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Re: maybe not djf AT&T the Web Spy? -- And Their Big Google Lie
From: David Farber <dave () farber net>
Date: Fri, 15 Aug 2008 15:59:36 -0400



Begin forwarded message:

From: "Erich M." <me () quintessenz org>
Date: August 15, 2008 2:49:22 PM EDT
To: dave () farber net
Subject: Re: [IP] AT&T the Web Spy? -- And Their Big Google Lie

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David Farber wrote:

Servus Dave, for IP if you wish.

Begin forwarded message:

From: Lauren Weinstein <lauren () vortex com>
Date: August 14, 2008 6:28:16 PM EDT


AT&T's new Big Lie regarding Google is of particular note:

"Advertising network operators such as Google have evolved beyond
 merely tracking consumer Web surfing activity on sites for which
 they have a direct ad-serving relationship. They now have the
 ability to observe a user's entire Web browsing experience at a
 granular level."
    -- Dorothy Attwood, AT&T senior vice president for public policy

That second sentence is the kicker -- and is simply untrue.  But
it's crucial to AT&T's arguments that people *believe* it to be
factual.

Google does collect a great deal of data across their affiliated
networks, via IP addresses, cookies (when enabled by users), and
presumably URL referers as well.  But this only includes sites
somehow affiliated with the Google networks, and/or users who have
installed various Google tools and enabled associated site reporting
features.  But it does *not* otherwise include all visited Web
sites.  Not by a long shot.

I would not be so sure at all of the latter, Lauren. Of course you are
perfectly right that AT&T as your telco access providor can monitor all
you do online. Unless you use a VPN, of course.

As to Google:

In the German speaking world about 80 percent of the leading news
websites run Google analytics and/or google syndication resp. doubleclick.

See the link at the bottom to an online tool called ontraXX where you
can look up whether the US news websites you read hand over all your
usage data to Google. You should be surprised how many these are.

German and Austrian top news sites send their visitors' clickstreams to
Google for analysis, a service free of charges. Google sends then
[incomplete] sites statistics back.

According to EU data protection laws owners of websites have to inform
their users about their usage data being handed over to third parties.
Neither spiegel.de nor sueddeutsche.de, nor derstandard.at complied to
that when I ran that news story two months ago.

These EU media and many others also violate Google's policy over here in
EU: to add a disclaimer - according to EU laws - on a "prominent place"
on the respective website.

Nobody likes to do that in a EU country, because the disclaimer starts
with a sentence saying: This website uses Google Analytics, a service by
Google, all your traffic data will be stored on a server in the Unites
States of America".

I asked a Google spokesperson in Hamburg, Germany a few months ago on
that matter. What is Google doing to sanction those who violate Google's
policy, by not adding the said disclaimer on a "prominent" place on
their website?

The Google spokesperson answered: "That is a good question. I will check
into that matter". Obviously that checking is still going on as  I have
not heard of him again since mid june.

If you read the leading print news media in Germany or Austria online,
Google is more or less always watching you. All user traffic data go
into one, big pot.

I would not be surprised if the same was the case in the USA. The New
York Times does it and the Washington Post does it well. LA Times uses
all three Google services.

There is no mentioning of Google in the privacy policy of the Washington
Post -to pick one out - just a tiny Google logo a very long scroll away
on the very bottom  on the frontpage.

The ontraXX.net machine description is - I'm afraid to tell - only in
German. But that should not be a problem: Just type in the domain you
wish to check and type in. Amongst "Externe Services"

http://www.ontraxx.net/

The guy who owns that and the related notraxx.net, Walter Karban,
managed to get an altavista license in 1997 and ran a self branded
search engine called "austronaut.at" for a few years. He used that as a
PR tool for his small company because the .at domain was not indexed
that well on altavista or lycos, then.

I am really on your side when bashing the circuit switched gang for
their extensive network surveillance, Lauren.

Know a bit about that topic. But: All our online _news_ consuming habits
in one pot at Google?

Servus from Europe
Erich Moechel











Yet however much dispersed data Google collects in this manner, it
still pales in comparison to the 100% of subscribers' unencrypted
data directly available to ISPs via DPI, and the immense leverage
ISPs have over their customers' total Internet access experience --
with bandwidth caps looming as yet another tool in the ISPs'
anti-competitive arsenal.

In fact, ISPs are the only entity with "the ability to observe a
user's entire Web browsing experience at a granular level."

And there's another factor too -- more of a gut feeling than a
technical analysis.  Do I have any issues with some of Google's data
collection and related privacy practices?  Sure, that's not a
secret.  But I've been encouraged by Google's continuing evolution
in this area, and in particular by their willingness not to simply
roll over in the face of outrageous demands for access to customer
data.

I realize that all corporations must obey the law, that financial
considerations can always put privacy concerns at risk, and that all
sorts of other complex factors enter into these situations.  But all
else being equal, I simply am more willing to trust my data to
Google's current management philosophy than I am to the "Yes Sir,
whatever you say, Sir! sensibilities of AT&T when it comes to
outsiders wanting to pry into their subscribers' communications.

I used to know quite a few great people at AT&T, especially at Bell
Labs in its heyday.  Perhaps it's something of a metaphor for where
we are now that most of those brilliant individuals have been driven
away from AT&T -- and in more than one case they're now at -- Google!

The large ISPs want to remake the Internet in their own image.  They
see today -- right now -- as the best possible time to take total
and complete ownership of Internet users and all associated data.
They wish to make sure that the ISPs' positions as gatekeepers to
the entire Internet in every respect are firmly entrenched within
the oligarchy of the existing U.S. Internet access landscape.

To help ensure outcomes favorable to these goals, it seems that some
ISPs are willing to say or do just about anything, be it saddling
their subscribers with unreasonable Terms of Service, implementing
oppressive operational limitations and bandwidth caps, and in the
case of AT&T, issuing distortions and lies about Google as well.

Shame on you, Ma Bell.

--Lauren--
Lauren Weinstein
lauren () vortex com or lauren () pfir org
Tel: +1 (818) 225-2800
http://www.pfir.org/lauren
Co-Founder, PFIR
 - People For Internet Responsibility - http://www.pfir.org
Co-Founder, NNSquad
 - Network Neutrality Squad - http://www.nnsquad.org
Founder, PRIVACY Forum - http://www.vortex.com
Member, ACM Committee on Computers and Public Policy
Lauren's Blog: http://lauren.vortex.com





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