Hacker News new | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

Wow, a guy working for Google said "fuck you" to the NSA. All my doubts and worries are gone now.



Are you being sarcastic?

For months Google's only public response was to lobby the government for permission to release stats(?) to prove that they complied with the law - nary a word of criticism for the law itself.

So now that Google's own autonomy has been breached by the NSA (all above-board and legal according to the NSA's legions of loop-hole seeking lawyers) instead of just Google's users, now they are mad?

I just made another post about how a lot of people are unable to imagine what its like for others to be in a situation until they themselves are in the same situation. But... I'm not so sure Google, as an organization, has fully recognized the scope of the problem here.


I was being sarcastic, yes.


OK.

I had laugh-snort reading the discussion on that page - at one point the original author, Mike Hearn, tries to argue that ad-based services are actually a good thing for privacy. Does Kool-Aid have a google flavor now?


You should respond to his argument instead of accusing him of brainwashing. The latter does nothing to advance the conversation.


Can't. I so disbelieve in his argument that I won't sign up for G+.

Besides, as Upton Sinclair was fond of saying, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it."


I'm suggesting you could rebut his argument here instead of just insulting his integrity.


I doubt he's reading this - but for you, sure...

His claim is that there aren't any viable anonymous payment systems for the web but that advertising is semi anonymous, so that's better.

(1) There are ways to make anonymous payments on the net, I can use cash to buy cash-cards in denominations up to $500 that work just like debit cards online, they are even branded with Visa and/or MasterCard. Until a couple of years ago you could buy even larger denominations but war on terror hysteria made it illegal to do without providing ID. None of the entrenched powers seemed to mind the new regulations all that much, which leads too...

(2) The rise of advertising as the primary source of online funding has choked out development of alternative online payment systems in the same way that an invasive species chokes out native species that occupy the same ecological niche. If it weren't for companies like google we wouldn't be in the situation we are now because a lot more work would have gone into the development of alternative payment systems.

(3) The entire goal of modern online advertising is to identify and track users as narrowly as possible so as to better "target" them. The more sophisticated online advertising systems become, the less anonymous the users become. Companies like BlueKai and hundreds of others exist to connect your real-life identity (and associated database entries) with your online activity. Even google does it with their real names policy for g+.

So instead of each vendor only knowing about the specific transactions they have with you, there exist multiple databases that amalgamate all of your transactions (online and offline) across multiple vendors into one central record that is for sale. I'm well aware that Google thinks their user records are super proprietary and that they would never make that data openly available outside of Google, but (1) they are far from the only holder of such data and many of the others see selling/renting that database as their main source of profit, (2) sophisticated use of targeted ad-buys can indirectly mine Google's data, it's not as easy as just buying access like you would from a place like Experian but it is feasible under the right circumstances and (3) who can say if Google will have a change in corporate direction tomorrow and start selling access to all that data that they have been collecting for over a decade?

So, in short, his claim was so blindered that it really was quite ridiculously naive/ignorant.


Thank you for responding in a meaningful way. I appreciate it.

> There are ways to make anonymous payments on the net, I can use cash to buy cash-cards in denominations up to $500 that work just like debit cards online, they are even branded with Visa and/or MasterCard.

This still puts you at greater risk of exposure than creating a Gmail account through an anonymizing proxy. Prepaid cards can be traced to where they are purchased, which at least narrows your location geographically, if not the exact location. From there the NSA could probably catch you buying it in person by reviewing CCTV footage.

> The rise of advertising as the primary source of online funding has choked out development of alternative online payment systems in the same way that an invasive species chokes out native species that occupy the same ecological niche. If it weren't for companies like google we wouldn't be in the situation we are now because a lot more work would have gone into the development of alternative payment systems.

I don't really understand this point. You seem to be positing a world where online advertising didn't become the dominant mechanism for making money on the web, but you don't explain how this could come about. Perhaps if "companies like Google" did not exist? But there were advertising companies before Google and there will be long after Google is gone. Advertising is an inextricable part of the global economy. It would take a revolution to change that.

> So instead of each vendor only knowing about the specific transactions they have with you, there exist multiple databases that amalgamate all of your transactions (online and offline) across multiple vendors into one central record that is for sale.

I think this is deeply wrong and I wouldn't be working for Google if I thought we were heading in this direction. It's not my place to comment further on your other assertions about Google.

> So, in short, his claim was so blindered that it really was quite ridiculously naive/ignorant.

I don't see how your argument supports this claim. Nothing you have said would be news to Mike, who has been thinking about all this stuff longer and more deeply than most people. He just has a different perspective to you, that's all.


This still puts you at greater risk of exposure than creating a Gmail account through an anonymizing proxy.

I note that you've specifically gone to the most extreme case of the state looking to track you rather than some other private entity. The NSA/FBI looking at camera footage at the point of purchase for a cash card is just as likely as the NSA de-anonymizing your proxy (well probably less likely given what the NSA has been up to). However, for private databases nobody is going to make those efforts. But what they will do (and do all the time) is cross-reference web activity to minimize anonymity and increasing "targeting."

Advertising is an inextricable part of the global economy. It would take a revolution to change that.

That's circular. My point is that the industry's overwhelming movement toward advertising as a payment system starved out the development of alternative payment systems, micropayments, e-cash, etc. Hell, paypal could be so much more privacy preserving simply by not disclosing your email to the seller but they don't make that trivial effort because they have no competition.

I think this is deeply wrong and I wouldn't be working for Google if I thought we were heading in this direction.

If you think I am specifically talking about Google, you are mistaken. Go install Ghostery and watch how simply visiting a web page like The Verge gets you into the databases of at least 7 different trackers other than Google. If Mike Hearn was arguing that google should have a monopoly on advertising because google currently doesn't deliberately share its secret stash with anyone, then that opens up a whole different line of disagreement.


The industry moved to advertising because it works. When something more compelling comes along, people will move to that. So far it doesn't exist, but many people are trying.

PayPal are not a monopoly, by the way. I would not be surprised to see them unseated from their current position in the next few years.

I do have Ghostery installed. I'm glad it exists, and wish more people would use it so that they could see the extent of the tracking that's going on.

> If you think I am specifically talking about Google, you are mistaken.

I was responding specifically to your paragraph about Google.


The industry moved to advertising because it works.

That's really overly simplistic. It's a complex system and to assume that its the best system (as Mike Hearn stated) is to ignore the fact that there are competing interests at work and the ones who value privacy have significantly less clout than the ones that don't.

PayPal are not a monopoly, by the way.

That's just wordplay. Paypal has not faced significant competitive pressure for over a decade, if ever.


Hearn claimed that there are two ways to fund services: through advertising, and through direct user payment. This is wrong. There are plenty of other ways to fund services.

You could fund them indirectly, through sales of another product. Think about Apple giving away its software and Web services (funded by hardware sales), or Microsoft giving away its Web services (funded mostly by software sales), or even of Google's nonprofitable services and projects (the ultimate income source here is ads, but it needn't be).

Alternatively, you could accept some anonymous form of payment. Bitcoin is the obvious one, but there are plenty of others -- gift cards come to mind, and these have been pretty successful for iTunes and the XBOX arcade.

Or, of course, there's cash, Bitcoin, and other less convenient or mature technologies.

Finally, the argument is a little disingenuous, given Google's push, with Google Plus, to know people's real identity anyway. It is clear that "advertising = better privacy" isn't a Google goal, at the high level.


He did preface it with a "I don't speak for my company".


Therefore...?


I took your comment as being serious. Maybe my sarcasm detector needs adjustment.




Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: