Garin Online

Google’s Corporate Transparency

April 20, 2010
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Google has taken the next step towards corporate and government transparency by releasing the number of times that national governments have requested data and requested the removal of data from the web giant. The stats listed below represent a six month period from July to November 2009. It equates to about 20 requests per day in the US, which came up second to Brazil, based on the popularity of Google’s social networking site, Orkut.

I like the presence of this website, as it shows that Google is really working towards making these governmental request stats available to all users. It goes far and beyond what other companies provide. And they are still working to provide more statistics to the public, but are trying to put them into meaningful numbers prior to release.

The stats don’t list any sort of details about each request, and I am pretty sure that is some of the information that Google is trying to put together for future updates. And these numbers only reflect criminal investigations, and not national security issues that companies are not legally allowed to release.


Italy Say What?

February 24, 2010
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Italy is the dream vacation for many Americans, and while most major corporations aren’t headquartered there, they all operate there. Today, Italian judged found three Google executives guilty of violating the privacy of a Italian student, when a video of him was posted to Google video and not taken down for two months.

While there are privacy laws in America that will prevent things like this from happening, this is unheard of even in Italy. As you can imagine, Google has come out vehemently against the decision. They brought to attention that as soon as the video was brought to Google’s attention it was released. Google also assisted the authorities in tracking down the perpetrators. Google released a statement on the situation.

“European Union law was drafted specifically to give hosting providers a safe harbor from liability so long as they remove illegal content once they are notified of its existence. The belief, rightly in our opinion, was that a notice and take down regime of this kind would help creativity flourish and support free speech while protecting personal privacy. If that principle is swept aside and sites like Blogger, YouTube and indeed every social network and any community bulletin board, are held responsible for vetting every single piece of content that is uploaded to them – every piece of text, every photo, every file, every video – then the Web as we know it will cease to exist, and many of the economic, social, political and technological benefits it brings could disappear.”

All first time offenders in Italy with a sentence of three years or less will not serve jail time, but regardless, Google will appeal the decision.

Case 2: Google’s Soul For Sale

February 24, 2010
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During the 1990s, Microsoft was the evil corporation of computing, trying to tie together a litany of shabby software products including Internet Explorer, thus making it impossible for any other companies to move in to the industry. However, in the last 10 years, Apple and Google have made serious strides gaining not just market share, but mind share as well. Apple with computing and hardware, Google with software programs. And in the last 10 years, these companies have taken on the image of fighting the big guy, David v. Goliath, Rudy just trying to make a tackle (more Google, Apple really already had this brand image). But with the release of Google Buzz, some people (I’m not really sure how many) are starting to this that Google is the big bad wolf that needs to be escaped from. But in reality, is it true?

I recently found on Gizmodo a step-by-step manual on how to take your life out of the hands of Google. Let me tell you, after reading through it, it would not be easy for me to rid myself of all of my Google ties. Not only do I use Gmail, but I use Wave, Google search, Chrome, Docs, Chat, and on occasion, Google Reader. That list is not exclusive, I will still actively search out any new product that Google releases. But the real question is, do I want to take away all of my services from Google? One of the biggest issues that consumers are dealing with right now is the privacy issue.

Google specializes in targeting advertising. By tracking your searches, just like Facebook tracks your posted information, Google can better feed you ads that relate closer to you.

The ad in the picture above is for ESPN, which not only do I have bookmarked, but I also sports in many of my e-mails. While this would bother a lot of people, thinking that it hits a little too close to home, I am not one of those people. I know the risks of having information online, and I’m of a firm belief that if I don’t want someone to know something about me, I will not post it or discuss it online.

The most backlash with Google Buzz is coming from the automatic tracking that Google added so you have a group of friends to start with, instead of having to search them all down. However, they created this list from people you contact with frequently in your contacts, which is a list that could include bosses, lawyers, ex-significant others and many other that you do not want being able to see any of your updates.

But Google Buzz cannot be the only cause of the public backlash against Google, can it? Google gave us Gmail, which allowed us to escape from the amateurish e-mail clients of Hotmail, Yahoo, and AOL. Google gave us Docs, the first well publicized, well constructed online document creation program. But most of all, they gave us Google searches. Think back to the days before Google search. What was available? Ask Jeeves? Yahoo? Google redefined the search industry and have became the market leader because it is well deserved.

These search engines might be a thing of the past, however, Microsoft has thrown their gauntlets into the search engine industry with the ambitious release of Bing. Bing is not just another search engine, it is a redefinition on the common search, and gives the user a very different experience than does Google.

While Google will give you all web-pages, images, news articles and other such information having to do with any specific search, Bing goes a different route. They will still provide you with the same information, however, they will summarize basic information and display it for the user on the front page. Sort of like a Wiki Junior.

So while there are modern options from switching from Google platforms, the question is still there. Why do it? I believe that it all comes down to how much information are you willing to let one company not only know about you, but control. I know that by using as many Google products as I do, they could paint a very realistic picture of who I am. Every time you sign up for a company’s website you submit information. And with Google products, most of the time it’s not just submitting entry information, but the sending and receiving of messages with their products by E-mails, searches, documents, etc.

Until the release of Google Buzz, Google had a near spotless brand image and no signs of an evil corporation. But by looking in the news lately, that’s have to have changed, right? I mean, start angering your customers and your going to get a lot of negative PR. But what recourse is the right recourse? In the comments section of the article I discussed earlier, on how to delete Google from your life, a few consumers are discussing what they think on the subject.

“Why would I ditch a great service?” Never been more simple to some I guess. Until Google starts to seriously inconvenience my life, I will continue to use Google products. If I start to worry about online privacy more than I currently do, I think Facebook with be my first stop. Google may sell certain information to create targeted ads, but Facebook has more information publicly listed than I will ever disclose on any of my Google accounts. But I still easily found this online, but I just think this is pretty funny. Enjoy.

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