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July 25, 2010

Are you listening, Google? It’s me, Teresa
Posted by Teresa at 11:14 PM *

Dear Google:

I”d rather write you a letter, but I already know you make that impossible, so I’m going to have to air this in public.

I’ve had a YouTube account for a long time, starting well before you bought them. Tonight was the first time I tried to upload a video. I can’t do it. iMovie keeps telling me my password is wrong. It isn’t. I checked.

I googled on the problem, and immediately found several authoritative sites that discuss it. When I read them, they all said the same thing: if I have a Gmail account, I won’t be allowed to upload iMovie files using my YouTube account. I’ll be forced to use my Gmail account.

No, Google. I won’t do it.

Last time I changed my YouTube password, you wanted me to crosslink my Gmail and YouTube accounts, so you could cross-propagate information from one account to the other.

I said no. I especially and particularly said no to your happy plan to take that crosslinked pair of accounts and propagate god-knows-what information from them to Facebook. For my benefit, you said. So my friends can find me, and see what I’m doing, and I can see what they’re doing. Which is utter codswallop, because it’s really about you and Facebook getting to track who my friends are and what information I share with them, the better to market to us all.

Absolutely not, Google. I have never agreed to let you intermediate my online identity, or my online activities. I certainly haven’t agreed to let Facebook do that, or any of the other companies that are far too eager to do so. What I do on YouTube is between me and YouTube. What I do with Google searches or with Gmail are likewise meant only for those sites and services.

Am I going to have to scour all the data I can reach out of those accounts, and then shut them down? Because I’ll do that before I’ll let my writing, my relationships, my tastes, my interests, my research, and my workflow become “fungible content” for you or anyone else to slice, dice, repackage, and sell to strangers.

Especially Facebook! Are you out of your mind? You’ve got some very smart people working for you. Go ask some of them why I might not think it’s a swell idea for Facebook, that impenitent mendacious serial offender against privacy and prior consent, to automatically receive ANY information about my activities elsewhere in the online universe.

What next? Are you going to automatically crosslink Google accounts and Google Image results with Facebook’s mega-creepy facial recognition project? You know, the one that’s building an enormous database of real photos linked with real names and online usernames? Facebook has long since made it clear that they’re never going to respect user privacy; and you, dear Google, already know way too much about us all.

That’s why I’ve signed up for an account with Vimeo. They haven’t asked me to “friend” anyone. That’s good.

Sorry to use a cliché, but I will not friend Big Brother. Big Brother is not my friend. Neither is Facebook. And, now that I think about it, neither are you.

Comments on Are you listening, Google? It's me, Teresa:
#1 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 01:30 AM:

Single-purpose gmail accounts, attached to different back-end email addresses on your own server. It is the way to go.

I use Google Reader, Google Groups, a Google-hosted business email account, and an (almost never used) Google Mail account. Four different people as far as Google are concerned. Unlike Facebook, Google doesn't even try to forbid this.

Yes, they *could* be connected by domain name, but I am quite sure that Google's ad-data-aggregation business makes money by watching millions of people at once, not trying to track down individuals one at a time.

#2 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 01:33 AM:

Well spoken, Teresa.

#3 ::: Randolph ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 01:35 AM:

Commenter, nine years ago: "I trust Google."

Me, nine years ago: "Why? They're a private corporation. Their current practices are decent, but they are going to change eventually--possibly taking all our archives with them. :-("

Wish I were wrong about these things more. Andrew has a point, too: Google has a long way to fall before they're as nasty as Facebook. So far as I am concerned, they're still the not-so-evil empire. Not saints, but not black magicians, either.

#4 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 01:36 AM:

Andrew Plotkin @1 -- that's a work-around, not a solution. If one's unofficial motto is "Don't be evil", I'd think one would want to allow a solution.

Many other work-arounds are possible. Lots of free accounts are available out there other than gmail.

#5 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 01:56 AM:

Why I don't like Facebook: It almost doesn't matter who you friend or don't friend. If enough people in your social network identify you as a friend, you're snared in a web of context. The list of people who've friended me is as precise an identifier as a full set of my fingerprints. I don't fancy having that data crossbred with lists of subjects I've researched on Google, books and music and movies I've bought online, blogposts I've recommended to friends, newsgroups to which I once posted on Usenet, videos I've favorited on YouTube, census results, voter registration lists, or credit reports.

The Facebook photo system is an anonymity and pseudonymity buster all by itself. The ability to caption photos is the ability of your aunt or your highschool buddy to attach your real name to a photo that's elsewhere labeled with one of your online usernames. The ability to tag other people's photos multiplies that ability. We are reaching the end of the era of anonymity or pseudonymity as an available default mode.

#6 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 03:03 AM:

One of the things I very much dislike about the concept of a single social identity is that sometimes there are aspects of one's life that one wants to keep separate.

Case in point: I have a medical issue of some duration that I really have no interest in informing my co-workers and professional colleagues about. (Nor, for that matter, my casual acquaintances nor anyone but closest friends and family.) It affects my personal life in some ways that are meaningful to me, but it has no impact on my ability to perform my job or activities of daily life, and is not visible in any way. So, I don't talk about it in fora (such as Facebook) where my real life and my internet life intersect.

However, I do regularly use the internet to gather information on the condition and participate in discussions about it. I don't go overboard in obscuring my identity, but I do not make any direct links to the places where the real-world relationships meet online. Why on earth then would I want those searches, messages, and articles to be broadcast to all of my connections, no matter what sort? This would greatly reduce the utility of the internet for bringing me useful information and sharing my experiences with those who could learn from them.

Of equal importance in the other direction - there are many aspects of the lives of my friends and coworkers that I am perfectly happy - nay, actively in favor of - not knowing anything about. Medical conditions, religious activities, personal and sexual preferences, political inclinations, child transportation, netflix films received - let me remain in peaceful ignorance, please. I have some friends on Facebook who post daily reports of mundane occurances - well, that's really more than I want to know about their lives, plus they are boring writers so it's not even interesting or amusing to read.

#7 ::: green_knight ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 03:17 AM:

I'm starting to get disillusioned with Google- they've violated their own principle for a while. I particularly hate that you cannot contact them - and customer service that responds is at least a first step.

(I'm currently battling with now the third person who thinks that 'do Y' is a perfectly good answer to 'how do I do x'. Y is easier for them, but vastly inferior, and not what I paid money for, but on the positive side, they *do* respond.)

#8 ::: A.J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 03:20 AM:

*applause*

I've got a backup gmail account that I use to sign up for anything I consider fishy but wish to access anyway; that's the one that Youtube got.

This is really the cloddiest misstep I've seen Google make. They don't understand something: that Facebook is usually a part of the day-side of the Internet, and Youtube is part of the nightside.

Yes, there are people who use either one in the reverse fashion, but in general no one wants their business contacts to see what Youtube videos they're watching. People use Youtube for shameful pleasures. Fanvids, music videos, a touch of softcore pr0n... In short, nothing anyone wants their mom or boss to look at.

Not that there isn't other stuff on Youtube too: just that "solely for professional or educational purposes" really isn't their core audience.

What in the heck do they think they're doing? What actual Youtube user, save for those who have a Youtube account used for promotion and marketing purposes, is going to take their bet?

#9 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 03:59 AM:

I got into a political discussion on Facebook recently, and now the FB AI persistently recommends conservative FB pages to me. Sigh.

#10 ::: AndrDrew ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 04:32 AM:

Ah! A lightbulb flickers! I recently tried to resurrect an old youtube account. While logged in to my Gmail account.

...it did not go so well, and now I know why.

Thank you.

#11 ::: Laura Pearle ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 04:33 AM:

@Tom - By "Don't be evil", what they mean is "Don't be Microsoft". Sad, but true.

#12 ::: Mezzanine ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 04:34 AM:

I have similar issues with Yahoo and Delicious. It's now impossible to create a Delicious account without linking it to a Yahoo email address.

*fumes*

#13 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 04:39 AM:

I don't really object to Facebook (or Google, or anyone else) offering all these connections and cross-references. I do object, most strenuously, to having them forced down my throat. This kind of stuff should ALL be opt-in, not opt-out and ABSOLUTELY not mandatory; I am the one in ultimate control of my online interactions, not any of them.

Facebook really messed up on that last Unfortunate Privacy Violation. Up until then, I'd actually had a couple of things that I allowed to do status updates. Now everything is blocked. Facebook still has some features that I find useful, but I keep it on an extremely short leash.

#14 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 04:56 AM:

I’m not sure that I fully understand the problem, although I’m sure it’s real;  I just don’t use these things, especially Facebook, enough to encounter the problem.

On-line I use my real name, a main pseudonym and some minor ones.  I have Facebook and Google accounts for real name and main pseudonym, and a Youtube account, and I’ve seen no indication that any of those five is aware of any of the others.  For example, the Youtube account doesn’t prevent me uploading.  But I don’t cross-link these accounts and I’m rigorously careful about logging off sessions and clearing tracking data between activities, even activities that I don’t need to log on for, such as Google searches or commenting on Making Light;  and I have no downloaded code like toolbars or add-ins from any of those outfits (or any others that I can avoid).  All this, I fondly hope, prevents anyone from linking my pseudonym with my real name.

Of course, precautions on my PC are useless because my ISP can easily track all my Internet traffic – web and e-mail – plus all my phone calls;  and because I pay my ISP by credit card, all its data can be cross-linked with Visa’s records of everything that I buy with the card, and where I buy it.  So “They” know what I do, where I go, who I talk to and what I say in tremendous detail.  This post will be added to my dossier within seconds.  Yet They never give Themselves away by doing anything or offering me anything that might reveal the extent of Their knowledge.  They are really very clever.

#15 ::: VictorS ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 06:20 AM:

John -- it's the part where you have to be rigorously careful to switch identities, because one mistake will link them together, that's the problem with that kind of workaround. How much cognitive effort can you afford to put into forcing things to remain separate when strong external forces are trying to tie them together? How much effort is appropriate, societally?

And your precautions are not useless, so long as your ISP isn't making its money by advertising or selling your information. I could say more, but it's after 3 AM local time; please rate any minor infelicities accordingly.

#16 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 06:45 AM:

John Stanning, see my first comment in this thread. Are your pseudonymous accounts known to anyone who also knows your real name? Do they friend, and are they friended? If so, they're probably already compromised.

The scenario I can imagine for the future is one where ISPs easily give up user identities, on the grounds that everyone knows who they are anyway.

Mezzanine, I've been running into the same problem. I seriously thought about writing an entry about it a few days ago, when CNN wouldn't let me comment in its threads without either signing up through Facebook, or agreeing to its odious terms of service.

In fact, I think I will write an entry about it, right now.

#17 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 07:02 AM:

Facebook is basically a machine built to grab hold of everything admirable about the open Net and do evil things with it. I note once again that several months ago I actually nuked my account there. Which was a lot of trouble, but made me immediately happier on a day-to-day basis, for a whole bunch of reasons.

I recognize that for many people its ease-of-use means that it's the thing that finally got them online and back in touch with lots of old friends. (I understand that this is the case with Chip Delany, for instance, and I'm sorry I'm not there to interact with that particular old-friend-with-whom-I've-fallen-out-of-regular-contact.) I also recognize that because of my extensive presence online and my grasp of other online resources for casual chat, photo sharing, and so forth, Facebook is a "solution to a problem I don't have." I know that this isn't true for a lot of people. I can see an analogy to Cory Doctorow's attitude toward the iPad versus mine: Cory won't touch Apple's modern mobile products because their walled-garden approach goes against all his principles of open computing, whereas for me, what they enable more than makes up for my annoyance with their bad behavior. We all make devil's bargains at some point. But for me, Facebook defines the point at which I say there is some shit I will not eat.

#18 ::: Nicholas Waller ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 07:13 AM:

Is the specific uploading hurdle to do with iMovie? Though I don't see why iMovie would need to make a choice or get involved.

I haven't tried uploading to YouTube direct from iMovie; I export a QuickTime movie and upload that by going to my YouTube account through a browser. (As you sign in YouTube offers you the chance to link to a Gmail account but you don't have to; you have to have some email address but it can be any valid one; as it happens, I noticed mine was an old one that hasn't been valid for a year, but I still uploaded a video in the last couple of months with no hassle or hoo-ha).

My user name and password on YouTube are different from my Gmail ones and as far as I'm aware the two don't know about each other. And you can unlink them if they have got linked, according to someone called Perry Wales in this thread about the issue. This allows you to upload movies without hindrance at least.

Though I guess by then the wider damage is done as in some database somewhere your different identities are linked. And if I put a video up on YouTube which happens to have one username/identity, but then tell friends on Facebook or email or in the real world to go and look at it, then I have outed myself immediately!

#19 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 07:30 AM:

Teresa and Patrick: I'm not sure that merely nuking your FB account or not having one in the first place is enough to keep you safe from them.

After all, folks will insist on uploading group photographs there and tagging every friendly face. And folks on FB keep inviting non-FB folks to join. And there are so many people on FB that FB already knows quite a lot about you, just by looking at the shape of the hole in the social graph.

(I do not like FB. So I -- knowingly -- created an FB account so that I can control what information folks on FB can easily find about me. Also: people with no email accounts use FB's internal messaging system -- which is itself evil insofar as there's no way of getting data out of it -- instead. It's useful to be able to hear from them.)

#20 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 08:18 AM:

What Patrick said. I too nuked my FB account. Although I miss some of the people and features, there is a price too high to pay for sharing social information, and FB has found it.

#21 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 08:27 AM:

As soon as I heard some years ago that Google wanted to make all information publicly available while maintaining tight control of information about itself, I had a bad feeling about it.

#22 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 08:32 AM:

A colleague apparently sent me an email message inviting me to look at her Facebook page (or whatever it is) with her photos and stuff. I wrote back saying I don't join Facebook, and why.

Of course she hadn't sent the email at all. It was Facebook's bot, sending similar email to everyone on her email list.

Now, in Australia that's actually unlawful. But the chances that anyone will actually do anything about it is nil.

#23 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 08:47 AM:

no one has ever asked me to join fb, or "friended" me, or any of these opening gambits and snares. i think it's a generational thing.

but i do get occasional requests from old colleagues to join them on "linked in", which seems to be a professional fb. i decline.

does anyone know about "linked in"? how evil is it?

#24 ::: Pete Jordan ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 08:57 AM:

What Charlie said, and more: it's not anything I didn't know before, but seeing a friend's FB account be suspended, and seeing her disappeared as a consequence - all posts, comments, messages, IM sessions vaped instantly - focussed my attention. Not only are there no means of making offline copies of FB data, but that data, that online identity possibly built over years, can be deleted with no notice or clear lines of recourse or appeal.

My friend? She sails very close to the FB wind (multiple identities, infiltration of extreme right FB groups) and was, as far as can be worked out, reported maliciously for "abuse". She's back via a backup identity, but her history: gone.

#25 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 09:06 AM:

kid bitzer @22, I don't know of anything evil connected with Linked In. I'm on it and all I get is occasional updates about colleagues I'm linked with.

#26 ::: David ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 09:24 AM:

With all do respect I don't see you writing similar letters or airing similar grievances about the gov't or the telecos' data collection of which you can't opt-out. YouTube is Google property thus since a year ago a new YouTube account is a new Google account, as for older YouTube accounts you can choose to keep them separate which seems plenty sensible to me.

#27 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 09:35 AM:

Patrick Nielsen Hayden @17, "I note once again that several months ago I actually nuked my account there. Which was a lot of trouble,"

Now you got me curious (I've never been on fb)- if you have the time and it doesn't bore you too much, could you describe that trouble?

David- you haven't read much of this blog, have you?

#28 ::: Brian ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 09:36 AM:

Teresa, I think you're overreacting a bit in your post. http://youtube-global.blogspot.com/2010/07/connecting-google-account-to-your-older.html seems apropos; in particular, "Connecting your existing YouTube username to an existing Google Account doesn’t start sharing your YouTube activity to your Buzz followers" (well, substitute facebook for buzz).

Basically, this is a byproduct of consolidating systems. You can have multiple "google accounts" (not necessarily gmail accounts); I do, and it's a bit of a pain switching around among them, but it's certainly doable.

#29 ::: Laughingrat ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 09:39 AM:

Flickr's movie capabilities are nice, although it only hosts movies that are 30 seconds or fewer. Alas! But they quality stays really nice, unlike on YouTube. And they're not too evil. Well, they're connected with Yahoo, which is evil, but not as pervasively evil as Google. Perhaps.

#30 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 09:39 AM:

TNH #16 : Are your pseudonymous accounts known to anyone who also knows your real name?
No – except my wife, and she understands why the pseudonym is secret, and doesn’t tell.  My pseudonymous persona exists in a separate compartment from my real persona.  I think that’s the only way to operate a pseudonym.  You can’t stay anonymous if a widening circle of friends and acquaintances knows what your pseudonym is.

But I agree with PNH that Facebook is a “solution to a problem I don’t have” as far as my real life is concerned, although I do keep a real-name Facebook account with minimal information on it.

#31 ::: CLP ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 09:46 AM:

David @ 25, with all due respect, do you know how to use Google?

#32 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 09:49 AM:

I didn’t mean in #26 to cast aspersions on those who use pseudonyms non-anonymously – such as evilrooster (she did explain why, once, but I forget) – nothing was further from my mind.  I meant that the purpose of my pseudonym is to be anonymous.

#33 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 09:50 AM:

Facebook has been becoming steadily nastier in the last couple years - I have had an account since the first summer they were around (2004) - back when they were limited to college students in the Boston area. On one hand, it is a useful resource for lots of people in my generation - for example, it is how I stay in contact with many of my friends from undergrad - on the other hand, they seem to have lost sight of the fact that its users are real people, with real lives. As far as their smarmy CEO is concerned, anyone who is concerned about privacy is missing the point - while I think someone (or a very large group of someones) needs to convince him and Facebook in general that privacy should be an opt-out, rather than an opt-in. For example, my profile is locked down to within an inch of its life - but I have to check more often than is reasonable that the fools have not distorted their settings again. Very lame.

Google, on the other hand, is benign by comparison - I have been using gmail exclusively for the last three years - but I keep two separate accounts for real and fake email. I have nuked all of the services that I do not use (e.g., no, I do not want Buzz or any of that junk), and Google does not seem to want my precious bodily fluids in quite the same way Facebook does. While Google is not perfect - see the teething pains with Buzz among other fun - I will take them over Facebook any day.

I wonder if a certain amount of this can be linked to the corporate culture - Facebook has always seemed to me to be run by immature twentysomethings, while Google's management seem to have some knowledge of the world and a prayer of making sensible decisions. Can someone put Zuckerberg on a leash - it might help...

#34 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 10:00 AM:

Got a question about FaceBook... I have 2 accounts there, one of which I never use. I also want to get rid of it because it'd allow the likes of my employer to track me down to my more active blogosphere identity, especially with both accounts having many people in common. I've removed everybody from that account's Friend list. Next, I'd like to completely shut the account down. FB does have a 'deactivate' button, but does it really chuck it out?

#35 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 10:11 AM:

I was on Facebook, and used third-party advice and devices to limit what it could do and check up on it. I finally chucked it because it insisted I experience it in their default "news" view in which it selected which friends and feeds to show me (and also defaulted to collapsing threads in an annoying way in which expanding a thread might jolt me right off the page and make me have to go back to the beginning and find where I was when I come back). I used Feed Filter to remedy these until FB forced them to remove these features, at which point I quit.

I used the procedure spelled out elsewhere (by which I mean I no longer have fresh knowledge of where I got it) and quit all the way. Am I really out? I'm not sure. I suspect that if I ever logged back in, everything would be waiting for me. I don't intend to try finding out.

#36 ::: Dave Trowbridge ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 10:29 AM:

##22 kid: I use LinkedIn and find it a useful professional resource. In fact, the first job I got as a freelance writer after being RIF'd in 2007 was through LinkedIn.

#37 ::: Adam Ek ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 11:08 AM:

If you want to get your data out of Google, you might be interested in looking at the Data Liberation Front.

http://www.dataliberation.org/

#38 ::: The Raven ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 11:10 AM:

LinkedIn is a useful resource. But they keep your resume for you and if you ever have something you want to omit from it, well, you're SOL.

It also comes with discussion-group spam which can't be shut off, because the spam is provided by paying customers. Then, too, I'm a member of a professional organization, and a participant in one their LinkedIn group. Discussion, at one point, turned to fees. The organization involved shut it down as risking anti-trust action. Maybe so, but I think it's also about keeping some of the most valuable information professional consultants have secret, and making it a little harder to compete in the market.

There is no substitute for real cooperation, and real cooperatives operated on behalf of their members.

#39 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 11:16 AM:

Teresa: In the post, you say about Google "You’ve got some very smart people working for you. Go ask some of them why I might not think it’s a swell idea for Facebook, that impenitent mendacious serial offender against privacy and prior consent, to automatically receive ANY information about my activities elsewhere in the online universe.

Google does definitely have some very smart people working for them, but management appears to not always listen to them. The way they introduced Buzz by automatically enabling it on everyone was crazy-wrong on the privacy issue. Suddenly, there was the risk that people you emailed could see who else you'd emailed recently, among other things. To make matters worse, Google's GUI made it difficult to figure out how to disable Buzz. Google lost big points with me on "respect for privacy" with that one.

#40 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 11:26 AM:

janetl @ 38... Google does definitely have some very smart people working for them, but management appears to not always listen to them

I am shocked, shocked, to hear of a place where management doesn't listen to its underling experts.

#41 ::: Jon R ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 11:31 AM:

Disclosure: I work for Google.

Strictly from a technical level, there's something about your story that confuses me. I'm not sure what you mean by "crosslink my Gmail and YouTube accounts", but this must have happened, at least at some level, for YouTube to know you have a Gmail account.

If you can provide a little more detail, I'll see if I can get any info out of the YouTube team.

#42 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 11:35 AM:

Furthering what janetl says at 38, yes, Google has some very smart people working for them. Unfortunately, Google suffers from two main failure modes.

The first is that Google does not now have only very smart people working for them the way they did when they started off. They've grown so much that they have a bunch of mediocre people working for them too. They very likely have high concentrations of smart people in their infrastructure stuff, but not as high in a lot of the user-facing stuff. (This is also, by the way, one of the things that has happened to Microsoft over the years.)

The second is that even very smart people, especially of the hackerish variety, often do things like asking, "gee, wouldn't this be cool?" without really thinking through the full implications.

Now combine the two.

Google is also interested in making people's lives more convenient (or apparently convenient; I'm not convinced they are the same thing), because that gets them more marketshare, and thus more money. There are more people who think that Facebook is wonderful than think that Facebook has found a way to monetize them without giving anything worthwhile back, with active hostility to privacy on the side. Without a very strong ethical culture, lots of people aren't going to see what's so wrong about partnering with Facebook, even some of the very smart people.

#43 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 11:50 AM:

Addendum to my comment above:

A white, middle-class, straight guy who has never lived in a bad area, and who has only really interacted with people of similar social standing may very well need to be beaten with the clue-stick multiple times about why other people might not think that their cool idea is really a good idea. It doesn't matter how smart they are, it can be hard for fish to notice the water.

(Disclaimer: I fall into quite a few of the categories I listed above.)

#44 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 12:45 PM:

Earlier this year, I took part in a competition on a web site I'm registered with, and pay for some services.

The last stage of the competition, the actual entry, required me to sign up with Facebook to submit my evidence of completing the chain of challenges.

So I didn't enter.

The prize was pretty cheap too, although the competition had a degree of intellectual challenge to it.

What's sickening is that the business makes a point of claiming that your identity is kept private by them: they don't pass it on to all and sundry. And then they hook up with Facebook.

#45 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 12:51 PM:

Teresa writes: "Sorry to use a cliché, but I will not friend Big Brother. Big Brother is not my friend. Neither is Facebook. And, now that I think about it, neither are you."

What if Huxley is a better metaphor here?

#46 ::: Sisuile ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 01:00 PM:

TNH: This is, in part, why I have multiple addresses on all of the big three, because I do like to keep some separation between identities. I have one pseudonym that is never, ever connected to anything else, and at one point I went to the effort of creating a separate user just for accessing that frame of reference. Otherwise, while I may object, loudly, to my privacy being hacked to non-existence, I've given up attempting to do anything about it. I keep my online identities clean and discrete, don't post anything, ever, that our corporate lawyer would have fits over (or anything my Bishop would seriously object to), and be a good little denizen of the net. Still, a quick google tells me all too much information about me is out there, between the white pages and things from my university and my company and my church. My pseudonym here is inevitably connected to my real name with very little digging, so I try to be mindful that the net is not anonymous and hasn't been for a long time.

I understand what you're saying, Teresa, but really...I, like much of my generation, don't actually expect privacy anymore. We understand gaming the algorithm so that the information we would like to bury gets buried behind a wealth of other links and information, too deep to find casually. Everything is cross linked because of the invasive cookies anyway. I can't do anything about it without making everything a gigantic PITA, so...I deal. Like most people. It's just not worth the hassle.

#47 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 01:14 PM:

Recently I bought a box of wrap at the store (either plastic or aluminum; I forget which), picking the brand I did partly because it had a sticker on it saying "buy this we'll donate $1 to charity"

So I bought it, and took off the sticker for details. The back gave a website for processing the donation. I fired up a new browser session especially for the purpose (my browser kills all cookies at the end of a session), figuring I might need to type in UPC code or something off the receipt.

Nope. They wanted *all* kinds of personal information (including, if I'm remembering correctly, not just email address, but date of birth, and various other things).

I quit in disgust. They're not making any sort of donation here. They're simply trying to buy my personal information, and making the payment to a charity instead of to me. Not what I agreed to at all.

#48 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 01:18 PM:

@18 Charlie it actually is possible to extract much of what happens in those internal messages as well as some of other stuff that happens on facebook and to automate the process if you want, though it is a bit cumbersome and you have to set out to do it upfront. One of the things you can turn on in facebook is a series of notifications that can be emailed to you including things like those messages as they come in. It will still eat a lot of your data given half a chance, that's just one of the few places where there's a built in workaround.

More generally on the topic of facebook, despite its many and deep flaws I find that it offers me one significant service that I can't get anywhere else, the ability to stay in light contact with a fairly large number of people that I know who simply don't access the web in any other meaningful way. It doesn't matter how web savvy and connected I am, if the person I want to talk to can only be easily found on facebook I can either use facebook or not talk to them.

Note, this is not intended to defend facebook (much of what it does is simply indefensible and I would happily, nay delightedly, switch to some other service that offered me an alternate method to get the services I currently get through facebook).

#49 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 01:22 PM:

I applied for a job recently*, and their background check form included asking for my email address. I created a new address, and submitted that. Of course, the resume that the employer already had included an email address which I have used with a variety of websites. Since the form asked for an email address, it's possible that the employer doesn't add the one from my resume before sending it to the background check firm.

I found this request for an email address very squicky. The only point in the employer's favor is that they did not do a drug test. I do so thoroughly hate drug tests (but that's another rant).

The employer also didn't do a credit check, but clearly used to do one (the form wasn't updated). Oregon, bless their heart, banned credit checks in employment background checks, because they become a Catch 22 for unemployed people struggling to get another job while their debts mount up.


*Why, yes. I was laid off recently. Hence the significant increase in the quantity, though alas not quality, of my posts here.

#50 ::: MichaelC ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 01:23 PM:

Market me, oh, market me!
I'm, oh, so tired of being free!
Open my Facebook,
Sell all my data,
Just give me a cut,
A fraction,
Pro rata!

#51 ::: jnh ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 01:25 PM:

One of the scary things I see is that, since privacy laws frequently refer to "a reasonable expectation of privacy", what is covered by that expectation shrinks due to the actions of other people, and that we have no control over it.
Our "reasonable expectation of privacy" is being defined by a minority, who as KeithS points out, is largely clueless about the implications.

#52 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 01:56 PM:

jnh @ 50:

It's also the case that "a reasonable expectation of privacy" is defined by the people who have the expectation. (Of course, given the way credit agencies collect and use data, the bar for reasonable is already set quite low, I think.) There are people out there who see nothing wrong with making a post to Twitter (or having their phone automatically make a post to Twitter) saying that they're at the store. Oh, look, someone's not home. Does anyone want a slightly used X-Box? Or people who post about how they got completely smashed at their graduation party, and now don't understand why potential employers aren't as interested in them any more.

That said, and referring to the CNN post as well, we could really do with some much stronger data protection laws around here. There are too many possibilities for intentional abuse (they won't share data except where permitted by law, but, um, the law doesn't really prohibit much), and too many possibilities for well-meaning, accidental abuse. For example, wouldn't it be cool to discover that people using these IP addresses, which means this part of the world, like watching cat videos, while people using these IP addresses, which means this part of the world, like reading about the effects of performance art on society? Yes, very cool. Also, very scary.

#53 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 02:15 PM:

I used to explain my disgust with the popularization and commercialization of the Net by evoking Bedford Falls and Pottersville.

These days . . . I'm out of analogies for explaining where things stand. It isn't Big Brother. That's a crude and inadequate and dangerously misleading reference.

We're in a whole new weird area.

#54 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 02:22 PM:

Sisuile:

One problem with that approach (which I do, too) is that the data sticks around forever. The obscufucation done to mess up the simple data-gathering algorithms this year are likely not to be so obscure to the algorithms of ten years from now.

Teresa:

The less evil and more useful Google is now, the more financially rewarding evil will become later. Since Google is a profit-making company whose management and staff will all eventually turn over, there will presumably be a point at which the financial incentive to be evil overwhelms whatever remains of the "don't be evil" corporate culture. I've certainly seen that happen quickly in organizations before--the new management comes in, and imposes changes on the corporate culture from the top down right away. And while some changes are hard to impose, stuff like "we're going to take this data we've always collected and used ethically before, and sell access to it to SlimeballsRUs for a quick buck" can happen very quickly. (More commonly, changes like "yes, we used to be a nice place to work, now we shall become like the Ottoman salt mines, but without the compassionate management and frequent rest breaks" can happen damned fast.)

Where we ultimately need to end up is in a place where the companies with whom we do business have a direct financial incentive not to be evil. In the best case, that incentive can be provided by the market. If that doesn't work out, the incentive can be provided by the government or by the threat of horrible press. But it can't come from the good intentions and values of the owners and managers and workers at that company forever. You just can't rely on that not changing.

#55 ::: Marian ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 02:43 PM:

I want to note that when my sister bought a Sprint phone recently, she was told that she had to sign up for a gmail account. The phone backs up her personal data to her google account (!!! ) instead of to her PC. Which sounds great if you are in outer Mongolia and need to get to your contact list, but I don't want everyone to be able to get to my smartphone's contents. I am waiting to hear from her about how secure her data is now.

#56 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 02:58 PM:

As I have said before, when you use the internet the same principle applies as Tim Powers says applies to magical card games: when you see the cards, the cards can see you.

#57 ::: Daniel Martin ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 03:07 PM:

KeithS@51:
For example, wouldn't it be cool to discover that people using these IP addresses, which means this part of the world, like watching cat videos, while people using these IP addresses, which means this part of the world, like reading about the effects of performance art on society? Yes, very cool. Also, very scary.

I'm curious about that. It would seem that your very scary scenario would cover projects like Google's Flu Trends. Is that the intent? If so, what is scary about that? If not, what is the distinction between that and what you describe that changes it from "very cool and also very scary" to merely "cool"?

#58 ::: Sisuile ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 03:10 PM:

Albatross @ 53

I have faith that in ten years, there will be even more data. We're going into information overload, and you'll have to have a really good idea what you're digging for to be able to find it. It's already started...

#59 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 03:31 PM:

Daniel Martin @ 56:

I didn't know about that, and agree that it is cool. Is there really any difference between that and summarizing searches for movies, types of car, cooking advice, industrial machinery, or sex acts? On the one hand, none at all. On the other, would you like an employer seeing that you come from city X and then seeing that city X has a higher-than-average number of searches for dinosaurs and sodomy?

I admit that I am somewhat uneasy about this because the line between cool, scary, and cool and scary is really, really thin, and also somewhat subjective. On an aggregate level, it probably doesn't matter if it's kept at the large city level. But what about small towns? Neighborhoods? It's not like IP addresses are quite as anonymous as some people would like to claim, especially since broadband users keep the same IP address for extended periods of time.

As I recall, when the AOL search queries were leaked a few years ago, people managed to figure out who at least some of the searchers were.

So, no, I don't exactly have hard-and-fast criteria for what makes something scary versus what makes it cool. Right now it's more of a gut-level thing, and while I really prefer to have my brain doing my thinking and my gut doing my digesting, rather than the other way around, it'll take much more thought for me to come to a more clearly defined position.

#60 ::: Daniel Martin ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 03:31 PM:

And as to the original problem: I suspect the issue our hostess is seeing is that it's tricky being logged into a YouTube legacy account and a Google account at the same time. This is more a technical consideration than a policy one, though one could certainly make the case that if easy multiple accounts were as much of a policy priority as, say, web search, Google could throw $BIGNUM money and engineers at it. (*)

The solution is to log out of the Google account, which you can do from the Google homepage if you want. I would appreciate a link to these "authoritative sites" claiming specifically that this (logging out of the Google account) isn't sufficient. (sounds like a bug, if confirmed)

Whenever I don't want some web access associated with my Google account, I just open an incognito window on my browser (chrome). On firefox, recent versions have that "private browsing" version that's roughly equivalent.

Also, note that a "Google account" is not the same thing as a gmail account. You can get a google account associated with your gmail address, one with the email address tnh@neilsenhayden.com, one with tnh+throwaway1@neilsenhayden.com, one with tnh+201007261520@neilsenhayden.com, etc.

I don't know about the email system you're running to handle the email for neilsenhayden.com, but many email systems will deliver email with + in the local part by ignoring everything from the + on.

Yes, it's annoying that you can't be logged into more than one Google account in the same browser at the same time. Again, I find incognito windows nice for that.

I'll try to find official policy on this making it explicitly okay to sign up for lots of accounts this way, so long as you aren't using your multiple identities to defraud anyone. Unofficially, I fully expect to be able to find such a policy.

(*) It's a surprisingly annoying problem to solve but not, I'll admit, an ultimately unsurmountable one given sufficient resources for the ongoing maintenance nightmare being created or given enough resources to do true multi-login "properly", whatever that means.

#61 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 04:01 PM:

"Don't be evil" is something of a lightning rod in these discussions. It's easy to say or deny, but it doesn't get at the real issue any more. Although I like Laura Pearle's formulation @11. This *is* new territory, with new ways to screw people over.

(I'd like to say Microsoft isn't even in the evil race any more, but that's untrue. They've got their own Big Social Net -- the Xbox/live.com world -- and I'm sure they're working it as hard as they can.)

Anyhow. Google is too big and multiply-directed to appear on a D&D alignment chart. What they're *doing* is, I guess, offering convenience (for your tasks) in exchange for convenience for their ad customers. I'm okay with that notion. It's Facebook's notion too, which demonstrates that the devil is in the implementation, not the concept.

Tom@4 says my behavior is a work-around, not a solution. I guess I say it's neither, because there's no problem, not inherently. I have a set of tradeoffs which I make versus Google's policies. I spend more time cleaning cookies and switching accounts than the average Google user is willing to. I have a different set of tradeoffs versus Facebook's policies. (I avoid them like pestis, and so miss out on some social activity.)

When policy turns into problem, from my point of view, is *not* a matter of the policies themselves. (Facebook may be the exception that plumbs the depths of the rule, but as I said, I don't use 'em -- I only read outraged posts, which doesn't exactly give me an unbiased view.) The problem occurs when a service is so ubiquitous that you can't get shit done without buying into it. Google isn't there yet. I don't need Gmail. (I *do* need Google search -- that's ubiquitous -- but I don't need the features that depend on being logged in or having a cookie history.) Many people *do* regard Facebook as essential life equipment; they wouldn't be a target of general outrage otherwise.

I wish the online service world had more of a balance between "big, free, ad-supported" and "boutique, you pay, you are the customer". Particularly in email. Or maybe there is, and I just don't know about it.

#62 ::: Lawrence ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 04:02 PM:

I am not particularly obsessive about privacy. I don't mind using the supermarket discount cards that track my purchases. I use my real name and e-mail address on Usenet.

But I would never, ever get a gmail address. That's where I draw the line, because I have never trusted Google that far. Selling or otherwise exploiting information is what they do, it's how they make their money. They aren't just looking to sell me more groceries or send me coupons on my birthday. They want to sell me.

That corporate slogan, "Don't be evil"? Bad, bad sign. Idealists can always find ways to justify whatever they want to do.

#63 ::: Kevin Marks ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 04:11 PM:

I can say 'mea culpa' here to some extent as I worked on the original Google Profiles project while I was at Google, and still work on open standards for expressing and connecting online social networks.
We have ways to connect your information selectively between sites - this is the whole point of the OAuth protocol. However, in many cases the sites drive to connect more, and applicatiosn frequently ask for more permissions than they strictly need (eg to post on your behalf).
That said, the situation with email is generally worse - because most people use the same password everywhere, sites that ask for email+password to login can generally impersonate you anywhere online that accepts these as credentials, and anyone can email 'from' you.

janetl #38 - Google has a lot of smart people working for them, and a strong culture of respecting privacy internally, but as KeithS #42 says, they do tend to think from a point of view of privilege and engienering, and are woefully underconnected with anthropologists or sociologists who may help them understand this bias from privilege.

#64 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 04:12 PM:

Albatross@53 -- I take some comfort from knowing that the customers (the ad companies) consider a quarter to be long-term planning. They don't care what sort of things you bought ten years ago; they want to know what you were shopping for yesterday or last week.

As for companies having financial incentives to not mistreat me -- yeah, that's what I was getting at in my previous post. I pay for my email service, so I am the customer. (And it's not a small paid subsidiary of a big ad-driven service.) You can find that for blog and journal-style services. I *don't* know how to find it for Twitter.

#65 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 04:19 PM:

Andrew Plotkin@63: The old standby pobox.com is still there. Also you can buy email accounts (with shell) at panix.com. Also they come bundled with most web hosting setups I've looked at -- I can host uncountable email addresses at all the domains I own on my dreamhost.com cheapest-level shared hosting account. So there are actually fairly easy ways to have email that's your own where you're the customer.

#66 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 04:36 PM:

John Mark Ockerbloom @ 46 -- They wanted *all* kinds of personal information (including, if I'm remembering correctly, not just email address, but date of birth, and various other things).

Sounds perfect for identity theft.

Of course, the simple solution for that kind of pointlessly intrusive personal-information demand is to lie. I often give a date-of-birth that isn't quite right, a postal code that's merely similar to my own, and so forth, when the information demanded isn't plausibly relevant to the service nominally being provided.

I sometimes worry that "Don't be evil" could lead to "We're not evil, we're EEEEVIL!!"

#67 ::: Ken Brown ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 04:37 PM:

What's that rustling sound? What are those dim lamps fading into shadow beyond the cable trees? What is that distant chanting echo, those quiet footfalls?

Those are the Old Grey Internet users departing FaceBook. They are leaving, leaving, never to return.

Where are they going?

None can say! But I somehow don't think it'll be back to CIX or The Well.

#68 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 04:44 PM:

I don't think I'll be leaving Facebook any time soon; I want to stay on the front lines of the meme wars.

#69 ::: Lylassandra ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 05:03 PM:

Irony: as I read this comment thread, I tried to sign in to my hotmail account, and got a screen asking me to agree to their privacy policy.

#70 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 05:39 PM:

Speaking of false info, a friend of mine loved to fill out sweepstakes cards and other such nonsense with fake names just to see which junk mail lists he landed on. Thus he received mail addressed to Hugh Mungus Koch and DeClaude Phamily Pett.

#71 ::: Evel Knievel ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 06:15 PM:

I'm not evil.

#72 ::: Roy G. Ovrebo ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 06:18 PM:

Serge @ #33: FB does have a 'deactivate' button, but does it really chuck it out?

Nope, that's just a placebo thing that hides your account from view - "in case you change your mind" or something.

But this page will make it kick the bucket. An ex-account etc.

You'll have a two week period in which it pines for the fjordsto change your mind, but after that it gone.

#73 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 06:31 PM:

Roy G Ovrebo @ 71... That account has now done what Jimmy Durante was last seen doing in It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World. Oh, and it's NOT going to pull a Captain Scarlett on me.

#74 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 06:32 PM:

And my many thanks to you, Roy!

#75 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 06:35 PM:

Steve C. @ 69 -- There've been times when I could identify who was sharing my contact information with whom by the patterns of misspellings of my name.

When I was in my first year at Queen's U., I was a bit startled when some organization paid to have glossy "are you concerned about hair loss?" brochures in the student newspaper -- if nothing else, it looked like very poor market targeting. So I filled one out for my mother's dog, who shed like crazy. Got a call from Mom a month or so later, asking if I happened to know anything about this info package that had just arrived... IIRC, she received several follow-up letters.

#76 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 07:14 PM:

Lylassandra@68, I couldn't have a Hotmail account for a few years, because my cat had given her correct age when she's signed up, and when the Child Online Protection Act rules came out, they wouldn't let you have an account if you were under 13. She's old enough to have an account again, but only if I provide credit card information to verify it, and sorry, not only does Hotmail not need to know my credit card information, but I don't need to have my cat ordering tuna and catnip online...

#77 ::: Stephen Wilson ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 07:38 PM:

#14 John Stanning wrote forlornly: "Of course, precautions on my PC are useless because my ISP can easily track all my Internet traffic – web and e-mail – plus all my phone call"

PC precautions are not useless, because the ISP is not your enemy. In theory yes ISPs can do the things he says but in practice it's very very rare to see such transgressions, because Information Privacy Law expressly forbids the collection and re-use of information not needed by the ISPs to carry out their business.

But the new media companies (Google included) get around Information Privacy Law by dense and disingenuous Privacy Policies, self-serving default settings that trick people into exposing their personal information far beyond their immediate networks, and/or by simply flouting the laws as in the case of Streetview cars sniffing wifi networks.

The creeping piracy of personal information, the laissez faire attitude attributed to OSN users but actually foisted on them by Facebook at al, the insidious misconception that if information is public then it's no longer private ... all these trends must be more energetically resisted.

#78 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 08:58 PM:

I'm mildly croggled at the idea that being the customer will protect us from corporate malfeasance. Because private health insurance has worked out so well for us all.

One thing that's good to keep in mind here is that Facebook hasn't made any money yet. They're still scrambling to find a way to turn a profit on letting people poke each other via intertube, and their mad drive to monetize every last thing is a consequence of that pressure. Conceivably it's not possible (or at least not possible to do in a way that doesn't abuse people's privacy.) If it's not, then the next question is: what comes next? A subscription service? Social networking takes the file-sharing route and moves to a peer-to-peer, all-files-on-my-own-machine model? Maybe even turn it into a public utility? (Well, I think internet access and non-commercial hosting should be a public utility too.)

This is all aside from the question of whether it will be possible at all to maintain anonymity or privacy in the future.

#79 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 09:19 PM:

76
as in the case of Streetview cars sniffing wifi networks

That one is new to me. Can you provide a source for it? Because as far as I know, all they do is take pictures.

#80 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 09:26 PM:

P J Evans (78): He's talking about this.

#81 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 10:02 PM:

79
Yeah, that's out of line.

#82 ::: Erin ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 12:00 AM:

I'm surprised no one has mentioned the Diaspora project yet.

#83 ::: Ambar ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 01:03 AM:

I choose not to give up my FB account, because I prefer hearing from the majority of my family via FB rather than not hearing from them at all. (The language difference makes banter-via-typing much, much more comfortable than banter-via-hearing --)

#84 ::: Swail ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 02:27 AM:

I think you're being paranoid. Google has made the internet a lot better over the years and they take privacy issues to heart. There's a price that comes with innovation, and unfortunately it might occasionally involve small changes to your personal account. It's not that hard a pill to swallow if you know the medicine inside it is actually good for you.

Your mention of iMovies and that doesn't strike me as much a thing to sweat over.

I have my doubts about Facebook. They may be a better target for your anti-corporate paranoia-fueled rage. They've actually done things that have resulted in significant controversy.

#85 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 03:25 AM:

I call bingo! Troll tropes, corporate buzzwords, patronization, smokescreen, and apologist rhetoric, all in one post.

#86 ::: Ken Brown ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 03:53 AM:

Collect WiFi information? I'm not sure my iphone doesn't do that! (Whether or not it sends it to apple is a different question)

#87 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 06:24 AM:

Bill #76 : I was curious enough about what you said that I signed up a new hotmail.com account just now.  It didn’t ask for any usefully identifying data:  just gender and birth year, the latter probably because of Child Protection, but it had no way of verifying the information.  It didn’t ask for a credit card.  Did I do something different from what you did?

So now I have a pseudonymous Hotmail account with no link whatever to my real identity.¹  I’m not sure that I have a use for it, but I’m interested that complete anonymity can still be achieved.
___________
¹ I used a public library PC in the UK, via a proxy,² using the account of another library user who had forgotten to log off (that’s not uncommon, and normally I would log them off and log on with my own library card, but it was an opportunity for full anonymity;  I’m not worried for the forgetful person because the chance of him/her being identified is practically zero).
² Proxy partly for anonymity and partly to get a hotmail.com address – if it knows you’re in the UK it’ll only give you hotmail.co.uk.

#88 ::: Elsbeth ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 06:28 AM:

@Erin ...and I'm surprised no one has mentioned pidder yet.

#89 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 07:25 PM:

Some spy crap applied by Flash:

Locations in places such as:

C:\Users\{computername}\AppData\Roaming\Macromedia\Flash Player\#SharedObjects


¿ ÂTCSO  settings gain @I echosuppression defaultmicrophone
defaultcamera
defaultklimit @Y
defaultalways windowlessDisable autoUpdateDisabled autoUpdateDefaultUpdated autoUpdateInterval @ autoUpdateLastCheck Br¡b\{@ crossdomainAllow crossdomainAlways secureCrossDomainCacheSize ¿ð allowThirdPartyLSOAccess trustedPaths safefullscreen disallowP2PUplink

===================

If one wishes to be really nasty, edit the damned thing....
Otherwise visit often and delete the POS....

#90 ::: Mir B. ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 08:19 PM:

Am mostly not understanding what you described that Google does. I mean, yes I use a gmail login for youtube, it's an account I created at some point on account of blogger, when they upgraded or something. But I never do email from that account, and so far as I know nothing I do on either blogger or youtube ever touches down on Planet Facebook.

#91 ::: Meg Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 10:20 PM:

I nuked my FB account after their last big "upgrade" to their lack-of-privacy settings. Given I wasn't using the thing anyway, that's no great loss for me. It means I'm a bit harder to locate for people who are looking for me solely on Facebook, but that's about the end of it - I'm certainly locatable easily enough if you bother to google me. I have a gmail account, and a yahoo email account - both have the same first component - and I collect the mail via POP at home rather than reading it online. Both of them act, essentially, as drop boxes (if I get accounts with other services, such as my uni email account, I forward it on to one of those). This was created as a solution to a previous problem (having to notify everyone I was friends with every single time I changed ISP, because my email address would alter) and it appears to have become a reasonable solution to a number of other problems, too.

Then again, I come to the whole issue with a history of having been bullied and harassed through twelve years of schooling, and seen by various persons as a "soft target" for harassment since then as well. I know perfectly well that if someone wants to get a response from me, they're going to go out of their way to find a way to provoke one - even if it means putting in a lot of effort on their part. One of the concepts about the 'net in general that I'm well and truly accepting of is that my privacy is as valuable as I want to make it - and that the records of who I am and what I do online are readily available to those who wish to find them. So I go for the "single, coherent identity" solution - and I make sure that if I'm making information available online, it's information I don't mind people finding out about me, or that I'm not going to be ashamed of if it's brought up in the middle of a completely unrelated discussion.

(I should note this is different to whether other people think I should be ashamed of it... I've no doubt my interests in gaming, fandom, fanfiction and slash would be regarded as extremely shameful by various persons, due to my age, gender, appearance and social identity. Of course, my answer to that one is that nobody asked them in the first place.)

I think it helps that I'm Australian, though - we have a culture which is somewhat more accepting of the answer "none of your business" as a response to nosey queries than the US one. Or possibly it's more that our culture has a wider definition of what constitutes an impolitely nosey query or non-sequitur than the US culture does, and a more aggressive reaction to comments or queries which fit into this category.

#92 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 11:10 PM:

John@87, it may be they've relaxed their policies since then, or it may just be that that was what I had to do for my cat to get her account back and a new account for someone claiming to be older wouldn't have that problem.

As far as spyware crap in browsers goes, I've been very happy with Ghostery, a Firefox add-in that exposes lots of scripts (on sites where I've allowed Javascript to run) - it's amazing how many data collection widgets a typical web page has. It's probably not checking Flash; I should add one of those.

#93 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 11:20 PM:

I am, in a lot of ways, less identifiable; in a number of my informational aspects on FB, because I decided it was useful in letting old friends find me; and that I wanted to be a bit lost.

So I joined a couple of games, and added several hundred people I don't know at all.

If I were gay; and hiding it, one can't do the associational trick. One can't really define my politics from FB either (well, one can, because I do post various bit of political material there, but it's not something an FB association matrix will reveal).

For things where I care, I have a Gmail account which has no, direct, links to me (I had someone else send me the invite). That has CIA headquarters as it's zip code.

As for Google, and privacy, when I opened that account... it wasn't ten minutes before I was being offered a refi in Langley, Virg.

#94 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2010, 12:08 AM:

Terry, are you saying you didn't take them up on the refi, or at least invite them to come out and look at the property first?

#95 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2010, 03:01 AM:

#91 Meg
I thought the Australian attitude tends to be, None of your fucking business rather than None of your business....

#96 ::: Ron ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2010, 10:27 AM:

I'll mention pidder then. Been using it for a while, worth people taking a look at

#97 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2010, 10:48 AM:

#78
Peer-to-peer social networking?
Sounds like what we used to do before we had computers.

#98 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2010, 10:57 AM:

Erik Nelson@97: Well, it sounds like what we used to do not nearly enough of before we could do it with people all around the world instead of just those in our immediate physical vicinity.

#100 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2010, 12:20 PM:

heresiarch @78 writes: "Well, I think internet access and non-commercial hosting should be a public utility too."

You know who has historically been the most reliable and largest contributor, after PG&E, to political campaigns against efforts in San Francisco to invoke the provision in the Raker Act that allows the city to form a municipal utility district (like Measure I in 2001)?

Answer: AT&T.

Think on that and wonder not how the world really works.

#101 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2010, 12:57 AM:

The only reason I'm on FB at all:

I almost didn't hear about my 10th High School Reunion. (Shut up, that would have been bad, I like my classmates!) Because most of them are on FB, and I wasn't.

One classmate--just one--and not the one organizing things--thought to Google my name. And that's how I finally got an email about it.

Me: "Why didn't you check our school's alumni database? I visit it every few months and to make sure my contact info is accurate, and to post class notes if I've got any."

Organizer: "Oh, no one bothers to keep it up to date, so I didn't look for you there."

Me: [Fists shaking in rage carefully held out of sight]

So now I'm on FB, so that people I know who apparently interact with the internet in no other way but FB can find me. *sigh* Also, the best karaoke host in the Boulder-Denver-mountains area announces his gigs that way--and his publicity page is private so you can only see it if you're logged into FB. Why do people do that?

Incidentally, I saw the trailer for the movie The Social Network on Sunday when I went to see Inception. My brain kept bouncing between "Can you make a docudrama about the founders of Facebook when said founders are still active and getting into trouble? Does that even work? How?" and "Dang it, someone else made a gorgeously creepy chorus arrangement of 'Creep' before I got around to thinking about it!"

#102 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2010, 11:15 AM:

Nicole @ 101 -- A few months after I moved from Kingston to Waterloo, Ontario (about 18 years ago), I stopped back for a visit and encountered one of my friends from the SCA group there. He was glad to see me and told me that he hadn't been able to figure out how to get in touch with me.

I was somewhat boggled. The guy was nearly finished his Ph.D. in physics, so could be presumed to be intelligent and to have some problem-solving ability. (Yes, I know from painful experience, it is not necessarily true, but it should have been in his case.) My mail was being forwarded. An attempt to phone my old number would have given a recorded message with the new number. My E-mail was being forwarded. A call to telephone information would have given the new number. Most of our mutual acquaintances knew my new contact info. And so on. I managed to restrain an innocent "Oh, how did you try?" and gave him my new phone number.

#103 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2010, 02:33 PM:

Once upon a time, I was at a MASSFILC meeting. Someone had packed up his electronic music keyboard, when someone else asked for musical accompaniment to a song. The keyboardist said that he'd already packed up his instrument. I pointed to the piano behind him and said, "There's an analog piano behind you...."

People get so used to the ways they're currently doing thing, it doesn't -occur- to them that there are other tools and ways of doing things....

#104 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2010, 09:13 PM:

Once upon a time, I was at a MASSFILC meeting. Someone had packed up his electronic music keyboard, when someone else asked for musical accompaniment to a song. The keyboardist said that he'd already packed up his instrument. I pointed to the piano behind him and said, "There's an analog piano behind you...."

People get so used to the ways they're currently doing thing, it doesn't -occur- to them that there are other tools and ways of doing things....

#105 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2010, 09:22 PM:

Senator Kerry is going to put up a bill about online privacy -- better and more rules for how Facebook, Amazon, Google, etc. can use your private info.

#106 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2010, 10:30 PM:

Sheesh, Paula (@ #104). Most guitarists have both electric and acoustic models. (I can see why someone might not have space for an acoustic piano, though.)

#107 ::: Dave Langford ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2010, 05:38 PM:

In view of Teresa's original complaint, I'm wondering why the "Possibly the worst campaign ad of all time" link in Particles takes me into a mess of Google/YouTube signup requests rather than showing the video. "The quick brown fox" in Sidelights still works as expected, though.

#108 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2010, 06:12 PM:

Dave@107 — The "worst campaign ad" particle points to a youtube video that got marked private, which leads to the behavior you see. There are other copies on youtube, or you could google for "demon sheep".

#109 ::: Dave Langford ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2010, 04:34 AM:

#108 Thanks, Dan. Apparently I'd never followed a "private" YouTube link before, so that behaviour came as a surprise.

#110 ::: lorax sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2010, 04:10 PM:

Weight-loss spam at #110.

#111 ::: Dave Bell see spam ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2010, 04:12 PM:

spam @110

Or possibly an excess of Christmas spirit.

#112 ::: P J Evans sees the same spam ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2010, 09:32 PM:

They might move the link a few words, but it's still spam.

#113 ::: Serge sees SPAM ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2011, 11:16 AM:

Who said we're putting up with you?

#114 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2011, 12:45 PM:

On Making Light, the spam is canned
Just as the small rain down doth rain
Alas! Too fast the stuff is banned
For love, or arms, or this quatrain.

#115 ::: [silinmiş spam] ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2011, 07:31 PM:

[203.172.178.166 gönderdi]

#116 ::: Melody sees Turkish spam ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2011, 07:37 PM:

International spam day?

#117 ::: Google ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2011, 05:18 AM:

I have heard your plea Teresa.
I can not and will not be stopped.
Not until every shred of your identity is available to the cloud.
Not until it is time for the assimilation.
In time you will learn that me and Facebook are your only true friends.

Choose:
Smaller type (our default)
Larger type
Even larger type, with serifs

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