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Vittorio vb Bertola
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Privacy and Orkut.com

(Inglese, messaggio sulla lista del plenario della società civile al WSIS, 2 Giugno 2004)

[WSIS CS-Plenary] Privacy and orkut.com

Vittorio Bertola plenary asign wsis-cs.org
Fri, 06 Feb 2004 12:42:24 +0100
Robert Guerra ha scritto:
> I'd like to take this opportunity to invite those on the list to join
> other collegues and myself on the WSIS community which has recently been
> created on orkut.com.

Hi,

thanks for your invitation, which, I'm absolutely sure, is being made in
good faith.

However, I'd like to point out that there are certain aspects of the
orkut.com service that are completely unclear, and make me beware of
providing any of my personal information to it.

First of all, as you may discover that Orkut is a service by Google - even
if, at this stage, this is kept as less evident as possible. You will only
find a very tiny sign "in affiliation with Google", written in blue over
light blue, at the bottom of the page.

(A more detailed story at http://news.com.com/2100-1026_3-5146006.html)

Now, generally speaking, I would be very worried by any organization, for
example a government, getting to know in detail and in electronic form not
just my personal data, but even my interests and my network of friends.

But I'd be even more worried if these data went into the hands of a
commercial company.

And I'd be more and more worried if this service was based in the United
States, given the very low level of protection to personal privacy offered
by their legislation (at least if compared to the EU).

I mean, we have been complaining hardly because the WSIS organizers, which
are non-commercial and well respected international organizations, were
using a security system that *might* have been used to track down our
social relationships - and now we're willing to provide the same
information, with our own hands and verified by us, to a commercial website?!?

Now, orkut.com has terms of contract and a privacy policy:

http://www.orkut.com/privacy.html
http://www.orkut.com/terms.html

which say:

"We may share both personally identifiable information about you and
aggregate usage information that we collect with Google Inc. and agents of
orkut in accordance to the terms and conditions of this Privacy Policy. We
will never rent, sell, or share your personal information with any third
party for marketing purposes without your express permission."

So, it says they won't share your info for marketing purposes *with any
third party*, but it also says that they may give it to Google and to
not-better-specified "agents of orkut". Including people who might try to
sell you stuff, I guess. Or to watch your personal connections.

And the terms also say that they will give information about you to any
U.S. entity legally entitled to have it, including the U.S. government
agencies - the same ones which enforce the DMCA or the Patriot Act, I presume.

So, please, don't misunderstand this message. I'm not an anti-american
paranoid who sees Echelons everywhere - nor I think that the whole thing
*certainly* is an attempt to collect personal data for marketing purposes
or to track down people's opinions.

But, honestly, why would a big American corporation in pre-IPO stage such
as Google spend big money to offer a service like this for free to
millions of people? Just to propagate friendship and peace among the
Internet? You know, that's not the kind of argument that convinces bankers
when they have to buy your shares, even if of a very peculiar company like
Google. So either they're completely crazy, or they're planning to make
some kind of revenues by exploiting the personal data they collect.

And, if we believe in what we wrote in our own Declaration, I don't think
we should be helping them. As other, better people already said, the big
problem with privacy is not how to preserve privacy for those few who ask
for it - it is how to convince those who do not value it about its
importance. Let's not start by underestimating its value by ourselves.
--
.oOo.oOo.oOo.oOo vb.
Vittorio Bertola - vb [a] bertola.eu.org
http://bertola.eu.org/ <-- Vecchio sito, nuovo toblog!


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