Katherine Mangu-Ward Discusses Google's Privacy Policy on Fox Business

"This is a problem for us all," warns Reason Managing Editor Katherine Mangu-Ward about Google's compliance with NSA requests to mine private email data. How different companies have responded to the government's demands is a critical question for public debate.

However, Mangu-Ward notes an important distinction between government and private snooping: When Google snoops on our email, it's usually to sell us something. When the government spies on us, it's to convict us of a crime.

Airdate: August 14, 2013

Runs just over two minutes.

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  • Dweebston||

    Well, that went nowhere.

    Wish KMW had pushed (to my mind) the obvious point: Google's between a rock and a hard place. There's a villain here, yes, but it's not the one on the barrel-side of the gun. Conflating google's routine ad targeting with the information forfeited to the NSA under what as far as I'm concerned is duress is just blithering stupidity.

  • Killazontherun||

    They've been assholes about privacy since their start, pushing arguments that we need to just embrace the 'new openness of the digital age'; after all, collecting data has been quite profitable for them. I hope it bites them on the ass now that people are wising up.

  • Sanidin||

    Simple fact is, all systems "process" your email. It's how it works. They need to know who you are sending it to or receiving it from. Your emails are like postcards, not some letter sealed in an enveloped. That's a failing of the email protocols, not Google's or Yahoo's or Microsoft's.

  • CE||

    Yes, they need to know who you are and who you are sending it to. They need to know nothing at all about the contents, except the size of the file to send. So an email is exactly like a letter sealed in an envelope, and not like a postcard at all.

  • ||

    So, they allocate space on their hard drives the length of the email, and the contents just magically appear?

  • ant1sthenes||

    Well, it's true that it doesn't need to exist in a form intelligible to them. But that's what encryption is for.

  • ||

    Email is (largely) plain text.

    The point is that email providers "read" your email and there's no way around that. The envelope analogy is a bad one for these sorts of discussions.

    What they do with it is a different matter. Right now pretty much everyone agrees it's proper for a mail provider to analyze the contents of email to filter out spam. And only a slightly smaller number agrees that it's proper for a mail provider to analyze the contents of email to apply user-defined filters.

    There is more controversy (especially from advertisers) about auto-categorization as employed in Gmail's new inbox system but that too is basically accepted.

    If you want to argue that analyzing the contents of email for advertising is wrong, so be it. But people need to shut up about email providers "reading", "processing", "analyzing", etc. your emails. That is how it works. If you object to that you are part of a very small minority and you should set up your own mail server.

  • Warrren||

    It sucks when the last post is not a good one. The last one should be something with some meat on it to generate comments and clicks.

    Something like a Late Nite Links type of thing....

  • Almanian!||

    LATE NIGHT LINKS! LATE NIGHT LINKS! LATE NIGHT LINKS!

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Do you seriously expect the Reason staff to abandon their KOKTALE PARTEEZ to give you Late Night Links? More importantly, do you think Welch trusts the interns enough to unchain one of them from the Intern Pen and let them do it?

  • Almanian!||

    Sadly.....no.

  • CE||

    There's another important distinction. When Google spies on you, you can stop using Google. Try to stop being governed by the government and see what happens.

  • yonemoto||

    Uh, the part in the google document that EVERYONE is making a fuss about, is actually a quote from a court decision.

    http://thenextweb.com/google/2.....-in-gmail/

    COME ON, KMW.

  • ||

    But, but, it's hip to hate on Google!

  • Dave Krueger||

    Anyone who equates commercial data mining to government data mining should have to spend a month in jail just to help give them a more relevant frame of reference.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    I am not so sure they can't be analogous. If a street thug steals money from me by gunpoint and the government steals the same amount in similar fashion I am not sure the second is inherently worse than the first.

  • yonemoto||

    yeah, except commercial data mining isn't a street thug taking your money, it's like you giving the street thug money in exchange for some drugs.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    Perhaps not, it depends on terms and such.

    If a company tells me it will use my data if I give it to them and I consent I have nothing to complain of. But if that doesn't happen I am not sure it is better.

    Consider if a retail store secretly installed TSA style body scanners which scanned everyone that walked through their doors. I do not think this can be excused by saying 'well, you walked through our doors!'

  • Killazontherun||

    Great analogy. I sometimes have to remind people its still possible to be a libertarian and have an earned grudge against many corporations. It is a part of the concept of caveat emptor that we are suppose to embrace, after all.

  • Dave Krueger||

    They can't be analogous because the street thug can't throw you in prison. That's a pretty huge difference.

    That's not to say you don't have a point about corporate abuses, but there is an indisputable and fundamental difference between corporate power and governmental power.

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