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Archive for August, 2010

15
Aug

Loss of net neutrality could further erode privacy online, to Google's advantage

The NY Times has a rather good article out about the impact that the loss of net neutrality would have on user privacy:

Without neutrality, say advocates of online privacy, the Internet becomes more like a mall — where users are from the start viewed as consumers — and less like a public square.

“The people who are pushing for a nonneutral world are pushing it for monetary purposes,” said Cindy Cohn, legal director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which advocates for privacy online.

“Interfering with packets,” she said, echoing Mr. Saxon’s concerns, “creates the space for this kind of surveillance.”

Google has no incentive to be in favor of “net neutrality”. It is already a monster, the Monster of Mountain View. Because of its size, it can strike deals with internet service providers like Verzion, ensuring that its “services” are delivered through the fast lane. So what if everyone else gets screwed?

Google isn't interested in being the web's gateway. Rather, Google's executives want Google to be the destination. The only place you have to go when you connect to the Internet. Er, make that the GoogleNet. Google envisions itself as handling all your communications needs (email, chat, and social networking) providing a global storefront for you to buy physical goods, digital content, plus software “apps”, and giving you a place to store your data (photos, documents, spreadsheets, etc.) Since you'll trust Google with all your information, everything, Google will know pretty much everything about you. And they'll be able to use such knowledge to monetize you.

It is already happening:

For a recent series in The Wall Street Journal about how Web sites track their visitors, called “What They Know,” The Journal studied the top 50 Web sites in the United States to see how many tools they embedded in visitors’ computers. Many use more than 100 such tools; only Wikipedia had none.

Eben Moglen, a professor at Columbia Law School who is an advocate for free software and online privacy, sees frameworks like the one proposed by Google and Verizon as emphasizing the business of the Internet at the expense of the privacy of the Internet.

“As the network does more to adapt to what commerce needs, it becomes more and more about knowing what’s inside the head of the user, about what the person is doing and buying,” he said.

Google has sold out on net neutrality, just like it sold out on user privacy a long time ago. If you are bothered by this, do what we've done: Leave Google behind. It's possible. And it's rewarding. You'll see more of the Web, you'll see it faster, and you'll see it with less clutter and junk.