back to article Google: Keep user data safe by letting us hoard it forever

Google has sought to turn its China crisis to its advantage by arguing it demonstrates why it should be allowed to hang onto search logs indefinitely. Privacy supremo Peter Fleischer told ComputerWorld in an interview that, "The unprecedented hacking... and the threat of similar such attacks in the future emphasized the …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    Well I'm convinced!

    The CEO himself said, if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear!

    1. Anonymous Coward

      About that remark...

      I wonder how Schmidt would feel in the following scenario.

      Suppose that there was another Eric Schmidt living in Silicon Valley.

      Has the exact same name. Different address, phone number, and other personal data of course.

      Now suppose that this Eric Schmidt had a certain fancy for little boys and girls. And went to the local library, the same library our CEO goes to and has a library card. (Yes, you do need a library card these days...)

      At the library, our second Eric goes online and searches the net for well, er , stuff.

      The nanny monitor software alerts the staff, and Eric is busted. He's tossed from the Library, his library card is revoked, and its recorded that he's a potential pedophile.

      Now our CEO goes in to the Library to check out a book. Red flags go up all over the place.

      After all, Eric Schmidt was just booted and here's our CEO. Sure the address is different, but Eric could have moved. We can't trust all of the data we see. After all, no system is infallible.

      As much as he protests, its to no avail.

      Of course, being a small town, word gets out. Rumors start.

      But hey! Our CEO didn't do anything! Right? So he has nothing to fear.

      The point is that Google is pulling data about users from different sources and are matching them up. There will be errors of course, but hey! Don't worry, you have nothing to fear, right?

      You did nothing wrong.

      There are other scenarios that also show a flaw in his logic.

      I mean take Bob down in Engineering. He and his buddies were having an argument over the terms 'Goat Fsck' and 'Cluster Fsck', along with the meaning of 'SNAFU'.

      Now these are all technical terms, used by engineers to discuss their projects and why pointy haired executives are making their lives a living hell. (You can replace the s with a u, but I'm trying to keep things clean for the kiddies). So Bob enters them in to Google.

      Because of the word fsck, Bob not only gets the definitions, but also ads from Craig's list, and a bunch of Adult Entertainment sites. After all we know that the real reason geeks created the internet was for porn. :-) Yet I digress.

      Poor Bob did this on his corporate computer. Shirley Ujest in HR was alerted, and poor Bob got hauled in to her office. No matter how hard he tried to explain that his search wasn't for adult material, but to find out the real meaning of the terms 'goat fsck', 'cluster fsck', and 'SNAFU', Shirley was having none of it. Bob was terminated, for cause, because he was found surfing the net for porn.

      So yeah, I guess if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.

      I chose Tux because he looks happy.

  2. Andy ORourke

    Dont waste time posting simply vote

    Thumbs down = Google bad

    Thumbs up = Google Good

    This will save you having to waste time either defending or attacking Google.

    You're welcome :-)

  3. Oz


    is a complete jerk. How many hackers will sit there attempting to crack something for 6 months. They won't. They'll most likeey stick with it a while and then bail out to try something/someone else. He reasoning is just more BS to try and convince the paranoid and less IT literate that he really needs all that information for a long time.

  4. Ihre Papiere Bitte!!


    "In December 2008 he (Fleischer) was asked to join an EU quango which would advise on future data protection legislation."

    WTF? Isn't that a little like asking Nick Griffin to join an EU quango on race relations legislation?

  5. Dennis O'Neill

    I see they're going...

    ...on the attack, now. They're so rattled by privacy campaigners that they're getting aggressive instead of defensive. The smug "We're right and you're wrong, stop worryong your little head about all this" approach has plainly failed miserably, so now they're trying the "You're an enemy of freedom!!" tack instead. How can it be "reprehensible" for a company to disagree with Google about what to do with its data?

    Unfortunately, it's the Rupert Murdoch school of freedom. So long as you're free to spend all your money on their services and nowhere else, then the world's in a good place, but heaven forfend you should want to choose something they don't want you to.

  6. cannon

    our privacy sold to big business

    so target advertising is for our benefit is it? marketing staff are nothing more than scum.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I quit Psychology

      because the only other student who was a natural and was really enthusiastic, was hoping to go into advertising once he'd got his degree.

  7. Britt Johnston

    Predictive storage date

    The opposite argument would be that data is only worth storing until hacked. There will be a meaningful relationship between storage time and mean time between hacks. So, if outsiders feel info should go, they then just raise a hack request more often.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So their database was compromised...

    ...and their solution is to put more data in it?

    That can't be right.

  9. JohnG

    Invalid argument in line 1

    If Google keep logs indefinitely that will give unfriendly governments MORE information on their dissidents the next time they hack Google.

  10. Anonymous Coward

    At last! Now we know...

    ... exactly what Google's self-serving angle was on this China business. Had to be a catch somewhere - unless you were gullible enough to accept that Google had the slightest interest in human rights or privacy...

  11. John Smith 19 Gold badge


    You should have added that the original Eric gets caught having tried to do Google searches.

    Otherwise, nice job.

  12. heyrick Silver badge

    My mother once said...

    ...there is a HUGE difference between "information" and "knowledge".

    This data Google is collecting. It is information. It means dick.

    Last night I was trying to look for an animé similar to "Elfen Lied" (suggestions?!?) and today while at work my mother used my computer to look for crochet patterns. So Google's logs will portray a crochet-loving animé geek. That's not knowledge. It isn't even correct. It's just a bad hashing of (unknown to it) two people using the same computer.

    As far as I'm concerned, they can keep their stupid logs. I'll take it in return for an actual datasheet for the TMS320DM320. Because Texas fobbed me off (can you _BELIEVE_ the email ended with "I am please to inform you that we are unable to process you inquiry." - if they actually employed native English speakers, they'd realise how utterly rude that comes across as) and a datasheet is information which enhances knowledge.

    What I looked for five years ago? Assuming it was actually _me_ doing the looking, would I give a damn about whatever it was nowadays?

    The whole problem highlights beautifully the problem with thre clueless turds (be it immigration or your bank) that look at the computer display and are, effectively, going to mutter "the computer says naaaaah" because there it is on the screen, in illuminated pixels, placed there by The Great Oracle of The Wired. It must be true. So I just Googled for "How to hack the NSA" and funny, most of the links are about did the NSA hack the vote so Bush won the election... Whatever. Staring at plain logs of searches with no context is fairly useless, the signal-to-noise ratio must surely be off the scale.

    How does referring to logs of searches help future hacks? What kind of fool would try to hack Google having... you know... evidently searched for "how to hack into Google" (just asked, take a look at !)? The long and short is unless you are looking for a specific pattern, most of the stuff in logs is of use only as a statistical agregate. Like anybody who has ever played with the "analog" program. I cant think of ANY reason to keep ANY part of an IP address over, say, a week. Hell, mine changes more often than that. Therein lies another potential flaw in Google. Do they record addresses using an IP address without the cookie to try to tie to the same IP address WITH the cookie? When my IP changes, it is reasonable to assume somebody else is allocated mine. With Google try to link their searches with my retained data?

    Information, not knowlege.

    BTW, before anybody says I'm stupid for looking up that sort of stuff _knowing_ that Google will record it... certain parts of my site have PHP embedded into the HTML to record the referrer information so I can see how people move around my site and where they come from (I dont care _who_, only how). One of the side effects is people redirected from search engines, it often contains their entire search string in the URL given.

    There's a lot of people out there with far greater problems than me asking Google for information on how to hack itself. Some of the requests (especially for my old "Willow pictures" stuff) is downright icky.

    1. Nigel 11
      Black Helicopters

      But on the other side ...

      But on the other side of this argument, we have MI5 and MI6 and GCHQ (to name a few agencies that are supposedly on our side), and numerous corresponding entities in other countries that aren't.

      They're specialists in turning information into knowledge (or "intelligence"), which might not bother you, if you have nothing to hide. They have truly huge computer resources. They'll have AIs before the rest of us know that such AIs exist. But they're falliable. The first post on this thread, where the Google executive gets labelled as a paedo because someone of the same name uses the same library, is what you have to fear even if you have nothing to hide.

      And if instead you get tagged as a potential suicide bomber as a consequence of a data-mining inference error, the first you know about it might be a bullet in your head. Please remember Jean Charles de Menezes before you respond. (Yes I do know that time was not a computer error).

      Google wants to "do no evil", but they'd do well to remember what the road to hell is paved with.

      1. heyrick Silver badge

        The road to hell is paved with Dairy Milk

        All quite valid points. I trust that everyday life will contain de Menezes errors infrequently rather than as the norm.

        Another problem, to expand upon what you have already said, is that it is in the interests of various "security" (with scare quotes) agencies to be paranoid. To see things that are not there. You may think you have nothing to hide if you're a decent person, but they already know you're hiding something. It's in their interests to look at the world that way, it justifies their purpose.

        And still, apart from a week of back-logs to look for a potential trend following an infiltration (attempted or acheived), I don't see any valid reason for hanging onto any form of identifying information with more resolution than "country", for making random pointless stats.

        But I can see plenty of invalid reasons.

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