Google say “no harm done” – nonsense!

“Who was harmed? Name the person,” Mr Schmidt of Google said, when talking about the company’s collection of private data from unsecured Wi-Fi networks. The data included passwords and chunks of email messages. Well, Mr Schmidt, if you collected my data I was harmed. You see, private information about me is exactly that. It is private.

If I wanted to make the information public I could do so. If I wanted to give the information to a huge multinational like Google, I could do so. But taking my private data, whatever it is, without my permission is theft, believe it or not. The fact that Google’s business model enables it to provide “free” software and browsers does not mean that my personal way of life is such that Google can take from me whatever it wants.

I presume that there was a commercial advantage in collected the data. If there was none Google would not have bothered to collect it.

How was I harmed if Google collected my data? In exactly the same way that I would be harmed if it collected my bank account number, my cell phone number and details about my life that I did not want the world to know.

Privacy is important. If I want to wander the streets of my city anonymously, enjoying the views or visiting friends I should be able to do this without commercial or governmental organisations knowing. I should be able to buy a train ticket without providing my name and address and email account details. I should be able to visit a supermarket without them maintaining through “rewards” cards details about my shopping habits and practices.

Google claimed that it “accidentally” grabbed the data from WI-FI networks. It is an astonishingly lame excuse.

Perhaps the best way to consider this is to remember that email has largely replaced the postal services of hundreds of millions of people in the world. If Google had accidently grabbed our mail and opened it and kept copies of snippets of it, Google would be prosecuted without hesitation in virtually every jurisdiction in the world. The fact that it has done something akin with our emails is no different in the character of its act.

There are other things which perhaps Mr Schmidt and Google may think there is no harm in knowing about everyone on the planet:-

  • DNA
  • Sexuality
  • Our assets
  • Our liabilities
  • For whom we vote
  • Whether we use emails and broadband

You see Mr Schmidt; it is very simple; neither you nor Google seem to understand the difference between right and wrong. You ask us to name the person who was harmed. Simple. Everyone whose data you took.

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