Mistrusting Google

Episode 288 of the Cyberlaw Podcast

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

We kick off the episode with This Week in Mistrusting Google: Klon Kitchen points to a Wall Street Journal story about all the ways Google tweaks its search engine to yield results that look machine-made but aren't. He and I agree that most of these tweaks have understandable justifications – but you have to trust Google not to misuse them. And increasingly no one does. The same goes for Google's foray into amassing and organizing health data on millions of Americans. It's a nothingburger with mayo, unless you mistrust Google. Since mistrusting Google is a growth industry, the report is getting a lot of attention, including from HHS investigators. Matthew Heiman explains, and when he's done, my money is on Google surviving that investigation comfortably. The capital of mistrusting Google, of course, is Brussels, and not surprisingly, Maury Shenk tells us that the EU has forced Google to modify its advertising protocols to exclude data on sites visited by its customers.

A Massachusetts federal district court says suspicionless device searches at borders are not okay. Matthew and I dig into the details. Bottom line: Requiring reasonable suspicion for electronics searches isn't a tough standard, but if CBP needs a reasonable suspicion that the phone contains contraband, we aren't going to see a lot of searches. But that's only good news for US citizens. Searches of foreign travelers' phones can also be justified as a search for evidence that they should not be admitted to the country, and reasonable suspicion that such evidence will be found on a phone is not hard to come by.

The US Supreme Court will be deciding whether APIs can be copyrighted (or whether copying them is fair use). I put my Supreme Court maven cred on the line, predicting that the Court is going to reverse the federal circuit and reject Oracle's claim that it can extract hefty rent payments from Google for use of Oracle APIs.

An injunction against disseminating violent and inciting speech is causing angst in Hong Kong. Maury explains why. And Klon unpacks the story of the Chinese hackers who've been spying on the US National Association of Manufacturers.

Maury and I throw shade at the federal court's claim that it's arbitrary and capricious for the Trump Administration to drop an unenforceable ban on the export through publication of 3D gun plans.

In a lightning round, no one should be surprised that Microsoft is making CCPA the law of the land. Nor that Amazon sells a lot of stuff directly from China. Or, frankly, that the hullabaloo over "sophisticated" DDoS attacks on British political parties is just campaign grist.

Advertisement (you knew it would happen eventually): Steptoe is hosting a complimentary webinar on Tuesday, December 10. We'll be talking about the impacts on retailers of the newly implemented California Consumer Privacy Act and the EU's General Data Protection Regulation. This is a fast-moving area of the law. You can find out more and register here.

Download the 288th Episode (mp3).

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  1. Let me simply enter the term “should Google be trusted” into the search engine…

    …and they’re sending me a free shipment of pod-shaped pillows. This is very annoying, and I’m going to write a strong letter of protest as soon as I take a quick nap…

    …well, that nap was refreshing, and I no longer want to bother the nice people at Google, I think they have the public’s interests at heart.

  2. We’ve already had multiple whistleblowers with first-hand testimony showing that Google can’t be trusted. By modern standards they should be impeached already.

  3. “most of these tweaks have understandable justifications”

    Wow, so some of the manual manipulations of search results do not have any conceivable possible justification, the opinion of Stewart Baker and some other guy. How comforting.

    Remember, Google has repeatedly denied that they intervene with search results in this fashion, even including CEO Pichai under oath to Congress. And this has been repeatedly proven false.

    So any day now, SWAT teams will raid Pichai’s house before dawn and he’ll get locked up for years like Roger Stone, right? Right!? Lol, yeah right! Just like Brennan and Clapper did for lying to Congress.

  4. I have never seen even one reason I should trust Google. I block Google analytics, I block Google cookies, I refuse to use Googles website, and yet Google shows up in my browser. How is that?

    1. By any chance, is your browser Chrome?

      1. HECK NO, NEVER! I answered you earlier but must have violated some Reason legalize (probably posting links) as they are still considering my post. I use only Linux open source Operating systems and open source web browsers. If you want to know more about Google’s servers spying on web traffic, look at dnsleaktest and doileak (use DuckDuckGo od Startpage to find these sites) to see why Google can see everything you do. When I need privacy and security I use a specific OS (named after a bird that can mimic human speech), which uses the TOR network (but never the deep dark web). It blocks DNS requests, IPv6 request, WebRTC, and WebGL which can all give away your IP address, which means they know who you are and track what you do. I also use the addons, Canvas Defender (which prevents browser fingerprinting by generating noise), Privacy Badger. NoScript, and uBlock Origin to prevent spying by Google. I also block Google analytics and use block cookies and private windows, yet Google can still get cookies in my browser, that is how good they are at spying. Google is evil!

  5. I similarly expect the Supreme Court will slap down Oracle.

    But if they don’t, I hope the decision is such that IBM, the company that employed the original creators of SQL, can extract a nice hefty retroactive royalty on every last damned copy of Oracle ever shipped in the last forty years.

    1. SQL was submitted for standardization, and the standardized version isn’t identical to IBM’s. Microsoft’s isn’t, either (to either one).

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