Google tells Congress it's not Phorm

'Our users trust us'


Google wants you to know that in targeting online ads, it doesn't use Phorm-like deep packet inspection. But it still refuses to acknowledge its own massive threat to the privacy of humankind.

Early last week, amidst the ongoing controversy over data tracking ad firms like Phorm and NebuAd, some Congressional big wigs asked thirty American ISPs if they'd ever used customer browsing data as a means of targeting online ads. And just for good measure, they tossed the same question at Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft.

We all know that Google uses customer browsing data as means of targeting online ads. But it does things a little differently than a Phorm-equipped ISP. And on Friday, Google responded with a letter (PDF) that promptly points out this nothing less than obvious distinction.

"Given your Committee's recent focus on deep-packet inspection in connection with advertising, we feel it important to state clearly and for the record that Google does not deliver advertising based on deep packet inspection," Google public policy and government affairs director Alan Davidson said in a letter to the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and other high-ranking lawmakers.

Google didn't actually badmouth deep-packet inspection - "we don't comment on third-parties," the search giant likes to tell us - but it seemed to imply that it frowns on the Phorm/NebuAd model - which does not require an opt-in. The next paragraph read like this: "In our quickly evolving business environment, ensuring that we can keep our users' trust is an essential constant for building the best possible products. With every Google product, we work hard to earn and keep that trust with a longstanding commitment to protect the privacy of our users' personal information. The bedrock of our privacy practices are three fundamentals: providing transparency, choice, and security."

Feel free to chuckle. Yes, unlike a Phorm or a NebuAd, Google is something you use by choice (assuming that other search engines actually provide an alternative). And it's not grabbing your surfing data from a third-party. But the sheer breadth of the data it collects is a problem in its own right. Google can talk about transparency, trust, and security all it likes. But no security is perfect. And a subpoena could nab that data at any time. ®

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

  • Want to buy your own piece of the Pi? No 'urgency' says Upton of the listing rumours

    A British success story... what happens next?

    Industry talk is continuing to circulate regarding a possible listing for the UK makers of the diminutive Raspberry Pi computer.

    Over the weekend, UK newspaper The Telegraph reported that a spring listing could be in the offing, with a valuation of more than £370m slapped onto the computer maker.

    Pi boss, Eben Upton, described the article as "interesting" in an email to The Register today, before repeating that "we're always looking at ways to fund the future growth of the business, but the $45m we raised in September has taken some of the urgency out of that."

    Continue reading
  • JetBrains embraces remote development with new IDE for multiple programming languages

    Security, collaboration, flexible working: Fleet does it all, says project lead

    JetBrains has introduced remote development for its range of IDEs as well as previewing a new IDE called Fleet, which will form the basis for fresh tools covering all major programming languages.

    JetBrains has a core IDE used for the IntelliJ IDEA Java tool as well other IDEs such as Android Studio, the official programming environment for Google Android, PyCharm for Python, Rider for C#, and so on. The IDEs run on the Java virtual machine (JVM) and are coded using Java and Kotlin, the latter being primarily a JVM language but with options for compiling to JavaScript or native code.

    Fleet is "both an IDE and a lightweight code editor," said the company in its product announcement, suggesting perhaps that it is feeling some pressure from the success of Microsoft's Visual Studio Code, which is an extensible code editor. Initial language support is for Java, Kotlin, Go, Python, Rust, and JavaScript, though other languages such as C# will follow. Again like VS Code, Fleet can run on a local machine or on a remote server. The new IDE uses technology developed for IntelliJ such as its code-processing engine for features such as code completion and refactoring.

    Continue reading
  • Nextcloud and cloud chums fire off competition complaint to the EU over Microsoft bundling OneDrive with Windows

    No, it isn't the limited levels of storage that have irked European businesses

    EU software and cloud businesses have joined Nextcloud in filing a complaint with the European Commission regarding Microsoft's alleged anti-competitive behaviour over the bundling of its OS with online services.

    The issue is OneDrive and Microsoft's habit of packaging it (and other services such as Teams) with Windows software.

    Nextcloud sells on-premises collaboration platforms that it claims combine "the convenience and ease of use of consumer-grade solutions like Dropbox and Google Drive with the security, privacy and control business needs." Microsoft's cloud storage system, OneDrive, is conspicuous by its absence.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021