Google Buzz and Economic Surveillance

Google has recently introduced its new social networking service “Buzz“.

The New York Times ran an article about this new technology on February, 13, 2010:
Critics Say Google Invades Privacy With New Service

I find interesting about the NY Times article and the reactions of some users to Google Buzz that they primarily stress the danger that China, Iran, etc could use Buzz for engaging in the (political) surveillance of political oppositionists and that they label such endeavours totalitarian, while at the same time they do not provide a critique of the economic surveillance machine constituted by Google’s expanding services, its collection, storage, analysis, and commodification of personal data, and its market dominance.

Surveillance and Big Brother are not only somewhere out there in China or Iran, they are also present in the heart of capitalism itself – in the form of economic surveillance, and Google is one of its primary executors.

The Buzz privacy policy for example says:
“When you use Google Buzz, we may record information about your use of the product, such as the posts that you like or comment on and the other users who you communicate with. This is to provide you with a better experience on Buzz and other Google services and to improve the quality of Google services”
“If you use Google Buzz on a mobile device and choose to view “nearby” posts, your location will be collected by Google.”

The task for Google is to collect as much data about users as possible and to then sell this data as commodity to advertising clients. Google fears the competition by Facebook and Twitter in the social networking market, and so has set up its own service (although I doubt that I will be so successful because until now it only supports rather trivial functions).

Google uses DoubleClick for networking the data it holds about its users with data about these users’ browsing and usage behaviour on other Web platforms (see Google Privacy Policy). There is only an opt-out option from this surveillance. Opt-out options are always unlikely to be used because in many cases they are hidden inside of long privacy and usage terms and therefore only really accessible to knowledgeable users. Of course Internet corporations avoid opt-in advertising solutions because this would drastically reduce the potential number of users participating in advertising.

To only focus on the political surveillance capabilities that Buzz provides for some non-Western societies and to ignore the immanence of economic surveillance, is a form of Digital Orientalism that is ideologically blind for the forms of stratification that are at the heart of Western economies.


GOOGLE BUZZ PRIVACY POLICY

9 February 2010

Personal Information
In order to post in Buzz or to comment on or “like” other people’s posts, you need to have a public Google profile which should as a minimum includes your first and last name.
When you first enter Google Buzz, to make the start-up experience easier, we may automatically select people for you to follow based on the people who you email and chat with most. Similarly, we may also suggest to others that they automatically follow you.
You can review and edit the list of people you follow and block people from following you
Your name, photo and the list of people you follow and people following you will be displayed on your Google profile, which is publicly searchable on the Web. You may opt out of displaying the list of people following you and who you’re following on your profile.
If you are following someone who publicly displays their list of followers on their Google profile, then your Google profile name will appear on that person’s public list. Likewise, if someone is following you and displays the list of people they follow on their profile, then you will appear on that public list.

You can add additional people to your public or private post via an “@reply.” This is similar to adding additional recipients to a pre-existing email thread. All recipients of a private post can see the list of people who have received it, including those added via “@reply.”
When you use Google Buzz, we may record information about your use of the product, such as the posts that you like or comment on and the other users who you communicate with. This is to provide you with a better experience on Buzz and other Google services and to improve the quality of Google services.

Your activity on “connected sites” (such as Picasa Web Albums or Twitter) may be shared in Google Buzz.
You may review and revise the list of connected sites in order to choose which sites to maintain as “connected” to Google Buzz.
If you use Google Buzz on a mobile device and choose to view “nearby” posts, your location will be collected by Google.
If you use a mobile device to create a post which shares your location, then your location will be collected by Google and displayed to other users, as described when you first attempt to use Buzz on a mobile device. You may thereafter opt out of the collection and display of your location on a per-post basis. You can also choose to exclude your location from all of your posts.
For features requiring voice recognition, we collect and store a copy of the voice input that you make. To improve processing of your voice input, we may also continuously record a few seconds of ambient background noise in temporary memory. This recording temporarily remains on your mobile device and is not sent to Google.
For mobile, we may store some data – such as your user profile photograph and your location – locally on your mobile device in order to reduce latency.

Uses
Our use of the information that you provide is described in the Google Privacy Policy.
In addition, if you upload a photo via the Buzz interface or choose to email images to buzz@googlemail.com, we will include those photos in a Picasa web album and create a Google Picasa account on your behalf if you don’t already have one. The Picasa Privacy Policy will apply to your use of our Picasa service.
If you use Google Buzz on a mobile device, we may display your location-based posts to users who seek to view Buzz posts “nearby” the location where you created your update.

Your Choices
For each of your Google Buzz posts, you have the choice of whether to post it to the “public” – which means that it will be published on your public Google profile on the Web and to all users of Google Buzz – or to post it to a private list of contacts that you create.
You may review and revise the list of people you follow and people who follow you. You also may opt out of displaying the list of people you follow and people who follow you on your Google profile.
You may review and revise the list of connected sites in order to choose which sites to maintain as “connected” to Google Buzz.
If you choose to delete your Google profile, your Buzz posts will be deleted, but the comments and “likes” that you have made on other people’s posts will not be deleted. You have the option to remove your comments on others’ posts individually. Residual copies of deleted material may take up to 60 days to be deleted from our active servers and may remain in our offline backup systems.
If you simply want to turn the Buzz feature off, you can do so within Google Mail without deleting your Buzz content.
When posting on Buzz via your mobile device, you may opt out of the collection and display of your location on a per-post basis. You can also choose to exclude your location from all of your posts.
For data stored locally on your mobile device, you can access and clear this information in the browser settings on your mobile device.

More information
Google adheres to the US Safe Harbour privacy principles. For more information about the Safe Harbour framework or our registration, see the US Department of Commerce’s web site.
For more information about our privacy practices, go to the fully privacy policy.

GOOGLE PRIVACY POLICY:

(…)
Google uses the DoubleClick advertising cookie on AdSense partner sites and certain Google services to help advertisers and publishers serve and manage ads across the web. You can view, edit, and manage your ads preferences associated with this cookie by accessing the Ads Preferences Manager. In addition, you may choose to opt out of the DoubleClick cookie at any time by using DoubleClick’s opt-out cookie.
(…)
Google only shares personal information with other companies or individuals outside of Google in the following limited circumstances:
* We have your consent. We require opt-in consent for the sharing of any sensitive personal information
* We provide such information to our subsidiaries, affiliated companies or other trusted businesses or persons for the purpose of processing personal information on our behalf. We require that these parties agree to process such information based on our instructions and in compliance with this Privacy Policy and any other appropriate confidentiality and security measures.
* We have a good faith belief that access, use, preservation or disclosure of such information is reasonably necessary to (a) satisfy any applicable law, regulation, legal process or enforceable governmental request, (b) enforce applicable Terms of Service, including investigation of potential violations thereof, (c) detect, prevent, or otherwise address fraud, security or technical issues, or (d) protect against harm to the rights, property or safety of Google, its users or the public as required or permitted by law.
(…)
We may share with third parties certain pieces of aggegated, non-personal information, such as the number of users who searched for a particular term, for example, or how many users clicked on a particular advertisement. Such information does not identify you individually.

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