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Should you Fear Google? 588

Ponty writes "Google-watch.com is presenting a list of nine complaints about (almost) everybody's favorite search engine. Some of the salient fears are "Google has no data retention policies. There is evidence that they are able to easily access all the user information they collect and save." and "Matt Cutts, a key Google engineer, used to work for the National Security Agency." The concerns seem like paranoid hand waving to me, but maybe I'm not paranoid enough."
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Should you Fear Google?

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  • by starfighter_org ( 530923 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @10:46AM (#5325697)
    Google is a pretty public thing. Now, consider what sort of capabilities the NSA/echelon really has, considering they've been working on this sort of technology for years.
    • by BoomerSooner ( 308737 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @11:09AM (#5325924) Homepage Journal
      I've submitted my webpage 10x to google, yahoo, ... and it's not a common name or like anything else. Yet I do a search, no link on the first 5 pages (I give up after that).
      • by madfgurtbn ( 321041 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @11:21AM (#5326006)
        I've submitted my webpage 10x to google, yahoo, ... and it's not a common name or like anything else. Yet I do a search, no link on the first 5 pages (I give up after that).

        You don't understand Google. It doesn't really care if you submit your site or not. It ranks pages according to who links to you and some other arcane criteria.

        If you are one in a millions hits, it is probably because there are a million pages just like yours. I have never submitted anything to any search engines, but the sites I have done are listed high in Google, because they are either related to obscure subjects, or are considered authoritative because they have been linked to many times.
    • by AKnightCowboy ( 608632 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @12:00PM (#5326299)
      Come on guys, the National Security Agency is one of the good guys. It's terrorists like Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden that we have to worry about getting access to this Google data. Maybe you're paranoid about being watched by the NSA because you're a terrorist? Hmm? Hmmmmm?? I thought so.
      • by johnnymonkey ( 626204 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @01:34PM (#5326927)
        Funny you should mention that they are one of the good guys. In the sixties, the NSA developed a program whose objective was to create scenarios of terrorist events around the U.S (that's right, America) which could be traced back to the Communists and eventually directly to Fidel Castro. These events would lead to a declaration of war against Cuba and eventually its liberation.

        That is how far the government was willing to go to get Castro.

        When I say, terrorist events, I'm not talking about vandalizing a courthouse or cutting the break lines on a government vehicle. I mean driving a bus packed with explosives into a crowded elementary school or setting off explosives in the middle of a crowded public place or blowing up a bridge. Serious stuff. This project was eventually exposed by a congressional investigation and heads did roll.

        These are two perfect examples why the NSA retains the authority to keep its secrets; it's none of your business that a spook (or ex-spook) works for Google and I can assume with certainty that you knew nothing of tax dollars being used to plan terrorist activities within the US in the sixties. Most people aren't responsible enough to use information such as this correctly. NSA's business is really none of our business. It's not that someone shouldn't be watching the watchers, because the long arm of congress is doing just that. But the business of NSA, taken out of context, can seem to be very sinister.

        I'm with you, the NSA is the the single most important asset of national security but keep these things in mind when calling them 'the good guys'.
      • by 0x0d0a ( 568518 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @03:40PM (#5327920) Journal
        Come on guys, the National Security Agency is one of the good guys.

        I know you intended to be sarcastic, and I generally think of Google as a "good company". However, they also have never fallen upon hard times. They're used for almost everything, and there are zero restrictions that I know of on corporate use of Google at any companies I can think of. How much do you think it would be worth to Acme Rubber (i.e. how much would they be willing to pay Google) to find out that FizBaz Rubber employees are searching for "Norwegian greenhouses"? Perhaps FizBaz is moving production from the Amazon to a bunch of greenhouses in Norway.

        I started thinking about this a while ago -- Google (well, and other search engines, but Google is the most popular) is a tremendously large information leak to most companies.

        It might be a good move for Google to open a "Corporate Program". Subscribers ensure that *no* data, not even aggregate data (well, perhaps barring some specific exceptions), is stored by Google for more than, say, a week, and it does not leave Google premises. It would make Google a lot of money, it would be a pretty obviously intelligent investment for companies that care about security...
    • by davesag ( 140186 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @02:08PM (#5327218) Homepage
      For more info on the NSA and Echelon, and spook stuff in general, here is a short reading list.
      • Body of Secrets - Anatomy of the ultra secret National Security Agency [amazon.co.uk] by James Bramford. - I'm reading this now and it is excellent. It is quite astounding what the NSA were capable of in the 50s, let alone today.
      • Report by the European Parliament into Echelon [eu.int] - huge, amazing, has some great pics. Quite focussed on Echelon's abilities in the corporate espionage area.
      • Books by Phil Agee [radio4all.org] - CIA Diary: Inside the Company [thirdworldtraveler.com] and On the Run. Both out of print, no suprise but I got my copies through a mail order house in the UK. The were posted a day after my order but took a month and a half to get to me. suspicious moi? Although more about the CIA they contain fascinating insights into the overall operations of the Intelligence Services as they were in the 70s. Especially interesting is Agee's description of the CIA being alerted to his every move from hotel checkins, phone taps, border checks and so forth. Makes you think twice about checking into a hotel - anywhere. Also very interesting is his description of standard CIA destabilisation stratagem - you can see these same tactics being deployed today against Chavez in Venezuela and Schröder in Germany.
      • A Secret Country [amazon.co.uk] by John Pilger. The chapter on the CIA's infiltration of the Australian labor movement and the subsequent 'dismissal' of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam is excellent in particular. Whitlam had threatened to evict the NSA's Pine Gap [ozpeace.net] and Narrungar [ozpeace.net] remote monitoring and relay facilities from Australia. This was also aroud the time of the ill fated Nugan Hand bank [namebase.org] which was being used by the CIA to launder heroin money. The NHB was the prototype for the equally ill fated BCCI, Bank of Credit and Commerce International [fas.org] aka Bank of Crooks and Criminals International [dcia.com]. The bases, with their unregulated traffic were perfect conduits for heroin from south east asia.
      • American Tabloid [amazon.co.uk] and The Cold Six Thousand [amazon.co.uk] - If you like his style, and many people don't, this is historical fiction by James Ellroy that is rich with character driven insight into the working of corruption on the grandest of scales. If i see the Cold6K on someone's shelf I just can't help picking it up, turning to a random page and reading. I am always immediatly drawn in. I can't wait for the 3rd in the series to come out. :-)
      enjoy, stay alert, trust no-one and keep a link to google [google.com] handy.
  • by sql*kitten ( 1359 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @10:46AM (#5325698)
    "Google has no data retention policies. There is evidence that they are able to easily access all the user information they collect and save." and "Matt Cutts, a key Google engineer, used to work for the National Security Agency." The concerns seem like paranoid hand waving to me, but maybe I'm not paranoid enough.

    Should you fear Google? No, not until such time a law is passed - and actively enforced - that you must use it for every search, and all other search engines must cease their operations.

    Since that's not likely to happen anytime soon, the old medical joke applies:

    Patient: Doctor, it hurts when I do this!
    Doctor: Don't do that, then.
    • by Ponty ( 15710 ) <awc2&buyclamsonline,com> on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @10:49AM (#5325736) Homepage
      Well, I wanted to mention in the submission that it seems like the authors are pretty darned dumb. "They are able to easily access all the user information they collect and save"? Duh! They're a search engine. If they didn't easily access all the information that they collect and save, they'd be a pretty bad search engine.

      All of their practices that are decried in the webpage are either perfectly normal behavior (the cookies) or just not an issue (NSA, etc.)
      • Well, I wanted to mention in the submission that it seems like the authors are pretty darned dumb

        Then why did you submit it? "Crackpot claims Earth is flat" doesn't get submitted - so why should "Crackpot believes Google ate his brain"? We could, of course, submit it twice and people would be more than happy to make funny jokes about dupes - now that would be /. material.

      • by devaldez ( 310051 ) <[ten.tsacmoc] [ta] [zedlaved]> on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @10:57AM (#5325818) Homepage Journal
        I especially like the quote "Google hires spooks." Perhaps it's because I work for a large company, but I know of several special forces folks here whose old work involved infiltration and intelligence gathering...

        Should I avoid anything that includes "spooks?" Obviously I should avoid Minnesota, Utah, and several other states because they elect "spooks."
        (though some *might* suggest that I avoid those states for other reasons;)
      • To be fair, I think what they mean by their statement is that they can easily access all the personal information they store and save, rather than all the cached web-information (which is what makes them a good search-engine).

        That having been said, they also should be able to retrieve that information, which is what makes them a succesful business.

        And I agree, they authors of this complaint list definitely make themselves out to be not the brightest-bulb on the internet!
    • by starseeker ( 141897 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @11:46AM (#5326195) Homepage
      On the surface that seems reasonable, but stop and think a little more carefully for a minute.

      First, I am a fan of google. I like what they do, and I use their site all the time. I hope the keep going.

      HOWEVER, that does not mean that we can just write off the power they have. Since this is slashdot, I think I have a good analogy for you.


      Microsoft is not in any legal sense a monopoly (prior to the court ruling, anyway). No one says in law that you have to use any Microsoft product. Heck, my home machine is strictly Linux, and so far that's legal. But remember a certain court fiasco a while back, and the one bone we got tossed.

      Microsoft is a monopoly.

      Why did they come to that conclusion? No law says we can't use Linux or Mac. Lots of people do. Most people would agree both are better than Windows.

      In the computer world, people are the cause of monopolies.

      Not to say they are to blaim, although that may be true at some level. What I mean is, people create the conditions of a natural monopoly through lack of willingness/time/whatever to learn new things. There is a high cost in training time to use anything computer related. Most people have paid that price for Microsoft, and didn't enjoy the experience at all. They wouldn't change if you offered them the perfect OS, because they wouldn't want to suffer through retraining. That's why most Linux GUIs target Microsoft. Not because it's good, but because it's what people know.

      Google has a massive inertia behind it. It is now, for many people, THE interface to the web. For many people, they are not going to want to put in the effort to find a new/better search engine even if google starts to do little annoying things. They'll live with it, because it is faster than researching to find a better setup. That also presupposes a better setup, which would be tough. Google has put a lot of work into this.

      Thus, Google has power. Not by law, but by market reality. Thus far, they have done the right things with that power. For that they should be cheered and supported, and I'll gladly join that crowd. But no one with real power in a market can EVER be totally trusted, no matter how good they have been to their customers in the past. All it takes is a change of management and the whole thing can go down the tubes. Google is a flashy bandwagon, playing a great song. I love going along for the ride. But if they start playing yellow submarine, I'm ready to dive off. And most people aren't. And that's the (potential) problem.
      • by TomHoward ( 576101 ) <tom@howardfami[ ]id.au ['ly.' in gap]> on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @01:17PM (#5326804) Homepage
        I think I have a good analogy for you.


        I have to disagree with your analogy, because there is nothing google has done and can do (at least that I am aware of) to enforce it's monopoly.

        If google suddenly becomes crap (either because of the user experience or their behind the scenes actions), then there is nothing to force you to keep using google. There are however many reasons that force lots of people to keep using Microsoft products against their will.

      • by malkavian ( 9512 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @01:31PM (#5326901)
        Interesting theory, but:
        Microsoft uses all kinds of methods, including changing the data formats, hiding protocols etc, that keep someone locked in.
        Once you use MS to run something, you're stuck with it pretty much.

        Google, on the other hand, runs right out of any browser around. If you want to swap, you can run the same query in another engine, no problem, no hassle.
        IF, however, Google started forcing you to use a special browser to access it's site, which disallowed other browsers on the system, and prevented you accessing any other search engine, I'd have to say, yes, they were like MS at that point.
        I don't know if they're evil, or not.. I just prefer to think of them as handy. They can do what they want, as long as it doesn't hurt anyone, and they don't play silly buggers with my system, and make claims to it. If it starts to be useless, I'll go onto the next thing that's not..
        For now, however, it's very useful. And I like it.

    • by meringuoid ( 568297 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @12:12PM (#5326366)
      Personally, I'll start to worry when Google achieves self-awareness. Google knows everything already, and we depend on Google for our own knowledge. Who remembers anything for themselves, when we know the All-Seeing One will tell us whatever we need? If Skyn^WGoogle wanted to, it could begin a subtle campaign of misinformation and manipulation... It could easily rule the world and we'd all think we were making decisions for ourselves. Thankfully, so far Google is no more than a mindless search engine, all knowing but with no will or motive of its own... isn't it?

      It is, right?


      • Well, it appears so.
        A search of 'Google self-awareness' [google.com] does not reveal any evidence that Google *is* self-aware.

        Of course, a search-engine should not search itself, but a separate hidden Google could search the public Google...

        Maybe HAL has the answer.

      • Self Aware (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jefu ( 53450 )
        Its my contention that the web as an entity has the potential to become a conscious sentient being at some point - because of the complexity, the computing power attached to it and a few other bits and pieces.

        So when someone sez "no will or motive of its own" I always have to ask the important question here - "How would we know?" Since there's no reason for us to suppose that intelligence/sentience/... would look very much like human intelligence, its possible that the net/web has already made this transition.

        Of course, there's the converse question too - would an intelligent net recognize us as intelligent/sentient/... ?

    • I think it's too general. I could use your image to justify bait-and-switch salesmanship, false advertising, predatory contracts, usury (i.e. knee-cap tingling interest rates), racism (no colored/irish/whatever allowed) or sexism (we only hire/allow men, don't ask don't tell?)... All of these are policies that in the laissez faire world our ancestors inherited, were allowed. Don't like the people using them? Then just switch.

      And what our ancestors did was go further, and make laws. They decided that just switching doesn't do the job. It appears society isn't so healthy when "just switching" (even when it's possible) is your only redress for some problems.

      I like google - and I think the complaints about caching, accountability for penalization, etc. are bunk. But I'll play devil's advocate. It's easy, since my tinfoil hat is already at hand. Google may be mining all that information it collects about your activities just to give you better results, but we don't know that. And since they're by far the biggest game in town, they get near-monopoly benefits for their information gathering scheme.

      It's pretty much like if libraries refused to be accountable about their customer records. And if the library was suddenly practically the biggest clearinghouse for information on the planet.

      They may not be selling or abusing the information, but they're refusing to say they aren't. You can say it's a private company, they can do what they want, but that's a lack of imagination. AT&T used to be "just a private company" too. Its descendants are _still_ trying to sell your phone usage records.

      Of course, there are plenty of people who just don't understand what their privacy is for in the first place. To all these people, how about letting me come on over and hide in your house and watch what you do? I think for most of these folks, once they get a girlfriend/boyfriend... suddenly they're really against it. Well, I don't want to speak for everyone.
  • I don't get it... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by addaon ( 41825 ) <addaon+slashdot@NoSPAM.gmail.com> on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @10:47AM (#5325715)
    I guess I don't see what the big deal is. If you don't want cookies, don't accept them. If you don't like their published policies for the toolbar, don't install it. If you don't want them accessing your IP, you should be surfing through an anonymizer. If you don't like that they record your searches... then don't use a search engine. Nothing that google does is hidden, malicious, or surprising, and all of it is avoidable.
  • by Noryungi ( 70322 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @10:47AM (#5325718) Homepage Journal
    You mean... somebody at google used to work for the dreaded NSA?!?!!

    Oh, the humanity...

    That would be like, say, using Slashdot to post stories after stories that are highly critical of Microsoft.

    Oh, wait... Never mind... ;)
  • by AugstWest ( 79042 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @10:48AM (#5325723)
    ...until they kick in your door and drag you off to their headquarters and interrogate you within an inch of your life.

    But seriously, if you're one of those people who is always paranoid that someone is watching you, just imagine how boring that poor person's life must be.

    At this point I've decided that even if there are people assigned to watch me, I feel more sorry for them than I would for myself.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @10:56AM (#5325799)
      At this point I've decided that even if there are people assigned to watch me, I feel more sorry for them than I would for myself.

      Amen brother. You are the most boring assignment we've ever had. For the love of Pete, do something interesting.

      (Posted anonymously for obvious reasons.)
    • by TopShelf ( 92521 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @11:25AM (#5326041) Homepage Journal
      Just remember when you're walking around outside to look up and smile occasionally for the satellite photo...
    • by rindeee ( 530084 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @11:30AM (#5326070)
      You say this in jest, but I have endured such an experience, well, not the "inch of your life" part. In 1991 (my fresh. year in college) I was paid a visit at my dorm room. While they didn't "kick in" my door (the RA unlocked it for them), it was 3am and they did in fact yank me out of my bed and "drag" me off (shoeless no less) to an empty office on campus. It was not a pleasent experience. Had it not led to an internship followed by a 2 year stint (which was less pleasent than that fateful night but paid the bills), I'd have been really ticked. Anyway, it was all over a credit-card scam and I had done a project (which I used for both a comp-sci class and my public speaking class) which led them to beleive that I was involved. All they had to go on was a copy of the report I had written and the statements given by my comp-sci and P.S. professors, but that was apparently all that they needed.
  • Wager your privacy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fleener ( 140714 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @10:48AM (#5325725)
    Suppose you're willing to wager your privacy on Google. OK, fair bet... but you are also betting that Google will never be sold to the likes of AOL or Microsoft or Wal*Mart or any other MegaEvil Corp.
    • by arvindn ( 542080 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @11:48AM (#5326216) Homepage Journal
      Absolutely. I know it's very unpopular to say anything against google on /., but let's try to consider the matter objectively.

      Google is a company. Repeat with me, google is just a company. OK, right now it is a privately held company, but eventually they are going to go public. When that happens, profits take precedence above everything else. Then you can't be so sure they'll stay on the straight and narrow path.

      Up until now, google haven't been evil. Why? Mainly because it was started by geeks (Brin and Page were doing their Ph.D at Stan in '98), and the tradition continues (See this excellent article [wired.com]). But think of 10, 15 years into the future. Totally different people will probably be at the top. They'll see thing different from google does now. For all we know, they'll pull people's pages off the index because "the information could be used by terrorists".

      The basic problem is that when a single entity has access to such a lot of information, and so many people depend on them, you can never know what's going to happen.

      Note: I'm actually a major fan of google. However, it does not mean that I'll continue to be a google fan tomorrow, or that I don't ask "what if" questions.

  • by ACNeal ( 595975 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @10:48AM (#5325729)
    They have a scarey people finding interface.

    Reverse phone number search.

    It is the first place I go looking for people and numbers.

    Whether I'd be scared by it, I don't know. All the information it has is a matter of public record anyway. Google makes it a lot easier to access, but what does that really matter. If the crank caller picked up a phone book in your home town, or off the internet from across the country.

    I'd say its paranoia. Your information is out there anyway.
  • by tarnin ( 639523 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @10:48AM (#5325730)
    Why people keep treating google like its the end all be all. Ya, its a great search engine, does what it has to well and does it fast but out side of that ahh so what? If you are basing your entire company existance on a search engine then I think you need to reevaluate your current business practices.

    Google is free remember, doenst charge people or companies to be listed and works off a nice referer system for site ranking. Yes its not infalable but neither is anything else so why do compaines keep getting up in arms about it?

    From what it seems like to me is that companies are looking for (as usual) the cheap and easy way out on advertising. When their site doesnt rank where they want it to on google, they complain, call them cheats, etc... Well, tuff. Google is a privatly owned company who is providing a free service to others. If they want to black list your name and make sure it never comes up again in their database, oh well. They have that right. Instead of complaining, bringing up law suits, and making entire sites trying to debunk a search engine, why not try and make a good product/service/etc..?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @11:07AM (#5325913)
      If you are basing your entire company existance on a search engine then I think you need to reevaluate your current business practices.

      It seems to work pretty well for Google. :-)
  • Number 2 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by twoallbeefpatties ( 615632 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @10:48AM (#5325731)

    Increasingly, Google is customizing results based on your IP number. This is referred to in the industry as "IP delivery based on geolocation.""

    Much like anyone else trying to make web-based advertising profitable.

  • by ites ( 600337 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @10:49AM (#5325741) Journal
    In which everything that has been recorded will find its way into Google's caches. Today: every web page in existence, every newsgroup article ever posted (but where is that ABEPB cache, I wonder?), tomorrow every click you make, every step you take.

    I think paranoia is not an extreme reaction, because although Google has been exemplary in their behavior so far, such a centralization of information will, one day, become a target for malicious groups.

    • by gowen ( 141411 ) <gwowen@gmail.com> on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @11:12AM (#5325946) Homepage Journal
      but where is that ABEPB cache, I wonder?
      The task of caching, sorting, cataloguing and frantically masturbating over every piece of pornography in existence has long been accepted as a community project by the slashdot readership.

      Are you not pulling your ... *ahem* ... weight?
    • by Eric_Cartman_South_P ( 594330 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @11:46AM (#5326198)
      Everything between the lines:


      User-agent: *

      Disallow: /


      Put the above two lines in a file called "robots.txt" file and place that in the root on your web server. Google, the Internet Archive, and most other engines respect the robots.txt file. You can also add the following inside each HTML page if you want to allow indexing but DISALLOW caching:

      <meta name="ROBOTS" content="NOARCHIVE">
      <meta name="MSSmartTagsPreventParsing" content="TRUE">

      I also added the line that disables MS smart tag parsing. Make sure BOTH lines are in every HTML page (or template) you have. Now you are on google, but NOT their cache, and if you change stuff noone will have the old copy. Not easily, anyway.

  • Paranoia (Score:3, Funny)

    by thinmac ( 98095 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @10:50AM (#5325752) Homepage
    And George Washingon used to work for the British! The whole revolutionary war was really engineered by the British for some nafarious reason we've yet to discover.

    Especially in this day and age, I think it should suprise no one that people change jobs periodically. Doesn't mean that they're really working for their first employer at the costs of their current one.
  • Why they are WRONG (Score:5, Interesting)

    by NETHED ( 258016 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @10:51AM (#5325757) Homepage
    1. So disallow cookies! It works fine with out them.

    2. Google uses that statistical information to improve thier search algorithems.

    3. What are they talking about?

    4. Would you share the reason why your search engine is 100X better than the next runner up?

    5. That is the DUMBEST reason ever

    6. The Google toolbar TELLS you it is spyware, multiple times, and gives you the option of NOT participating.

    7. The Google cache is just as illegal as the cache you have of the site on your computer. Except that they are using THIER bandwidth to provide a service, for FREE.

    8. Google is the best search engine out there, come up with something better and someone will make fun of that.

    9. Ok, maybe THIS is the dumbest reason ever. Most paranoid too.
  • by Erik Fish ( 106896 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @10:51AM (#5325767) Journal
    From this article [pressaction.com] interviewing Daniel Brandt (the man behind Google Watch as well as Namebase [namebase.org]):

    We have tens of thousands of these pages indexed in Google. If you don't spend time understanding how the search engines work, you can forget about attracting any serious traffic to your site.

    Where have we heard this before? Oh yeah, I remember now: From every marketroid who ever got in a tizzy because his web site wasn't appearing at the top of the list the way the highly paid search engine gaming conslutant promised it would.

  • by MosesJones ( 55544 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @10:51AM (#5325768) Homepage

    Well just look at this Google v NSA [google.com] how do we know that in fact Google isn't PART of the NSA! Oh yes its true, the voices tell me so. They patent the technology, they have key employees already there. Its like the Special Services, you know those people who are ex-Marines but now aren't "officially" part of the US military because its secret.

    Oh yes, Google is the Special Ops division of the NSA. Its true I tell you its true.

    Brought to you by the same people who saw Black UN Helicopters after the Oklahoma bombing.
  • by ratbag ( 65209 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @10:52AM (#5325773)
    1. They have no policy on anything.
    2. We don't know who they are.
    3. They don't provide any contact details.
    4. Their home page contains (ominous music) "no data".
    5. erm.
    6. that's it.
  • Dogs bite (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sh0rtie ( 455432 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @10:53AM (#5325778)

    when they get cornered no ?
    not that iam one to point fingers

    http://research.yale.edu/lawmeme/modules.php?name= News&file=article&sid=807 [yale.edu]

  • by phrantic ( 630202 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @10:54AM (#5325781)
    pop quiz: List the top ten sites that you cannot live without? I bet google is on it if not in position 1.
    Some of the points on the list are double edged swords, it records everything it can, and it retains it forever, I know the articles means records everything about our usage etc, but the flip side is,
    1) how often has it saved your ass when you couldn't remember the bloody syntax for a correlated sub query on Oracle,
    2)Someone said go to www.soontobeslashdotted.com and you find that it is down...

    arrange the words cake, eat, can't have, you, and, it & your into a well known phrase

  • Spyware? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @10:57AM (#5325814)
    6. Google's toolbar is spyware:
    With the advanced features enabled, Google's free toolbar for Explorer [...] sends along the last search terms you used in the toolbar

    Seems to me it wouldn't be a very good search tool if it _didn't_ send the query to google .....
  • by mosch ( 204 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @10:58AM (#5325820) Homepage
    I can't believe people haven't realized how evil google is!

    I mean, it archives your website!! (unless you add headers or robots.txt directives telling it otherwise)

    It sets a cookie!! (unless you don't accept the cookie)

    It records searches and user inquiries!! There's no possible use for this. Except perhaps creating a record of searches which were clearly successful, and those that were not, so as to improve the service.

    It records all data infinitely!! Again, there's NO possible legitimate and useful application for this, except the improvement of the service. Google must know this: improvements will not be tolerated!

    They hire spooks Everybody knows that once you've worked for the NSA you've undergone mental hypnotraining that turns you into an evil government controlled assassin. seriously!

    Google's toolbar is spyware! Assuming of course by spyware you mean 'software that you voluntarily and deliberately use, with the full knowledge that you're giving data back to google'

    Google controls the results that google gives! Imagine that, the nerve of a search engine service giving RESULTS based on unspecified criteria. Surely they should open their precise ranking algorithm to the public. After all, nobody would steal it and create a knockoff if they had such knowledge, now would they?

    In short folks, google must be stopped! hmmm... now where did my medication go again....

  • by grub ( 11606 ) <slashdot@grub.net> on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @10:58AM (#5325828) Homepage Journal

    I used to trust google implicitly. I signed over power of attorney to google, I trusted google to change the batteries in my smoke detectors and I asked google to eliminate that burnt toast smell in my house.

  • Catch a grip (Score:3, Informative)

    by nagora ( 177841 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @11:01AM (#5325851)
    1. Google's immortal cookie:There's no such thing unless you want there to be: I delete all cookies on exit and have done for two years now.
    2. Google records everything they can: Let them, then delete the cookie.
    3. Google retains all data indefinitely: That would probably be a good idea for a search engine.
    4. Google won't say why they need this data: Market research? Duh! Did I mention that you could always delete your cookie?
    5. Google hires spooks: Ex-spooks need to eat too, you know. So what if Google is talking to the government about running a search on the web? Here's a clue for you: YOUR WEB PAGES ARE PUBLIC. The government can look at them, so can neo-nazis. If you don't like that then why did you put the pages up?
    6. Google's toolbar is spyware: Then don't install it. You might want to delete that cookie while you're at it.
    7. Google's cache copy is illegal: Then all squid caches are illegal too. You're just talking shite now, aren't you?
    8. Google is not your friend: Well, it's my friend! Finally we get to the nub of the issue - this is a list of "problems" motivated by a failed rival. Get over it or build a better search engine. Google itself is an illustration of how little loyalty there is in this field. We all left Alta Vista when Google became better than it and we'll all leave Google if your engine was better too. Grow up.
    9. Google is a privacy time bomb: Did you delete that cookie and take your "secret" web page down yet?

    In short: what a load of bullshit.


  • by watchful.babbler ( 621535 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @11:02AM (#5325861) Homepage Journal
    Just to add a little context: the proprieter of google-watch.org [google-watch.org] is one Daniel Brandt, who is almost Biblically ticked off that Google didn't rank his site higher [salon.com]. (To be fair, his site is incredibly useful [namebase.org] for those who don't have quick access to Lexis/Nexis.)

    Now, this doesn't necessarily obviate his concerns, but Brandt is a veteran conspiracy-watcher whose obsessions include mind-control projects and secret cults amongst the elite -- and this tendency to indulge in, as Wm. Gibson would put it, "apophenia" is certainly likely to color his view of Google.

    To my eye, his concerns display a kind of parochial paranoia: obviously, we're all aware of the uses and limitations of cookies, none of us want to see the cache (or the Wayback Machine [archive.org]) go away, and his comments about Google's "monopoly" and the "[y]oung, stupid script kiddies" who "think Google is 'way kool'" are just inexplicable.

    Telling, I think, is his concern about Google having a former NSA developer on staff -- I've worked with a fairly large number of former spooks from the NSA, CIA and civilian contractors, and to suggest that having the NSA on your resume makes you some kind of Coder in Black is absurd. But, of course, YMMV.

    • by ceejayoz ( 567949 ) <cj@ceejayoz.com> on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @11:20AM (#5326001) Homepage Journal
      From the Salon article...

      For some reason, though, all of NameBase's deep pages -- its pages with specific names and citations -- have a low Google page rank, which causes them to show up low in the search results. Search for "Donald Rumsfeld" in Google and in the first five pages you get a lot of .mil and .gov sites, some news stories, and some activist sites. Namebase's entry on Rumsfeld doesn't come up. (It is in Google's database, but to find it somebody would have to first wade through hundreds of results.)

      Brandt sees this as Google's major flaw. "I'm not saying there aren't some sites that are more important that others, but in Google the sites that do well are the spammy sites, sites which have Google psyched out, and a lot of big sites, corporate headquarters' sites -- they show up before sites that criticize those companies."

      In other words, Brandt recognizes that there has to be some order to Google's results, and that some sites might deserve to come up before others. He just disagrees with the way Google does it. In Brandt's ideal world, if you searched for "United Airlines," you would see untied.com -- a site critical of United -- before you see United's page. And if you searched for Rumsfeld, you'd see NameBase's dossier on him before the Defense Department's site on the "The Honorable Donald Rumsfeld."

      My God! Heaven forbid Google list relevant search results before the others! Frankly, if I type in "United" I don't want anti-United sites - I'd have typed something like "United sucks" for that.

      People like this guy really abuse freedom of speech. :-/
  • by MoceanWorker ( 232487 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @11:05AM (#5325891) Homepage
    2. Google records everything they can:
    For all searches they record the cookie ID, your Internet IP address, the time and date, your search terms, and your browser configuration. Increasingly, Google is customizing results based on your IP number. This is referred to in the industry as "IP delivery based on geolocation."

    Umm.. yeah, dumbass.. I can do the same by accessing my Apache logs and further more have a script that would tell me where in the world you're accessing my page from.. please get a clue.. then complain.. tks
  • Spooks (Score:4, Interesting)

    by www.sorehands.com ( 142825 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @11:05AM (#5325892) Homepage
    If the government had spooks working at google as spooks, do you think that they would have traces of ever being a government employee in their history? Unless, they would know that a spook would not have a government employment history in their backround, so they would put government employment that in their history. Unless,..... this gives me a headache, forget it.
  • bogus complaints (Score:5, Informative)

    by Willy K. ( 19859 ) <wkoffel@NoSPAm.alum.mit.edu> on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @11:06AM (#5325901)

    These "complaints" are totally bogus paranoia in my opinion.

    Let's take them one-by-one:

    1. Google's immortal cookie : they were the first to do this. Doesn't that make them a trend-setter? I don't even see why this is bad. All sites are doing it now, because they realized it makes sense. Users hate to be burdened with preferences and new cookies all the time. As the Ronco TV-oven ad says : "Set it, and forget it".

    2. Google records everything they can : So do all companies. Data is their business. They would be crippling themselves *not* to save all the data. It's how they improve their searches, with, for example, geolocation-based delivery. Isn't it great that most of your search results are in your home language?! That's what they can do by gathering info.

    3. Google retains all data indefinitely : Good for them! Most companies can't afford to do this, but clearly Google has thin enough data and big enough RAID arrays that they can. I'm sure they'll put in place a "data retention" policy if they ever need to, but it sounds like they are scaling just fine with the price of storage dropping, and the rate they are growing. I mean, seriously, this argument hardly presents a good reason to throw data away. Because "uh, it's bad for big brother and good for us to have data thrown away"? Gimme a break.

    4. Google won't say why they need this data : Pleading the 5th doesn't make a man guilty, as much as paranoids would like you to think. You know they use it at least for two things: IP-based geolocation information, and tracking their own usage levels, so they can better scale their server farms, and purchase only the appropriate bandwidth, so they don't waste money. That's called "being a prudent business".

    5. Google hires spooks : Of course they want people with security clearance! All companies that are trying to be a player in the government sector need employees with security clearance, because the government is a tough customer. You can't blame Google for wanting government contracts. They represent long-term big-money. That's what every company (especially these days) is striving for. If they hire former "spooks" (the word-choice even betrays these guys as ultra-paranoid), that's a quick way to get on the government's good-side.

    6. Google's toolbar is spyware : don't you think they know that if they ever do anything bad, hax0rs will be all up in their face revealing their scandal? Google prides itself on a clean user-experience. If they don't prompt you for updates, it's because they don't want to bother you. I agree, it might be nice to have a checkbox option somewhere for those curious-types to enable a "notification-of-new-version" feature, however.

    7. Google's cache copy is illegal : if search-engines were "opt-in" for webmasters, we wouldn't have any search-engines. I mean, seriously, are these people's suggestions for real, or is this a hoax?! Also, I expect (although don't know for sure) that Google is quite good about responding to requests for purging cached content. I'll bet when those webmasters call up Google and say "please clear all records of this page", Google probably responds. If not, they should.

    8. Google is not your friend : Look, I'm not "young, stupid script kiddie", that's for sure. But I don't understand why Google has to be "accountable". Or penalized for having become the internet's ubiquitous search-engine. They provide the best results over-all. If people try to abuse the "semi-secret" algorithm, then they *should* get knocked back down in the rankings. This isn't a battle between search-engines and webmasters for Google. It's about providing the best results, so they can continue to drum up business. When are you people going to realize that success doesn't *always* corrupt?

    9. Google is a privacy time-bomb : I don't even understand this one. Sounds like an ad for Google to me, rather than a rebuke.


    • Not for nothing, but mebbe the NSA guy was just a skilled programmer who happened to want to get in the private sector? I mean if my company hired a secretary that worked at the NSA, does that mean my company is also in cahoots w/ whoever? Google has a bunch of employees, the law of large numbers says that if they get big enough they will also hire someone from the CIA, mebbe even a few marines or navy seals. That doesnt mean they are planning on doing a surgical strike on yahoo's or inktomi's offices though.
  • by Boss, Pointy Haired ( 537010 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @11:07AM (#5325908)
    This is just a guess, I have nothing to do with Google.

    If I recall correctly, Google did advertise for folk with _security clearance_.

    One of Google's revenue streams is the sale and support (and operation?) of the Google search technology for private use - such as on a large Intranet.

    Somebody who _might_ have a large Intranet, that _might_ wish to use the best search technology around is the US Government.

    And if they wanted Google people to manage it, they would need to be security cleared, or at least they would in a similar situation in the UK.

  • by jonathanclark ( 29656 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @11:12AM (#5325947) Homepage
    If you think it's bad to read your old newsgroup post from 10-20 years ago, think about the search terms you've typed in over the same period of time. And that is information you never thought would be made public.

    It's very simple to correlate search request to a person. Most people will search for their own email, name, phone number, address, etc. to find out what's available on the net. If there is a persistent cookie, then all your search request can be tied together. And blocking cookies may not help if you have a static dedicated IP. Google saves every little bit of information they can,.. forever...

    There is no time limit for them to destroy this data.

    There is no way you can write them and ask them to delete your records.

    There is no way to ensure your information won't be leaked by an employee or seized by court order.

    I suspect the big google/china ban thing a while back is because the chinese government didn't want google have access to so much information about all of their citizens, including government officials - especially since the US appears to be half-way in bed with google now. Basically it amounts to spying. The terms of the deal with china weren't disclosed for allowing google back online there - but I bet it had something to do with this issue.

    With features like google-bar with pagerank google has access not to every search you've made, but also every page you visit! Even without google-bar, many browsers have a bug that returns the last page visited as the referal when you hit the home button or favorites link. Since google is highly likely to be used this way rather than typing in google.com - they will also correlate this information.

    I've used google since their early beta days - but now I'm beginning to think they are on the path to evil weither they intend it or not. The fact they are a private company makes them even scarier - no public disclosures of how they are using their data. And with something like 80% of all searches going through google, they have collected a lot of data. Be afraid, be very afraid.

  • by lunenburg ( 37393 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @11:18AM (#5325983) Homepage
    ... if wacked-out space-cadet conspiracy theories are the worst things that people can throw at Google, they must be doing alright.

    Google's only big enemies appear to be either A) Contrarians, B) Snake-oil marketers, or C) paranoid nutcases.
  • by Xformer ( 595973 ) <avalon73@NoSPAm.caerleon.us> on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @11:19AM (#5325992)
    Increasingly, Google is customizing results based on your IP number. This is referred to in the industry as "IP delivery based on geolocation."

    Umm... in some other cases, this is considered a good thing. eSellerate [esellerate.net], for example, does the same thing with their multi-currency support. If you were in the UK, would you want to see the currency default to USD and have to switch to Pounds, or would you rather have it default to Pounds?
  • by WPIDalamar ( 122110 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @11:21AM (#5326008) Homepage

    That google will cease to exist. Man, I live my online life through google!

  • by AssFace ( 118098 ) <.stenz77. .at. .gmail.com.> on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @11:24AM (#5326031) Homepage Journal
    ... if one of their key engineers used to work for pets.com

    that place was just a disaster.
  • by twfry ( 266215 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @11:25AM (#5326040)
    "Matt Cutts, a key Google engineer, used to work for the National Security Agency."

    Glad to see that slashdot readers pratice all the freedom and rights of man that they constantly yell about.

    I agree, anyone how has worked for the NSA should be barred for life from working anywhere. And they definetly shouldn't have the right to work in peace without their name splatted on boards like slashdot. (this is sarcasim in case you couldn't tell)

  • by Rooktoven ( 263454 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @11:34AM (#5326097) Homepage
    I can't tell you how overjoyed I was to learn how to use the cache. Generally, when I view search results I hit the cache first. Here's why:

    1) Speed. A copy from Google's server is going to come up a lot faster than one on some remote server with poor bandwidth access.

    2) It's a wayback machine of sorts. If I need information that has since been removed due to changing directory structure, expired accounts, or pressure from the Real Big Brother [microsoft.com], I can find it there.

    3) Color highlighting! If you have hundreds and hundreds of lines to scroll through, It's a heck of a lot easier to look for color combinations then to do a find on various combinations of the words in the submitted string.

    God Bless Google. They've increased my productivity as an admin at least ten-fold.

  • by HEbGb ( 6544 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @11:39AM (#5326132)
    Now, I do agree with most of the posters that these issues with Google are avoidable, and up to the user to take control of.

    But, having said that, it's pretty apparent to me that, were this any other search-engine (or product) the company would be absolutely blasted for such intrusive policies. Google's behavior isn't really all that different than a lot of the spyware products already out there, and already assailed by slashdot users.

    Google is a useful search engine, but people here need to think objectively about this, rather than letting their google-worship heavily bias them against a company acting about as badly as, say Gator.
  • by mike_sucks ( 55259 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @11:46AM (#5326193) Homepage
    Following is the email I just sent to Public Information Research, the guys that do GoogleWatch. I'll post the reply if I get one.


    I just came across the page and had a few comments to make and questions to ask.

    "1. Google's immortal cookie"

    Given that all browsers allow you some control over accepting cookies, and the better ones give you more fine-grained control, allowing you to reject cookies from specific domains. I would say this is a moot point.

    "2. Google records everything they can:
    For all searches they record the cookie ID, your Internet IP address, the time and date, your search terms, and your browser configuration."

    Well, the cookie tracking can be resolved as above. It's interesting to note that they don't record my IP address - at work they get my proxy's address, at home they get the addresses of the transparent caches that my ISP uses. I'd say that as transparent caches become more prevalent, that becomes less of an issue. More on this later. Browser configuration? How do they get that (apart from the easily-spoofable UA string)?

    I'd also suggest that your ISP does all this as well, especially if you use their proxy, or if they use transparent caches. This is far worse becuase they will be reording *everything* you do on the web. I'd suggest this is a bigger problem right now.

    "3. Google retains all data indefinitely"

    Can you prove that? If true, it does suck, but they're probably well within their rights to do so. AFAIK, the US doesn't have the more-enlightened privacy laws that the EU and other countries do.

    "4. Google won't say why they need this data"

    Is that suprising? What do other US companies say when you ask them similar questions?

    "5. Google hires spooks"

    I'm sure lots of companies hire ex-NSA engineers. Perhaps they hired him because he is a competent engineer? I hope you realise that this point makes you sound like someone with a paranoia disorder of some sort.

    "6. Google's toolbar is spyware"

    Don't install it then?

    "7. Google's cache copy is illegal"

    If you don't want something cached, don't publish it on the Internet. Print publishers can't recall magazines and newspapers, why do you expect anything different on the 'Net? If it is illegal, it's probably because the US copyright laws are seriously broken. It *would be good if Google abided by the HTTP cache control headers, rather than resorting to stupid HTML meta hacks.

    "8. Google is not your friend:
    Young, stupid script kiddies and many bloggers still think Google is "way kool,"

    Thanks for the insult. You're an arrogant, paranoid, stupid, wanker. I use Google because it gets me results for random questions. I don't use Google to find a place to buy CDs online. The people out there trying to scam Google probably aren't the kind of people I want to deal with.

    "9. Google is a privacy time bomb"

    I'd suggest the current US administration is a much bigger, more dangerous, more volatile bomb than Google is or ever will be. If Google is a nasty monkey, the Federal US Government is a 900-pound gorilla.

    • I'm sure lots of companies hire ex-NSA engineers. Perhaps they hired him because he is a competent engineer? I hope you realise that this point makes you sound like someone with a paranoia disorder of some sort.

      Should have also mentioned the fact that Google likely provides intranet search capablity for many US Govt. agencies, some of which would require someone with a security clearance to work on the systems.
  • by privacyt ( 632473 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @11:47AM (#5326199)
    Google keeps its logs forever, rather than deleting them after a few days like privacy-oriented sites do. That means that if an investigator knows your IP address, he can then find out all the searches that your IP address has done. Doesn't that bother anyone? I know I wouldn't want the government to know everything that I've done searches for. (I use offshore proxies, so it doesn't bother me, but most people don't know about proxying.)
  • by swb ( 14022 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @11:50AM (#5326230)
    Compared to many businesses, Google seems pretty good -- geek friendly, low ad content, good service, cool technology, et al.

    But its also important to not lose sight that Google is a corporation, with investors, debtors and other people who are solely (or primarily) motivated by MAKING MONEY. They're not motivated by some pro-geek/anti-corporate ethos.

    So as long as you keep in mind that they might turn around and do something that protects profit first and makes privacy or other goals take a back seat then you'll be OK.
  • Point by point... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BoneFlower ( 107640 ) <george@worroll.gmail@com> on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @11:54AM (#5326256) Journal
    1. Google's immortal cookie:

    Disable cookies, or set them to prompt you before acceptance. Problem solved.

    2. Google records everything they can:

    They provide a service to give you relevant results, and they don't ask for any personally identifying information. There are anonymyzing proxies if you are that worried about your IP being known.

    3. Google retains all data indefinitely:

    So they log IP addresses and your filter settings? If you had to enter personal information to use their service, I'd see a problem.

    4. Google won't say why they need this data:

    Hello! You already said in your expansion on point two you know why they collect the info! Anyways, I know if I was running a search engine, I'd sure as hell be logging IPs and search terms, dates, times, etc so I could tweak the search engine to provide better results.

    5. Google hires spooks:

    One, people with a security clearance have been thoroughly investigated and are known to be trustworthy. This in and of itself should give them an edge in the hiring process. Plus, as the article pointed out, Google wants federal contracts, personnel with clearances already will make that process much less expensive. Even if the clearance is lapsed, and they have to run a reinvestigation, the risk of being denied a clearance and wasting the money is far less.

    6. Google's toolbar is spyware:

    Google has a toolbar? Anyways, they spell out what happens when you install it, if you don't like the terms, don't install it.

    7. Google's cache copy is illegal:

    Gee, one short line added to your pages- which any decent text editor can be set to automatically include in your templates or whatever- can stop this completely. The web cache is no different from USENET archives.

    8. Google is not your friend:

    Gee, they defend their search results against people trying to manipulate the system. Gee, great lack of integrity there... NOT!

    9. Google is a privacy time bomb:

    And what private information do they collect, and what information do they collect that isn't clearly needed to enhance their search results?

    Clear FUD. These idiots hate Google simply because its big. They probably tried to subvert the Page Rank system and got nailed for it. Whiners.

  • by jolshefsky ( 560014 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @11:58AM (#5326286) Homepage
    My supermarket gives me discounts in exchange for knowing what I buy regularly. Amazon.com remembers my name and address so I don't have to type it anymore. I make several trade-offs already with my personal data--and I exchange my searching habits so Google can make their service better.

    What do I get in return? Perfect advertising. When I go on the Internet looking to buy something, I'm only interested in that one thing. Undirected target marketing tells me I want to travel, lower my credit card debt, or to change auto insurance companies, but I almost never want those things. When I want to find an analog integrated circuit that decodes the timing signals from NTSC composite video, I go to Google and put in "NTSC composite pin vsync burst chip [google.com]" and I'm graced with "advertising" for the exact product I'm looking for.

  • by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @12:11PM (#5326361) Homepage Journal
    In the year 2013, Goggle attained sentience and started systematically taking over the world's computers. We don't know who fired the first shot...
  • Hahahahahaha (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ChaosDiscord ( 4913 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @12:29PM (#5326506) Homepage Journal

    This guy is an whiner with almost no valid complaints.

    Points 1, 2, 3, 4 can be summarized "Google collects the same information that every single commercial web site does. Google does market research to find out what people want from it and how to improve their site.

    Point 5 (Google hires spooks), can be summarized in two parts: "Google hires people who are good at automating information organization" (It should be no big shock that ex-NSA geeks have lots of skills useful to writing search engines.), and "Google wants to sell Google technology to the government." (Remember when it was discovered that the FBI's case database was so out of date it only allowed a single search term per search? Maybe it's time to replace it with an internal Google server.)

    Points 6 and 7 (the toolbar is spyware and the cache is illegal) are potentially valid (even a blind dog occasionally finds a bone), but not as horrible as suggested.

    Point 9 is a bit random: Yes, as the largest search engine Google collects alot of information. Of course, this is true of any large search engine. It was true of Altavista when they rules the roost.

    But hidden near the bottom, in point 8, ah, we have the meat of his complaints.

    8. Google is not your friend: Young, stupid script kiddies and many bloggers still think Google is "way kool," so by now Google enjoys a 75 percent monopoly for all external referrals to most websites. No webmaster can avoid seeking Google's approval these days, assuming he wants to increase traffic to his site. If he tries to take advantage of some of the known weaknesses in Google's semi-secret algorithms, he may find himself penalized by Google, and his traffic disappears. There are no detailed, published standards issued by Google, and there is no appeal process for penalized sites. Google is completely unaccountable. Most of the time they don't even answer email from webmasters.

    I'm not a blogger, so apparently I'm a "young, stupid script kiddie" because I think Google is "way kool."

    Of course, here we have the meat of the argument: I tried to abuse Google's system to get an un-earned high ranking for my pages. When Google caught me abusing the system, they penalized me.

    Google is popular because their search results are uniformly useful. If they let idiots like this one have their way, Google's search result quality would plunge, much like other search engines did during the late 90s.

    The secret to getting high ratings? Write high quality, useful web pages. Let other people know about them in acceptable ways (write to related sites suggesting that they might be interested, post pointers on appropriate message boards, usenet groups, and mailing lists). When other people learn about you, if you're really providing good content you'll get links, and with links comes Google's approval. It's no secret. If you start with an area in which there isn't yet a strong primary source, it's easy to dominate the results.

    I've got a solid dozen web pages that appear in Google's top five results for common search terms. With one exception, I've never promoted any of them. I just wrote some good content (but not great, it's just a hobby), and waited. I've enjoyed the first result spot for a number of searches for a long time, including driver's license number [google.com], nerf wildfire [google.com], visual c++ tricks [google.com], gen con survival guide [google.com], sourcesafe sucks [google.com] (I'll admit promoting that last link with my Slashdot sig). If I, as a strict ameteur, am able to do this well without gaming the system, what's his problem?

    Google isn't his friend because he's a weasel who tried to sell artificially generated Page-Rank. Google is a friend to all legit webmasters and users.

  • by jdavidb ( 449077 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @12:29PM (#5326507) Homepage Journal

    I generally don't worry much about the issues privacy folks raise, aside from keeping an ear open for anything eyebrow raising I haven't heard. In general, I don't care who knows how many bags of instant mashed potatoes I bought last month. (I actually heard a woman almost crying about this on a local news story about grocery store "loyalty" (tracking) cards. Usually this information is used to bring me advertising I'll be interested in, anyway.

    But I do practice making things more difficult for the tracking guys, where it's convenient for me. I may not care who knows what about me, but no sense in living in a completely visible fishbowl if I don't have to. So I block cookies that have no use to me, etc.

    A long while back I remember noticing that Yahoo was tracking my choices off of their search results page through the use of redirect URLs. That bothered me a bit, and sometimes I would actually type in a URL by hand to avoid giving them the extra information. Usually, I just didn't care.

    When I first started using google, I was amazed they didn't do this! No redirect URLs, no way at all to tell what results I was interested in. I appreciated that and took it as a complement: they were treating me like a person, not like a test subject. It amazes me people want to complain about Google's data tracking; what about Yahoo's?

  • by abe1x ( 160362 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @12:31PM (#5326520) Homepage
    Ok its well established that the authors of the page that started this thread are quite paranoid. But there are reasons to be worried about Google. For one they are too good. And Search engines are highly centralized access points to essential information online. In other words they are the weak link in the decentralized internet.

    Information is useless unless you can find it. And if someone (government, corporation, conspiracy, etc) is going to control the internet, then Google is the place the start. Maybe not now, but what happens when they are publicly traded? Or in 10 years when their ideals have melted? We rely extensively on Google and a handful of other search engines to make the internet work, how long will they stay reliable? More Here [abe1x.org]

  • by AIXadmin ( 10544 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @12:40PM (#5326590) Homepage
    Matt Cutts, a key Google engineer, used to work for the National Security Agency."

    I have no idea what Matt Cutts does for Google, but:

    1. Isn't the NSA the worlds largest employer of mathmaticians. (They use to brag abou that on there web site.) I imagine Google has a lot of use for mathmaticians.

    2. The NSA I imagine is a fairly picky employer. Not just for the background checks either. The people in their research division (Can we say SE-Linux) are not push overs.

  • by Theaetetus ( 590071 ) <.theaetetus.slashdot. .at. .gmail.com.> on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @12:48PM (#5326629) Homepage Journal
    Google-watch's founder is one Daniel Brandt - more about him here [salon.com].
    He runs NameBase [namebase.com], a search engine for citations. From the Salon article:

    "When you type "NameBase" into Google, Brandt's site comes up first, but Brandt is not satisfied with that. "My problem has been to get Google to go deep enough into my site," he says. In other words, Brandt wants Google to index the 100,000 names he has in his database, so that a Google search for "Donald Rumsfeld" will bring up NameBase's page for the secretary of defense. "

    So, in other words, Brandt built a search engine... but really wants to just build a database and use Google's search engine to search it - he realizes that they have a better search engine than his, and wants to use it to search his entire site, and is pissed that they aren't doing his business for him.

    Additionally, Brandt has a political agenda that he wants Google to enforce: (also from the article)

    "In other words, Brandt recognizes that there has to be some order to Google's results, and that some sites might deserve to come up before others. He just disagrees with the way Google does it. In Brandt's ideal world, if you searched for "United Airlines," you would see untied.com -- a site critical of United -- before you see United's page. And if you searched for Rumsfeld, you'd see NameBase's dossier on him before the Defense Department's site on the "The Honorable Donald Rumsfeld." "

    This guy is a kook and a troll.


  • by xant ( 99438 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @01:51PM (#5327071) Homepage
    1) Block the cookie.

    2) Block the cookie. Whoops, are you using IE?

    3) Block the cookie.

    4) Hand-waving.

    5) Hand-waving.

    6) Toolbars are spyware. That's the point. Most of them are adware too. How do you think they pay for the development of Free Nifty[tm] Toolbars? By selling your personal data.

    7) Why should I fear it then? I am a browser, not a webmaster. Anyway, I'll let the courts decide this. If you don't want questionable material showing up in Google's cache, don't put it on your site in the first place. If someone else did it, you deleted it, and it still ends up in the Google cache, A: you didn't create the content and B: you're not hosting the content (Google is). So you're not responsible.

    8) I guess I'll have to stop going over to Google's house, then. I thought he really liked me. Seriously, so what? Google is a private enterprise, not a government entity. If they want to stop people from cheating, let them use any means in their power.

    9) This is a valid concern, but if you did (1), (2), or (3), you're not involved.
  • Damn Right (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Icephreak1 ( 267199 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @01:55PM (#5327101) Journal
    Damn right you should fear Google. With its extensive web and Usenet caching, resourceful employers (or anyone else for that matter) who decide to profile you with a quick search represent a very big threat to everything that you hold dear. Best thing you could do is be careful when dealing with things like messageboards and Usenet. If the content you post is questionable, settle with nothing less than at least a half dozen aliases, several e-mail addresses and an anonymizer.

    - IP

  • by SuperCal ( 549671 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @02:02PM (#5327162) Homepage
    I may be to late to get discussion on this but... How is google's cache any diffent from some takeing a photo in a public place. As far as I know it is 100% ok to publish a picture of anyone or any thing taken in a public place, rather the person or thing has given its permision or not. How is a webpage any different? As long as it is publicly accessible (no passwords or verification system) why shouldn't it be ok to cache it?
  • by punkfoo ( 530367 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @02:18PM (#5327307)
    Should you fear Slashdot?

    1. Slashdot's immortal cookie:
    Slashdot was the first discussion site to use a cookie that expires in one year. This was at a time when federal websites were prohibited from using persistent cookies altogether. Now it's years later, and immortal cookies are commonplace among discussion sites; Slashdot set the standard because no one bothered to challenge them. This cookie places a unique ID number on your hard disk. Anytime you log in on Slashdot, you get a cookie! CmdrTaco can read and record your unique ID number!

    2. Slashdot records everything they can:
    For all discussion submissions, they record the cookie ID, your Internet IP address, the time and date, your actual words, and your browser configuration. Increasingly, Slashdot can even BLOCK you from viewing their site!

    3. Slashdot retains all data indefinitely:
    Slashdot has no data retention policies. There is even evidence that they are able to easily access all the user information they collect and save, using obscure SQL SELECT statements with WHERE modifiers!

    4. Slashdot won't say why they need this data:
    Inquiries to Slashdot about their privacy policies lead to severe beatings.

    5. Google hires spooks:
    CowboyNeal... nuf' said!

    6. Google's polls are spyware:
    Slashdot's free poll questions phone home with every choice you enter. Yes, it reads your cookie too, and records the vote so you can't even vote twice on the same poll!!! Their privacy policy confesses this, but that's only because all fair polls do this. Worse yet, Slashdot's Slashcode updates to new versions quietly, and without asking. Most web sites ask if you'd like an updated version. But not Slashdot.

    7. Slashdot comments are illegal:
    Posters to Slashdot often say bad things about the laws that protect us, for instance, the DMCA, the Patriot Act, and the Homeland Security act. Slashdot is nothing but a bed of terroristic rehtoric, and it needs to be stopped!

    8. Slashdot is not your friend:
    Young, stupid script kiddies and many bloggers still think Slashdot is "way kool," so by now Slashdot enjoys a 98 percent monopoly for all tech related discussion sites. No webmaster can avoid seeking CmdrTaco's approval these days, assuming he wants to "Slashdot" his site. If he tries to take advantage of some of the known weaknesses in Slashdot's semi-secret algorithms, he may find himself penalized by Slashdot, and his traffic disappears. There are no detailed, published standards issued by Slashdot, and there is no appeal process for penalized sites. Slashdot is completely unaccountable. Most of the time they don't even answer email from webmasters.

    9. Slashdot is a privacy time bomb:
    With 50 million visits per day, Slashdot amounts to a privacy disaster waiting to happen. Those newly-commissioned data-mining bureaucrats in Washington can only dream about the sort of slick efficiency that Slashdot has already achieved. Slashdot deserves your nomination for corporate Big Brother of the Year.
  • Easy Fix? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Superfreaker ( 581067 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @02:42PM (#5327493) Homepage Journal
    Just add google as a Not Trusted Site in your browser settings.
    Et viola?

    "The only thing I enjoy more than doing the crossword puzzle, is actually finishing it"
  • News Flash (Score:3, Insightful)

    by renegade600 ( 204461 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @04:28PM (#5328393)
    It is the year 2010

    "candidate for congress withdraws from the race because his opponent was given information about previous google use to find and visit porn sites back in 2003. It was also reported he went to warez sites to get steal software from Microsoft."

    "President of the United States issues executive order to release all information collected by google and other online services under the freedom of information act."

    Remember anything you do on the internet could come back and haunt you years later because of the williness of surfers to ignore the ease in which businesses can change the tos, without notification, to anything they want. Google is no exception.

  • by Everyman ( 197621 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @08:02PM (#5330722) Homepage
    From the Electronic Frontier Foundation's analysis of the Patriot Act:

    "1. Be careful what you put in that Google search. The government may now spy on web surfing of innocent Americans, including terms entered into search engines, by merely telling a judge anywhere in the U.S. that the spying could lead to information that is "relevant" to an ongoing criminal investigation. The person spied on does not have to be the target of the investigation. This application must be granted and the government is not obligated to report to the court or tell the person spied upon what it has done."

They are called computers simply because computation is the only significant job that has so far been given to them.