Privacy Group Wants FTC To Shut Down Gmail... Again

from the give-it-up dept

I think privacy is a very important issue that often is given short-shrift... but I've never been able to understand some of the positions staked out by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), who seems to have decided long ago that, even if people are making a conscious choice, anything that puts their privacy at risk is downright evil and must be stopped. When Google first launched Gmail back in 2004, EPIC went ballistic saying that it needed to be shut down as a privacy violation. Most people responded by getting Gmail accounts as quickly as they could.

Apparently, EPIC isn't giving up this fight, even though five years have gone by and Gmail has become a popular email service for many, many people online. EPIC has now asked the FTC to shut down all Google online applications, from Google Docs to Gmail, claiming that they're unable to "adequately safeguard the confidential info" of users -- and comparing those apps to a faulty car seat for kids (hyperbole, much?).

This all seems designed to get EPIC attention rather than to actually help consumers. The likelihood of the FTC agreeing with EPIC seems slim (which even EPIC seems to admit). People are pretty aware of what risks they're taking on by putting stuff on Google's servers, and Google has a pretty clear track record of doing its best to keep that info private. But most people feel that the risk is slight and the trade-off and value from the services is obviously worth it. Thus, it's not actually a privacy issue at all -- because most people are comfortable with the situation. So, why is EPIC trying to take away such useful services from millions of people who have come to rely on them?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    Easily Amused, Mar 18th, 2009 @ 8:25am

    Attention whores

    This is pretty much the same thing as the politicians that come up with some lame ass nanny-state law that reduces our freedoms "for the sake of the children". Grandstanding like they are selling advertising in the press releases.

     

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    Nick (profile), Mar 18th, 2009 @ 8:26am

    I went over to their site to see who is behind this group. http://epic.org/epic/advisory_board.html Not surprised to find someone from Microsoft. Oh, lool, there's' is Ray Ozzie. However, they also have Vint Cerf, Joi Ito and Bruce Schneier as advisers. Wierd.

     

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      vint cerf, Mar 18th, 2009 @ 6:50pm

      Re: FTC/EPIC/Privacy

      please note that Ray and I and others may be on the advisory board of EPIC but that does not mean that their opinions reflect ours or that the advisors are "behind this group" in the usual sense of that term.

      vint

       

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    Michael B, Mar 18th, 2009 @ 8:39am

    Another PETA?

    These goofballs sound like the online equivalent of PETA... what's next? Will they run to Google HQ and throw fake blood on the doors to their offices to prove their point?

     

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      Anonymous Poster, Mar 18th, 2009 @ 9:20am

      Re: Another PETA?

      That might actually be funny to watch.

      "QUIT TRYING TO STOP US FROM MAKING DECISIONS FOR EVERYONE ELSE!" *toss fake blood*

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Mar 18th, 2009 @ 2:55pm

        Re: Re: Another PETA?

        Group is sued for implying death threats of the first born of Google workers.

        Group then complaints that court issued warrants are in violation of their privacy. (Runs off to update facebook and myspace profiles so every one will know.)

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 18th, 2009 @ 8:40am

    More to the point, who in the hell named EPIC my privacy advocate? I'll speak for myself, thank you very much.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 18th, 2009 @ 8:44am

    This is the best part:

    "As an additional punishment, EPIC wants Google to be forced to pay $5 million into a "public fund" that it and like-minded advocacy groups could financially benefit from."

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 18th, 2009 @ 8:49am

      Re:

      So, it's just another group trying to soak up some money from Google, and they're trying to accomplish this by pretending to want to protect our privacy? As a previous poster noted, who the hell named EPIC my privacy advocate? I'll speak for myself, and EPIC can go trolling for money using some other scam.

       

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    Common Sense, Mar 18th, 2009 @ 8:49am

    Anyone who's concerned enough about privacy, knows that nothing you put online, has to potential to remain online and available to anyone who wants to look for it, indefinitely. If you have something you want secret, lock it down OFF line.

     

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    Joel Coehoorn, Mar 18th, 2009 @ 8:50am

    Track Record

    > "Google has a pretty clear track record of doing its best to keep that info private."

    Many other companies have an equivalent track record, but aren't necessarily worthy of the same level of trust. They're just haven't been unlucky enough to have a known data breach yet.

    The difference for Google (and other internet businesses) as opposed to banks or retailers is that they are in the business of managing online data, and have been from the beginning. This isn't some afterthought that they've asked their existing internal staff or some brand new fresh-from-college team to build on to an existing system. It's at the core of their business in a way that brick and mortar outfits have not yet been able to match.

     

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    AlexE, Mar 18th, 2009 @ 8:55am

    Sounds more like Extortion Privacy Information Center. Also I agree with previous comment; "who in the hell made them our advocate?"

     

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    Adam Wasserman (profile), Mar 18th, 2009 @ 9:02am

    Google shills

    Gmail #4 webmail and lagging...

    Google officer on EPIC BOD...

    EPIC boosting Gmail visibility as best they can...

    Coincidence? I think not.

     

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      John Doe, Mar 18th, 2009 @ 10:50am

      Re: Google shills

      And just who are you shilling for? Google's #4 by whose counting? Most rankings have it #3, and that's mainly because Yahoo and Hotmail have hundreds of thousands of abandoned accounts which aren't being used simply because they were started long before there was a Google. Let's compare actual traffic sent by the mail servers (as traffic will still be received sent to abandoned accounts which populate spam lists).

      And, of course, since Google isn't making a dime from Gmail, why would they be shilling it in the first place?

       

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    Kevin, Mar 18th, 2009 @ 9:10am

    EPIC

    I need to find someone to Extort....I need a larger general fund to pull from....

    We have become a bunch of whinny bit#$s......

     

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    Chronno S. Trigger, Mar 18th, 2009 @ 9:11am

    Privicy or security?

    I'm not quite getting it. Are they worried about Google using the data that's on their servers or are they worried about someone hacking into Google's servers?

    When I started using G-Mail and G-Documents I knew the risks and I knew what EPIC was saying about them and still chose to use it. Why is that so wrong?

     

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    R. Miles, Mar 18th, 2009 @ 9:12am

    My step.

    I'm going to email, via Gmail, my objections to this group for trying to shut down a service I enjoy.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 18th, 2009 @ 9:13am

    ...and Yahoo, Hotmail, etc. have more secure servers?

     

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    Mark, Mar 18th, 2009 @ 9:18am

    Hey EPIC, un-ass my G-mail!

     

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    Kenn, Mar 18th, 2009 @ 9:44am

    I wonder

    I wonder how many EPIC employees have a Gmail account. I just don't think that the whole group can abstain from something so proliferate. I'd love to see some data on how often their own employees use the technology.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 18th, 2009 @ 10:03am

    Gives a funny meaning to EPIC - EPIC FAIL

     

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    mike42 (profile), Mar 18th, 2009 @ 10:11am

    Ray Ozzie - Groove Man

    See guys, if the FTC shuts down Google services, everyone has to go elsewhere for their collaboration tools. What was Ray Ozzie doing before Microsoft? Running a corp that made a collaboration tool called Groove! That tool was dead before he got on at M$, and it's really dead now (just an extra piece of Office). They are after Google to increase the penetration of Groove and Sharepoint, plain and simple.

     

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    Guy One, Mar 18th, 2009 @ 10:12am

    Nothing you do online is ever private, every where you go every instant message every email, is logged on multiple servers.

    I signed up for Gmail BECAUSE they scan my emails, and because they show me advertisements that relate to my interests.

     

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    JMarsh, Mar 18th, 2009 @ 10:27am

    Data Pollution

    Now, I don't necessarily subscribe to the EPIC thought process however I would suggest reading a recent article by Bruce Schneier that might give some credit to the EPIC's perspective that data may not be as benign as it may appear.

    Check it out here: BBC NEWS
    ( http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/7897892.stm )

     

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    needful.th1ngs, Mar 18th, 2009 @ 10:46am

    What the hell

    I have had a Gmail account for 5 years now....never had any problems. If I did I would just ditch it and move to something else....so what's the big deal? These people are idiots. They are just jealous of a something that is BETTER than they are! Keep your nose out of OUR business, morons!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 18th, 2009 @ 10:49am

    if someone hacks my g-mail they will get a bunch of useless "conversations". Maybe I'm the odd one, maybe I should store all my credit card numbers, social security number and bank statements in my g-mail.... obviously the EPIC idiots do.

    Stop wasting the governments time and money EPIC, they can do that on their own.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 18th, 2009 @ 11:03am

    Privacy

    I'm going to put my life secrets on here. PLEASE do not read this comment as I expect this to remain perfectly private! Seriously if you read any further I'm going to sue you!

    I killed my father
    married my mother
    got mommy pregnant
    locked up my sister/daughter in the basement
    got her pregnant
    never let my daughter/granddaughter/niece out of the basement
    and so on and so forth

    You read it didn't you ... I HATE you!!

     

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    TX CHL Instructor (profile), Mar 18th, 2009 @ 11:08am

    I've had a gmail account since January 2004

    I've seen a few glitches in gmail, but not as many as I have seen in my ISP's email servers. Which, btw, I never use. I have my own domains, and I use email addresses in those domains forwarded to my gmail account for the higher quality spam filtering, as well as the ability to add my own filter rules easily. I even have multiple gmail accounts that apply different filters before forwarding to another of my gmail accounts. The result is remarkably spam-free email, although not yet perfect.

    But I don't *depend* on gmail (or any other Google service). I download and archive everything myself on a regular basis, and I don't use gmail (or any other Google service) for anything with financial importance to myself (like account passwords). I will always archive my own email, and I will always use addresses with domains that I control for important email.

    I like Google documents, too, but I don't ever entrust the only copy of anything important to them.

    That said, I would echo the sentiments of some of the prior commentors, namely, who the hell put EPIC in charge of anything?
    --
    http://www.chl-tx.com Thanks to the Empty Suit from Chicago with the Blank Resume, my business is booming!

     

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    NullOp, Mar 18th, 2009 @ 11:29am

    The Real Poop

    If you're really putting your most secret, private info on the web then you've got a serious case of "DumbAss." Never, and I mean NEVER, transmit anything you don't absolutely have to. Yeah, I know, everyone buys stuff off the net but thats not Google.

    On second thought, just email me your credit card numbers and i'll keep 'em safe for you. No, really, I will....

     

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    Michael Talpas (profile), Mar 18th, 2009 @ 2:33pm

    Anyone have EPIC's email?

    Seriously, does anyone have their email? The idea of losing my Gmail account makes me all cold inside. I want to send them an email telling them to stop what they are doing, because I need that account.

    I have two email accounts, Yahoo and Gmail. I use Yahoo for job searching and dealing with the internet at large (for instance, I use my Yahoo account here). I use Gmail for talking with my family and friends. If Gmail goes down, I'd lose all my conversations with them! The very idea makes me all cold inside.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 18th, 2009 @ 3:09pm

      Re: Anyone have EPIC's email?

      I do not think you will have to worry. Shutting down gmail would be like USPS saying sorry 3rd largest city that receives letters but we are no longer delivering mail to your city. You can get a new mail box in one of the other cities (e-mail provider) but forwarding from the old address is not allowed so start contacting every one that would ever send you some thing and let them know.

       

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    Rekrul, Mar 18th, 2009 @ 6:19pm

    Where was all the outrage over Hotmail or any of the other dozens of web-based email providers?

    I have an account on Mail.com that I use when I don't want to give out my normal email address. When I created it, I used all fake information. The only information they could possibly know about me is what IP address I connect from and whatever I write in an email. The second part can be easily avoided by using an encryption program to encrypt your message before sending it to the web site.

     

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    sprag80, Mar 18th, 2009 @ 6:24pm

    EPIC's a joke. They're paternalistic a-holes. Why don't they actually attempt to create something instead of denying us services and products that we like and enjoy using--risks and all.

     

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    RANDY, Mar 18th, 2009 @ 10:29pm

    gmail

    well if people are worried about important info getting out then dont type it in. on thats fixed and epic can stop being stupid and trying to think for people.

     

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