Space Ramblings

Cnet Smacks Down Google’s Anonymization Promise

With the high profile release of Google Chrome Beta and the recent Viacom YouTube lawsuit and Google’s acquisition of Double Click the privacy issues surrounding Google have only gotten more serious, and Google’s band aid attempts at privacy are not doing the trick. Over at Cnet, Chris Soghoian reminds us how Cnet got on Google’s shitlist in the first place with a sharply worded critique of Google’s new privacy promises.

To understand what this means (and how useless the new privacy “enhancements” are), consider the following: Google has now revealed that it will change “some” of the bits of the IP address after 9 months, but less than the eight bits that it masks after the full 18 months. Thus, instead of Google’s customers being able to hide among 254 other Internet users, perhaps they’ll be able to hide among 64, or 127 other possible IP addresses.

By itself, this is a laughable level of anonymity. However, it gets worse.

First, remember that Google will not delete or anonymize user cookies from the logs when it slightly smudges IP addresses after nine months. Second, remember that as long as you use a Google Web property at least once every two years, the company will maintain a unique identifiable cookie value within your Web browser.

So to no one’s surprise Google is staying evil by putting its lust for data ahead of individual privacy. Evil always begins by latching on to an Achilles heel, a character weakness as the ancient Greeks would put it, Google’s character weakness stems from its strength, a hunger to collect, consolidate and make use of information. Which is why Google will never seriously commit to user privacy, to the Googler mindset it’s the equivalent of book burning to a librarian.

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