The Invisible Web

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Posts Tagged ‘Google’

Some Web Firms Say They Track Behavior Without Explicit Consent

Posted by invizweb on August 16, 2008

Thanks to Ralph Bernardo at Disinfo.

Ellen Nakashima writes in the Washington Post:

Several Internet and broadband companies have acknowledged using targeted-advertising technology without explicitly informing customers, according to letters released on August 11 by the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

And Google, the leading online advertiser, stated that it has begun using Internet tracking technology that enables it to more precisely follow Web-surfing behavior across affiliated sites.

The revelations came in response to a bipartisan inquiry of how more than 30 Internet companies might have gathered data to target customers. The revelations came in response to a bipartisan inquiry of how more than 30 Internet companies might have gathered data to target customers. Some privacy advocates and lawmakers said the disclosures help build a case for an overarching online-privacy law.

“Increasingly, there are no limits technologically as to what a company can do in terms of collecting information . . . and then selling it as a commodity to other providers,” said committee member Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), who created the Privacy Caucus 12 years ago. “Our responsibility is to make sure that we create a law that, regardless of the technology, includes a set of legal guarantees that consumers have with respect to their information.”

Read more.

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Posted in Civil Liberties and Social Justice, Current Events | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Court Ruling Will Expose Viewing Habits of YouTube Users

Posted by invizweb on July 5, 2008

On July 2nd, the following article was written by Kurt Opsahl for the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Yesterday, in the Viacom v. Google litigation, the federal court for the Southern District of New York ordered Google to produce to Viacom (over Google’s objections):

all data from the Logging database concerning each time a YouTube video has been viewed on the YouTube website or through embedding on a third-party website

The court’s order grants Viacom’s request and erroneously ignores the protections of the federal Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA), and threatens to expose deeply private information about what videos are watched by YouTube users. The VPPA passed after a newspaper disclosed Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork’s video rental records. As Congress recognized, your selection of videos to watch is deeply personal and deserves the strongest protection.

The Logging database contains:

for each instance a video is watched, the unique “login ID” of the user who watched it, the time when the user started to watch the video, the internet protocol address other devices connected to the internet use to identify the user’s computer (“IP address”), and the identifier for the video.

Google correctly argued that “the data should not be disclosed because of the users’ privacy concerns,” citing the VPPA, 18 U.S.C. § 2710. However, the Court dismissed this argument with no analysis, stating “defendants cite no authority barring them from disclosing such information in civil discovery proceedings, and their privacy concerns are speculative.”

In a footnote, the Court references the VPPA, noting that the federal law “prohibits video tape service providers from disclosing information on the specific video materials subscribers request or obtain.” It is possible that the reference to “video tapes” in the VPPA was confusing. However, the Act is not limited to the technology available at the time of its enactment.

Read more.

Posted in Civil Liberties and Social Justice, Cryptopolitics, Current Events, Internet | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Viacom Knows What You’ve Watched

Posted by invizweb on July 3, 2008

Jacob Sloan @ Disinfo write:

Google has been ordered to hand over all of its electronic data on the videos watched by users on YouTube to Viacom. The data, which is 12 terabytes in size, includes records of every video watched by every user, including the user’s login name and IP address.

Read more. In PDF format.

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The End of Theory: The Data Deluge Makes the Scientific Method Obsolete

Posted by invizweb on July 1, 2008

Chris Anderson wrote for WIRED:

“All models are wrong, but some are useful.”

So proclaimed statistician George Box 30 years ago, and he was right. But what choice did we have? Only models, from cosmological equations to theories of human behavior, seemed to be able to consistently, if imperfectly, explain the world around us. Until now. Today companies like Google, which have grown up in an era of massively abundant data, don’t have to settle for wrong models. Indeed, they don’t have to settle for models at all.

Sixty years ago, digital computers made information readable. Twenty years ago, the Internet made it reachable. Ten years ago, the first search engine crawlers made it a single database. Now Google and like-minded companies are sifting through the most measured age in history, treating this massive corpus as a laboratory of the human condition. They are the children of the Petabyte Age.

The Petabyte Age is different because more is different. Kilobytes were stored on floppy disks. Megabytes were stored on hard disks. Terabytes were stored in disk arrays. Petabytes are stored in the cloud. As we moved along that progression, we went from the folder analogy to the file cabinet analogy to the library analogy to — well, at petabytes we ran out of organizational analogies.

At the petabyte scale, information is not a matter of simple three- and four-dimensional taxonomy and order but of dimensionally agnostic statistics. It calls for an entirely different approach, one that requires us to lose the tether of data as something that can be visualized in its totality. It forces us to view data mathematically first and establish a context for it later. For instance, Google conquered the advertising world with nothing more than applied mathematics. It didn’t pretend to know anything about the culture and conventions of advertising — it just assumed that better data, with better analytical tools, would win the day. And Google was right.

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