Saturday, May 29, 2010

Shame on Google

Ben Adida takes Kim Cameron to task ("Privacy Advocacy Theater") for taking Google to task ("The Laws of Identity smack Google") Ben claims that Cameron is over reacting ("Come on, Kim, this was accidental data collection by code that the Google Street View folks didn’t even realize was running. ") But I'm here to say that Kim was spot on.

As Cameron notes in his reply:

"My argument wasn’t about the payload data that was collected accidentally. It was about the device identification data that was collected on purpose. "

As Kim rightly points out, collecting SSID and MAC addresses (as Google says they did on purpose) is just as heinous - perhaps even more so - then collecting the contents of data packets. MAC addresses persist. The MAC address of the computer I'm using to type this entry is the same one that is used when I get my email, talk to my bank, shop at amazon (and other places) chat on Facebook, etc. That MAC address is an attribute of my identity just as much as my street address is. More so, since I don't need to mention my street address to pay cash at the grocery store.

Kim, as he so often is on issues of identity and privacy, is right on this one. Neither Google, nor anyone else, should be collecting data which can be correlated to a MAC address, or to any other identifier attribute of a person's identity. The only exceptions should be: a) opt-in authorization by the user (i.e., "loyalty cards"); or b) properly executed law enforcement warrants.

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