gives you French pages in France? It’s also set by something automagically sent by your browser every time it makes an HTTP request- something called the accept-language. In Windows IE, this is set using Tools:Internet Options:Languages. Put French in on top uf US-English and Voila! you get a French google page when you go there. Wow, someone wrote a feature that takes advantage of something you send ON EVERY PAGE YOU VISIT ON THE INTERNET. Let’s burn them at the stake.

Eponymous Coawrd  3/12/03; 11:48:51 AM