Posts tagged ‘Cecilia Kang’

Google Wants a Deeper Relationship With You

As you may have heard last week, Google has proposed major changes to its privacy policies. The company is billing it as a consolidation and simplification of over 60 separate service policies — Gmail, YouTube, AdWords, Google Search — into one policy. Consumer groups are concerned, and some lawmakers have questions. Here’s coverage from Cecilia Kang of the Washington Post and Amy Schatz of the Wall Street Journal.

Today when I logged into Feedburner, another Google service, I received this page announcing the change in fairly easy to understand language:

Click to enlarge

When I clicked on the revised privacy policy and terms of service, I found this the most interesting section:

Click to enlarge

I believe strongly that there needs to be more transparency around what I call the online quid pro quo. Consumers get cool, fun services in exchange for online profiles that are built from both volunteered information and activity tracking. I most recently wrote about this last September in connection to the debate around using so-called Supercookies. It was one of my most popular posts in 2011.

This issue goes all the way back to the birth of Web. The fundamental issues haven’t changed much since I was at back in the late 1990s and we invented pay-per-click advertising. But the sophistication of the tracking has advanced significantly.

In itself, consolidating privacy policies into one and combining data gleaned from services consumers signed up for doesn’t seem very controversial to me.  I like that there is one place to show individuals all the Google services they are using, and the privacy policies connected to them. This is a step towards more transparency around the online business model consumers buy into everyday, whether they know it or not. And that’s good.

The more interesting question is does this go far enough, or should consumers be able to tailor information sharing by service? Based on my first review, I only see a few controls for limiting data sharing and they relate to controlling data shared with other people, not data shared with Google.

If I find a way to control that kind of sharing, I’ll update this post.

January 31, 2012 at 3:23 pm 1 comment

Taking the Anti-SOPA Message to the People

It’s been fascinating this week to read coverage of congressional hearings around the SOPA bill, or Stop Online Privacy Act. The bill has strong support from the Motion Picture Association of America, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and big pharmaceutical companies. It’s opposed by most technology and telecom companies, plus consumer advocate groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Knowledge. Here’s some recent coverage:

Cecilia Kang of the Post

Declan McCullagh of CNET

Zack Whittaker of ZDNet

I wrote about the Senate version of this bill, PROTECT IP, back in July. Some very smart people have pointed out how so-called “DNS filtering” won’t stop access to pirated content online, but is a very dangerous precedent for how the Internet operates. It would also hamper the adoption of DNSSEC, which will improve online security.

What’s really interesting this week is how the tech giants are taking the message directly to the people. There’s a well known term in Washington called Astroturfing, in which a corporate or political campaign is made to appear like a spontaneous, grass-roots movement.

With the ubiquity of some of the consumer services provided by the tech giants, they have the ability to create a “real” Astroturf effort. Check out the Mozilla start page today, seen by millions daily (click to enlarge):

Which leads to this:

Other organizations are doing similar online messaging. Let’s consider this from a high level not mentioned by the reporters above. One could view this policy struggle as a battle between big companies that charge consumer money for things – songs, movies, goods – vs. big companies that give consumers services for for free -search, news, games, telephony. (Put aside for a moment these free services are paid for by an advertising model that requires harvesting information about the actions of users online.)

Considering that, can these efforts generate enough heat to make Congress back down? Was this 11th hour outreach the plan all along, or is this a Hail Mary since the more old school lobbying tactics of the pro-SOPA crowd seem to be working?

I’d love to know how many thousands of Americans are clicking on the Take Action Now! button right now.

UPDATE 1/18/12: I’m quoted in this 1/13 piece on SOPA from the E-Commerce Times. And here’s the video that was distributed today, the online blackout protest day by

November 18, 2011 at 8:29 am Leave a comment



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