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Old 11-28-09, 01:23 PM   #1
SonOfAStu
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Google and Privacy (Docs, Gmail, Contacts, searches, etc.)

So my wife is a little bit (okay, quite a bit) nervous of using Google applications for, well, anything. She has read too many email chains and too many conspiracy theory blogs about Google and their security and ownership measures of personal and private information.

Does anyone have any extensive knowledge on the subject? Done any research and can back up claims either way. My quick search on the subject (and I even used Bing) turned up a lot of junk.

Is there anything for her to be worries about? Is Google evil?

Thanks!
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Old 11-28-09, 01:48 PM   #2
Rival11
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Re: Google and Privacy (Docs, Gmail, Contacts, searches, etc.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by SonOfAStu View Post
So my wife is a little bit (okay, quite a bit) nervous of using Google applications for, well, anything. She has read too many email chains and too many conspiracy theory blogs about Google and their security and ownership measures of personal and private information.

Does anyone have any extensive knowledge on the subject? Done any research and can back up claims either way. My quick search on the subject (and I even used Bing) turned up a lot of junk.

Is there anything for her to be worries about? Is Google evil?

Thanks!
Google does key log every word you type and they track pretty much everything you do - take chrome for example, while typing in an address (and by just typing) your actions are already logged, they don't even need you to hit "go" before logging.

Now, as to the extent of what your info is used for....I have no idea and I really don't think anyone else does either (if it is in fact used for anything other than advertising which at this point, is unlikely).

So what's the good news? If you think Google is the only free web service guilty of this think again - I'm pretty sure the big 3 all have the same model in place.

I really wouldn't worry about your personal info being sold\leaked through by Google - they are NOT allowed to do that. They can however use your own personal info to advertise directly back to you (and only you) by using trageted ad systems but that's about the extent of it.

That's my two cents.
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Old 11-28-09, 03:06 PM   #3
SonOfAStu
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Re: Google and Privacy (Docs, Gmail, Contacts, searches, etc.)

Thanks Rival. I tend to agree that they're using it to target ads. However, I guess the mere fact that the information is gathered is enough to get the tin foil hats all riled up. Just looking for some comforting information to give her to convince her it's okay to create a Gmail account for her Google phone.
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Old 11-28-09, 03:15 PM   #4
Decadance
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Re: Google and Privacy (Docs, Gmail, Contacts, searches, etc.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by SonOfAStu View Post
Thanks Rival. I tend to agree that they're using it to target ads. However, I guess the mere fact that the information is gathered is enough to get the tin foil hats all riled up. Just looking for some comforting information to give her to convince her it's okay to create a Gmail account for her Google phone.
Watch out. The Google phone will read her thoughts, control her thoughts, and ultimately turn her into a mindless google Zombie.
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Testing Peoples Apathy
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Old 11-28-09, 03:24 PM   #5
4KRG
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Re: Google and Privacy (Docs, Gmail, Contacts, searches, etc.)

So google can read your emails and web searches and store that info

What exactly are you worried about?

I wouldn't email my SSN\bank account info\credit card info on any mail service or store them in any online document.

unless you are discussing illegal activity, what is there to worry about?

I don't see any issue for personal use, no one cares about your uncle bobs unlisted phone number.

I might care if it was business use and something sensitive was in the documents or email, but you have to be somewhat insane these days to send any email with any type of 'sensitive' info in it on open channels.

http://www.pgp.com/products/desktop_email/index.html
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Old 11-28-09, 09:51 PM   #6
belboz
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Re: Google and Privacy (Docs, Gmail, Contacts, searches, etc.)

Not really sure what the fears are. If you could give us some concrete examples it'd be easier to address them directly. Maybe if you posted one of the chain emails you described. In general, though, I think most of the fears about Google are the result of nuttiness like the stories about how P&G was run by satanists or whatever.

The best way to understand Google is to realize that over 95% of their $20B/yr revenue comes from advertising. They're like an internet version of a television network. They make money from advertisers because they're very effective at delivering ads to a great many people. All the services they offer like search, gmail, youtube, maps, news, etc.; all exist to draw those people. And that is pretty much the only motivation they have for everything they do.

Google wants to track your browsing because it helps them learn more about their users and can help improve the targeting of their ads. Their servers examine the contents of the emails you view in gmail so they can deliver contextual ads. They look up your IP address in a geographical database so they can deliver locally relevant ads. See a pattern there? All Google really cares about is getting as many people as possible to use their services and then putting the right ads in front of the right users.
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Old 12-01-09, 09:08 AM   #7
al_bundy
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Re: Google and Privacy (Docs, Gmail, Contacts, searches, etc.)

got the link from http://slashdot.org just now. apparently Google is scanning everything and not letting you share some things.

http://www.google.com/support/forum/...9943e9ed&hl=en

Quote:
Why was I zinged for inappropriate content? Report abuse

jlaurel
Level 1
11/3/09
I'm writing course notes for a sophomore (college) level survey, with tomorrow's material on Henry David Thoreau. All of a sudden, I got a a notification "The published version of this item cannot be shared until a Google review finds that the content is appropriate." The "share" link is disabled. This means I can't upload to my Google website from this page. I suppose I could cut and paste to another brand new document... but that might get me kicked off Google entirely if it still scans for and sees something "inappropriate"!

Huh? Okay--what on earth did I do wrong here? I've got some links, properly documented, and not to anything sleazy--Thoreau was a lot of things, but I can't imagine anything inappropriate for (or even interesting to) children. I didn't use any foul language or hate speech--unless there is a typo I don't know about (but since these notes are mostly recycled stuff I'm cleaning up, I'm sure somebody would have pointed out a faux pas).

Did I bump into an algorithm? What happened? And when will I be able to share notes with my students in the way they've come to expect? I can post on Blackboard, which is a bug-ridden mess these days, which is why I've been posting on Google... Eeek!






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Natepelletier
Level 1
11/4/09
Funny this came up. I just came across this today at school. One of my co-workers and I started a website over the past couple of weeks and today he tried to share some of his homework assignments through Google docs. Needless to say he got the same message. It does not matter what he uploads, it all gets the same message when trying to share. If anybody has a way to fix this please let us know. It definitely is frustrating.

Funny thing is he can send me the same doc and I can upload it and share it. Strange?
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Gill
Top Contributor
Google Docs Guru
11/4/09
I don't know, guys - we will have to hope that the Google Guides provide some insight on this. My guess is that some disaffected person somehow marked this as spam rather than an automatic algorithm. But that could only happen in a published version I think. Very odd and rather worrying.
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jlaurel
Level 1
11/4/09
Don't really think it's a real person, Gill. I taught the class for which the document was intended, overhead projecting a Word docx document, and adding to the document as I went along in class. I went back to Google Docs later in the day, and figured "well, I *have* revised, so they can't accuse me of trying to repost the identical document that initially got flagged"--which, since they've told me to wait until they get around to reviewing, would be grounds for punishment of some kind.

I cut and pasted from the newly revised Word document into a brand new fresh Google Doc -- and within 60 seconds was flagged a second time for inappropriate content. I really doubt that kind of timeframe would have been possible if some real human being were out there scanning all documents. (That is, unless somebody out there really hates me and is trying to do me dirt... a possibility I'm considering!) Further, when I got flagged, I had not even attempted to publish the document, nor had I done much of anything except save it to Google Docs.

FYI, I have sent a bulletin off to Mashable News, telling them that there are four (now six, with you & another poster on these forums) people who have had this problem in the past 48 hours. Since Google is unresponsive and behaving IMHO in an unresponsible manner, perhaps the press may be able to penetrate the corporate stonewall I've received thus far in my efforts to clear my name and have reasonable access to my own intellectual property.
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marciarandre
Level 1
11/5/09
Count me in with same problem. My document showed that I made several revisions that I did not make. Then, the doc was locked for inappropriate content. I requested a review, but have heard nothing back. Moved my document back to my hard drive.

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jlaurel
Level 1
11/5/09
Thanks for report, marciarandre... that makes 7 of us so far in the past 48 hours zinged for inappropriate content.
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Gill
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Google Docs Guru
11/5/09
<> And did any of those contain content that might have triggered the 'zing'? Makes you wonder what they're looking for....

[jlaurel, I haven't actually suffered this myself - just responding to the thread.]
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marciarandre
Level 1
11/5/09
I don't see anything that would have triggered a "zing". My list contains botanical names for plants - lots of scientific names, but nothing that I see that would be deemed in appropriate.
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Gill
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Google Docs Guru
11/5/09
Hmmm - you don't have the dodgy "naked ladies" as one of your plants do you? I have tripped over this before on botanical sites.
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jlaurel
Level 1
11/5/09
Just for grins, about an hour or so ago, I uploaded my church's minutes (I'm church secretary; it's a long document still in rough draft) to see if that too would get zinged. Nothing. I did this to see if Google somehow had it in for me personally, or it was something about that specific document's content.

Given that two separate iterations of the Thoreau notes were zinged, and that the church minutes were not zinged, I believe it's something about that specific document which is erroneously triggering censorship.

I find it irritating that this is taking more than a few hours to resolve. Thanks for your support, folks!!
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jlaurel
Level 1
11/5/09
Some movement to report, folks! I noticed that a Google employee stevedrennan had responded to posts several months ago about this issue. Looked at his profile; realized his profile said he was on Twitter; logged in to Twitter and "followed" him, then sent him an "@" message (I can't DM him as he's not [yet] following me).

A few hours later, I did get a DM from him asking for the URL to the document flagged for inappropriate content. Just sent that off. Have other things to do now, but hope to get some kind of info in a little while... will check back and report on what I find out.

It's good I was able to tweet him, but I still feel like I shouldn't have had to go what was essentially back-channel for this. If anyone from Google reads this papertrail, it would be nice to have some sort of ability to get a real person to talk to if all else fails. Yes, I know, you don't want newbies pestering you with dumb stuff. Nor do I expect immediate response to anything--but the sense that I am cut off from all meaninful human contact *ever* (even if I have to wait days) when it's pretty clear that I hit a true anomoly was very frustrating.
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jlaurel
Level 1
11/5/09
Hi, all. Well... Some success, I guess. Resolution grade: A- (for the time it took to resolve the issue). Customer service: D- (for the convoluted way I had to go about getting help).

Two hours after I sent the URL of the erroneously flagged "inappropriate content" file via Twitter, I received a mysterious e-mail from Google. There was no content in the body of the message; there was only a subject line, and I quote "--error--". I checked the document in question, and the block has been turned off.

To recap: I logged into Twitter, tweeted "@stevedrennan," and that seems to have prompted the very reasonable action of Google unflagging the document.
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Gill
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Google Docs Guru
11/5/09
True, but we still don't know what triggered it to 'zing' you in the first place.
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jlaurel
Level 1
11/5/09
Exactly. Which is part of the D- grade.

Kind of reminds me of the old Lily Tomlin act, as the telephone operator... "Because we're the phone company, and we don't have to tell you!"
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conrad57
Level 1
11/10/09
I also had a shared document zinged. Copying the minutes and removing ANY word that contained a hint of s*x preference, allowed the same document contents to remain unflagged for the past week. I am not repeating those words here, simply to keep from triggering the same automated flag.

These same minutes have been shared online for the past 2 years and added to. There was a recent bill riding on a defense appropriation that passed in Congress. Did this trigger a new "standard of adult content" or "appropriate language" within Google?
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jlaurel
Level 1
11/10/09
That's the strange thing. There was no reference whatsoever to adult themed stuff... no words, no allusions, no racy metaphors, no nothing. As far as I'm concerned, it's a public document; anyone is welcome to see it at

tiny url dot com slash yf2hpk4 (string together the first two words, replace dot and slash with punctuation...)

It's only the part on Henry David Thoreau that got zinged--material later on Frederick Douglass (added recently) seems not to have triggered anything, although there is some reference to adult themes.
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Gill
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Google Docs Guru
11/10/09
I can see nothing in there that should cause blocking - unless 'naturalist' was mis-read as 'naturist'? Very odd.
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Factorial
Level 1
11/20/09
Could it be that documents which contain potentially copyrighted content are flagged? Perhaps you cited copyrighted material in your Thoreau paper which, thanks to Google Books, the big G is aware belongs to someone else. Just a thought.
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jlaurel
Level 1
11/20/09
Thanks, Factorial. I had thought about this... except I'm pretty certain that Thoreau's Civil Disobedience is free of copyright encumbrance -- having been published well before the 1920s. And while it's by no means crystal clear, there is such a thing as "fair use" (excerpts) and the need for teachers to be able to refer to a text in order to teach it--lest I be reduced to writing about "that essay that that guy wrote." Again--could be--but if it is that sort of defeats any teacher using Google Docs for any reason, because the likelihood of that sort of thing happening is pretty high, IMHO.
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Gill
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Google Docs Guru
11/20/09
And in any case they should tell you *why* the page has been marked.
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ahab
Level 4
Google Docs Guru
11/20/09
The 'why' most probably is a bug!
Even their notification is buggy, see: "I got an weird e-mail from Google only containing --error-- in topic and title" http://www.google.com/support/forum/...abb1dadb&hl=en

I don't think it has any use speculating about which contents may have triggered the false positive; it clearly is a bug. And it is for Google to find out what is the bug and how to repair it. There are no 'workarounds' for this kind of issue...

[Gill, did you mail escalate this issue?]
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Gill
Top Contributor
Google Docs Guru
11/20/09
yup
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HoganLong
Level 1
11/22/09
I teach a class and one of the documents I made for the class was flagged by this system.

My document has a list of websites (it is for an ecommerce class)

My guess the program is looking for spam.
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Gill
Top Contributor
Google Docs Guru
11/22/09
But the question is - what does it use as its criterai for 'is-spam'?
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jlaurel
Level 1
11/22/09
Possible. But this is the third in a sequence of three documents (corresponding to three parts of the course). Each has had similar information... including in each of the other two documents sequences of website references. I vaguely recall turning on a link just before the Zing popped up... but don't *think* it was anything I haven't done before.
In other words, it may be multiple links or website listings, but it would have to be a specific subset--some threshhold exceeded or something.
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Gill
Top Contributor
Google Docs Guru
11/23/09
We really do need some feedback from Google on this one - Guides?
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Christuus Gnosis
Level 1
11/26/09
There should be red flags on the particular lines of the document that is flagged.
I have a document of about 500 links that has been up for 3 years and suddenly its flagged with no highlights to show me what the "objectionable content" is.

Fix this BS or lose a longtime customer you ignorant boobs.
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rabbitpal
Level 1
1:56 AM
aah... also suddenly my googledocs have een zinged for inappropriate content. There are just pages with links to rabbitshelters.
Must be someone out there who lokes to joke around with people !!

I had my googledocs published on my website but this is definitely a reason for me to NOT publish my GoogleDocs any longer directly on my website but to stop making them public and use it in another way.

Also you request for review.....nothing seems to happen.


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jlaurel
Level 1
9:24 AM
My experience from the start of November: nothing worked. There is no way to contact Google directly. I even phoned, and got a recording that gave me a list of options (push 1 if you want this, push 2 if you want that), and a caveat that if I didn't want anything that's not listed in the options, go to the forums. (By this point I was paranoid: if I persisted in my quest for a real person, would Google kick me off forever and confiscate all my documents?)

Nothing happened when I asked for a review. I tweeted stevedrennan with a direct message. He did get back to me briefly, asking for link to page, which I provided. Shortly after that, I got an e-mail with one word in the subject line, "error," and when I checked the "offending" doc, it had been released from its straitjacket.

Mystery, obfuscation, recalcitance, extremely poor customer service, Man Behind the Curtain.
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suz.prescott
Level 1
10:00 AM
"Google Inc., whose principal place of business is at 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View, CA 94043."
Anybody know anyone who lives near there and could go and see if there are actual people there?
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Old 12-01-09, 10:27 AM   #8
4KRG
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Re: Google and Privacy (Docs, Gmail, Contacts, searches, etc.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by al_bundy View Post
got the link from http://slashdot.org just now. apparently Google is scanning everything and not letting you share some things.

That is more censorship though and not what I read the OPs post as asking.

Many free sites that allow you to post your thoughts out to the general public censor what you say to some degree. This is not something google specific and they are not using the information you provide against you in some way.

If you want control, you need to buy it.
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Old 12-01-09, 11:01 AM   #9
al_bundy
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Re: Google and Privacy (Docs, Gmail, Contacts, searches, etc.)

i wonder how they are managing it. they sell it as a replacement for a local office suite and sell the service to small businesses. do they do the same thing for paying customers?
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