EFF Condemns Google For Circumventing Safari Privacy Protections

from the but,-i-thought-they-were-a-mouthpiece... dept

One of the common statements that we heard time and time again from SOPA/PIPA supporters in the last couple months was that all of the many civil liberties groups that worked against the bills were really "Google fronts." The key target in these attacks was almost always EFF -- a group which is pretty widely respected. It's also kind of strange, because looking over the EFF's most recent (public) financial statement (pdf), there isn't much evidence of Google support. Not only is corporate funding only about 15% of EFF's total budget, but Google isn't even listed as a company sponsor in the listing of companies which donated.

Either way, I'm curious how those who continue to insist that EFF is a Google front have to say about EFF's extremely pointed, open letter to Google for its latest privacy failure -- circumventing Safari's privacy settings for millions of users to track web browsing habits of people who specifically opted-out of such tracking.

For what it's worth, this does appear to be a pretty big screw-up on Google's part -- and knowing how quickly some Google haters assume any privacy issue is nefarious and make a big deal of it, I fully expect that Google is going to end up having to pay big time for this mistake. It's worth noting, of course, that at least three other ad companies, including giant WPP, were spotted using the same technique to get around restrictions. But since there's been so much focus on Google and privacy, Google-haters will certainly make quite a lot of noise about this particular issue.

I also absolutely agree with the EFF's statement that Google not only needs to acknowledge that it can do a better job on privacy issues, it should, in fact, be expected to do a lot more concerning privacy issues (though I'm not convinced the "Do Not Track" is really the proper solution). Google's privacy efforts often seem to lag behind its open and consumer-first focus on other issues. I think that's unfortunate.

The EFF doesn't mince words on this:
Google, the time has finally come. You need to make a pro-privacy offering to restore your users' trust.

Internet users worldwide have loved your products for years, and we've often praised your stance on free expression and transparency and your efforts to limit government access to users' information. But when it comes to consumer choice around privacy, your commitment to users has been weaker. That's bad for users, for the future of the Internet, and ultimately, for you. We need to create an Internet that gives users meaningful choice about sharing their personal data, and we need your help to do it.

It's time for a new chapter in Google's policy regarding privacy. It's time to commit to giving users a voice about tracking and then respecting those wishes.
Either way, I'm curious how those who continue to insist that EFF is merely a front group for Google respond to issues like this one -- which is probably an even more "core" issue for Google. EFF has been on the opposite side of Google on privacy issues in the past. Isn't it possible that EFF is an entirely separate organization from Google and has its own views on a variety of issues -- some of which align with Google and some of which do not? One would hope that issues like this would put to rest the silly claims that EFF's involvement in the SOPA/PIPA fights were really just about acting on behalf of Google.

Filed Under: cookies, do not track, privacy, safari, settings
Companies: eff, google

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Feb 2012 @ 7:35am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Oh, this is going to be fun Chubby:

    "I'm sure half a million dollars,"

    Which was part of a legal settlement punishing Google and not a voluntary payment -- which, uh, kinda shoots a big fucking hole in your idiotic conspiracy theory, doesn't it?

    Here's how The Register views it, accurately characterizing it as : "Google offered $8.5m to settle several class action suits last September. The Court made a preliminary settlement late last year and decided on the dispersal of money in February. The lawyers took a cut of just over $2m, leaving $6m to be spread around some 77 organisations. Only 12 made the cut.

    Amongst the groups that failed to squeeze its snouts into the trough was EPIC, which complained that the selection process favored “organizations that are currently paid by [Defendant] to lobby for or to consult for the company”.

    "To say the least, that's an interesting description of the ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which both hit the jackpot, receiving $1m each."

    "And $1m is not a trivial amount to the EFF: in 2008/09 the organisation saw gross income of $3.42m, and was left with a shortfall of over $400,000. Google's cash from this one settlement alone exceeds both individual membership fees, and individual contributions - both under $1m. You could almost describe relying on Google is a kind of business model."

    Here's the link: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/06/03/google_settlement_rewards_privacy_groups_wtf/

    That was a million, not a half million. The half million I was talking about was from the Wojcicki Brin Foundation, which I guess you'll argue doesn't count because technically it's not Google, but anyone with half a brain knows really is.


    The OTHER half million that EFF got from Google was part of a negotiated settlement. Google had a say in where some of the money was directed. So they directed it to their lapdog. Dope.

    "plus funding staff attorneys"

    Citation please?
    Still looking for that for you. In the meantime enjoy the citation for Google Legal Fellowships:

    The Google Policy Fellowship program offers law students interested in Internet and technology policy the opportunity to spend the summer contributing to the public dialogue on these issues, and exploring future academic and professional interests. Fellows will have the opportunity to work at public interest organizations at the forefront of debates on broadband and access policy, content regulation, copyright and trademark reform, consumer privacy, open government, and more. Participating organizations are based in either Washington, DC or San Francisco, CA, and include: American Library Association, Cato Institute, Center for Democracy and Technology, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Internet Education Foundation, Media Access Project, New America Foundation, and Public Knowledge. Fellows will be assigned a lead mentor at their host organizations, but will have the opportunity to work with several senior staff members over the course of the summer. Fellows will be expected to make substantive contributions to the work of their organization, including conducting policy research and analysis; drafting reports and analyses; attending government and industry meetings and conferences; and participating in other advocacy activities.

    "plus funding other positions"

    Citation please?

    Policy fellowships: http://www.google.com/policyfellowship/hosts.html#eff

    Here. Eat this too: http://arstechnica.com/open-source/news/2010/03/eff-seeks-students-to-code-for-liberty.ars

    "plus sponsoring events"

    I recognize that you're from DC and not Silicon Valley so perhaps you're too ignorant to know this, but this is what Silicon Valley does: pretty much every tech company "sponsors" events of various groups. It's meaningless in the long run. There's rarely any money involved. Sponsorship means "letting you use our space." And every company does it. If it wasn't Google, it would have been Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, CNET or someone else. All of those companies regularly let various groups use their space in exchange for putting a "sponsor" logo on the announcement. Reading corruption into that is just stupid.

    And typically the pick up the tab for refreshments, entertainment and associated costs. Right? Which is money the organization would otherwise have to spend, right?

    "plus whatever else doesn't appear in the "definitive yearly statement" (which obviously is a joke in terms of disclosure)"

    You think that a 501(c)3 would flat out lie on its annual statement? Not only that but a 501(c)3 made up almost entirely of lawyers? You're out of your mind.

    Read what I wrote Chubby. I didn't say it was a lie, those are your words. I said it was a joke in terms of full disclosure. Which it is.

    "But don't believe me Masnick, go read their 990."

    Hahah. Their 990 matches their yearly report published on the site, which confirms that it's likely accurate -- contrary to your claim.

    See above.

    "They get about 2 million plus per year from all grants. When Google lays down a half million for their building and pays lawyers and other staff salaries (probably another couple of hundred thousand) that's a pretty significant portion."

    Again, the half mill was a one-time legal settlement (which similarly had Google give a bunch of money to EPIC -- a known Google antagonist), not a grant. And where is the evidence of this "staff salaries"? And, you're wrong. You ignore the fact that individual membership are the bulk of their revenue -- and not corporate grants. So, you're basically full of it.

    It was a million, not a half-million. The half-million was from the Brin Foundation.

    "But you're right no corrupting influence there. However, if the MPAA or RIAA donates $2500 to a candidate (among hundreds of thousands or millions raised) they're "bought" Right?"

    The MPAA and RIAA's sole purpose is to influence Congress as a lobbying organization. The EFF is a litigation shop, not a lobbying shop. Furthermore, the RIAA and MPAA solely represent the very few corporate sponsors they have and only support their interests. EFF's charter is to support the public interest.

    Curious. Here's a link to EFF's site where they characterize their lobbying efforts on Net Neutrality: https://www.eff.org/foia/net-neutrality-lobbying. And here's another to the Livingston Group, the lobbyists they hired: http://www.livingstongroupdc.com/science_tech_tele.php

    If you can't tell the difference, well...

    Sorry, what difference?

    And, since you're suddenly all about full disclosure, who pays your bills?

    I bet you won't say.

    I can say it's none of your fucking business.

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