|The Declarer (Floyd McWilliams' Blog)|
Wednesday, June 02, 2004
current employer happened to be.)
An editorial writer at the Mercury News gives helpful advice to Google's founders:
Their priests? Is Helft trying to imply that our priests are going to email us the juicy details of the sins we confessed to them? I know that the clergy is probably more computer literate than when I was a Catholic schoolkid a quarter century ago, but I rather doubt the veracity of this scenario:
Anyway. Computers already ``read'' e-mails under the auspices of virus checkers and spam filters. If Helft thinks that's creepy, well, I hope he needs to buy a lot of Cialis.
So, Google will show its righteousness by abandoning voluntary action and using the government to force other people to act according to its whim? What universe does Helft live in where "lobbyist" is not synonymous with "scum"?
Does Helft own a computer? This is like Dr. Evil waking up after thirty years in deep freeze and demanding that the United Nations give him TEN MILLION DOLLARS!
Gmail users need a computer to access the service, and computers these days come with tens of gigabytes of storage. Soon it will be hundreds of gigabytes.
Well, yes, Google could encrypt emails stored in the Gmail system. But if Google didn't know the key, then it would not be able to search through those emails, which is the whole point of Gmail. Didn't Helft read the press releases? And if Google did know the key, then they would be able to produce data when commanded to do so by a court, which would put us right back where we started.
And it's a nice feelgood statement to say that Google should "push for a federal law that bans all spam." But spam is not just the scummy ads for porn and hardon drugs and cheap software. Political candidates send mass email. Companies send email when consumers sign up for free software or some related service, and sometimes the consumers find the information useful. There was a guy who was fired by Intel, and sent email to thousands of people at the company. How would Google look if they advocated shutting him up?
(I say this as someone who gets over 100 spam emails a day. It's too bad I'm more pro-free-expression than someone who works in the newspaper business.)
Let's say that we do ask the government to crack down on those who violate privacy for profit. What say we target those who publish inconvenient facts about people in exchange for cold cash -- and for eyeballs for their advertisers?
For the last two weeks when I have visited the Mercury News' opinion page, the top article has excoriated a San Jose councilman:
I assume that Gregory would prefer his previous obscurity to the Mercury News' trumpeting his name in connection with a scandal.
Or take Laci Peterson, who is not even a public figure like Gregory, but a murder victim. For several weeks after her body was found, the Merc ran a picture of her holding a glass of red wine, to caption a series of articles about the murder case.
Did Laci Peterson consent to have that picture displayed in front of hundreds of thousands of people?
My point is not that the Mercury News should not investigate shady councilmen or write articles about murder cases. But it's ridiculous for the Merc to dig up information on citizens while producing news, and then to turn around and say that all other uses of private data for profit are horribly tainted. Everyone must be equal under the law, but that is not a concept that any Mercury News editorial writer seems to comprehend.