Sunday, January 08, 2006

Did You Give GOOGLE (or Microsoft) The Right To Sell You Out To China?

I had posted this on 12/23/05 but several people said I was assuming the worst and companies like Google (e.g. Microsoft) would not do what I said you and I are giving them the right to do, often without reading the agreements we click ACCEPT on.

I even gave the specific example of how Google could edit or modify someone's postings or video or message to please the Chinese government. How ironic to see that Microsoft did exactly that... in shutting up a critic of the Chinese regime. Sorry, I told you so.....and it will only get worse.

My comment is NOT an attack on Google, which actually is a company I like, respect, admire and consider a great leveler of the technology world. In some cases they have been much better in at least trying to protect us from a snooping, prying, invasive government than all the others, from ISPs to Yahoo and Microsoft, from telephone companies to some librarians, who are all protating themselves in front of illegal government demands for private information on users. So, the comment below is about almost any company that has overly aggressive user agreements people sign/click without reading.

Here is what you should think about. This was titled: GOOGLE Grabs Oodles Of Rights To Your Content!

Did you just give Google the right to MODIFY the video movie or documentary you made as they like? No? Are you sure?

I have not seen anything about this on other forums, but I just got an email from Google's video hosting service. They have made some changes to their terms of service.

Most of the time I sign up for services (like everyone else) and just click Accept. That is much like most of us throw out the modified (meaning more fees and money extorting) credit card agreements we are sent every few months from the behemoth banks merging to take over our financial lives.

Anyway, I got the Google TOS email at about 0415AM and went on and actually read it. Now, this is the part that really got me thinking, and wondering.

----
3. Use of Content. By entering into this Agreement and
uploading, sending or otherwise making available Your Authorized
Content to Google, you are directing and authorizing Google to,
and granting Google a royalty-free, non-exclusive right and
license to, host, cache, route, transmit, store, copy, modify,
distribute, perform, display, reformat, excerpt, facilitate the
sale or rental of copies of, analyze, and create algorithms
based on the Authorized Content in order to...........
----

Generally, I have watched with mild amusement as people using free services (like 2GB email) from Google have complained about their privacy, that Google's system will scan their emails (supposedly only for the email owner's use) to come up with relevant ads to display next to the free email so Google can make money and offer the service to us for free. This is supposedly a pretty well known fact so if anyone does not like it, they can choose to buy their email service elsewhere.

However, it seems that the kind of imperial hubris that at one time only was seen in Washington, DC or Redmond, WA has now taken quite a hold of Google's "Do No Evil" leaders.

I see this turning even more insidious. First they started scanning our emails (sure, with our knowledge), then they started scanning our books (if we are authors, without waiting to ask us) and now, they have given themselves the right to actually MODIFY something YOU or I create.

Here's what I mean.

You create a video or movie. You take up Google on its offer to HOST your video for free.

Sure, maybe they will transcribe it also so the content becomes searchable in text browsers. But, does that mean it is OK for GOOGLE to take YOUR video and, hence, your content and your message, MODIFY it's message?

Well, in some cases it would not be a problem. e.g. if the video I uploaded is 320x240 in size and it is sent by GOOGLE to a cell phone screen one can understand it being MODIFIED to a smaller SIZE. But YOU still control the content. It is still YOUR message.

But, what if it was NOT specified WHAT kind of modification a host can do to your content? Then what?

I ask that because the quote from their new TOS actually use the word REFORMAT to basically cover the kind of changes needed to display the video but the word MODIFY is in addition to the word REFORMAT. That should worry us all.

What if your video in support of DEMOCRACY is "modified" and shown to Chinese users making it sound like supporting COMMUNISM, so that Google can keep China's government happy?

Am I reading too much into it, or is this an obvious and dangerous attempt by Google to also control our content and one day change it anyway it likes? What do you think?

Imran

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ummm... those are very good points, and a user is ultimately granting Google free reign on their material. I like Google, but I think I'll pass on availin gof their video hosting.

michael

Jason Salas said...

Good comments...I wrote more about this on my blog.

Anonymous said...

it's one thing to be able to modify video, but it's another to actually do it.

I cannot see Google picking random videos.. or picking on individuals.. just because they think it would be fun to change the message in a video.

They write things in their TOS to protect themselves, not to fuck people over. If you can show me a video that has been modified to say something other than what was intended... I will jump on your bandwagon, but until then... I say you better invent a more superior tin foil hat!

Imran Anwar said...

Thanks, Michael. And, Thank You, Jason for the great plug to my item on your blog. In relation to what you said, and to the comment by Anonymous above, I say:

The issue is NOT that you "don't see Google picking random videos". The issue is the RIGHT they may be usurping. No one knows for sure that an American President would become a dictator, but you do not give him the right to be, by having a Constitution, and Congress and the Supreme Court.

WHATEVER the reasons for Google WANTING to MODIFY content that I create, their taking the right to MODIFY it as they seem fit does NOT keep them from having the right to change the content, and thereby changing the message. This issue has been covered even in issues related to Hollywood, where censorship can change the meaning of a movie.

Their TOS of went out at 0415 AM, so what do you expect, someone to go through 4 million videos, contact 4 million creators, get 4 million originals, compare the two (8 million) and report here so you can then wake up and say, "Uh, OK, there is an issue" ? No, thanks. I have pointed out a serious issue, that at least has started a discussion. You can join in when Google changes your content and meaning of your copyrighted works. :-)

Thanks for the comments, all.

Imran

Anonymous said...

An eye opener....sounds like a sting operation, hmm....I used to accept the conditions,blindly....thanks for raising a common man's issue...

Imran Farooq said...

I was already thinking something is going to start happening by reading Google's mission statement: "To organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." If the government or corporate entities started having access to "modify" the "world's information" then one can only imagine what kind of society we would live in. I'm not saying that this is taking place right now necessarily but the possibility can always exist with the lofty nature of Google's objectives.

EmailHosting.com said...

Does Google really change your videos? I wouldn't think so.

Imran Anwar said...

Thanks for the comment, but I don't think you get the point. It is the issue of taking the RIGHT to modify your content and message that is at issue. Will George Bush personally listen in on yoru phone calls? I wouldn't think so. But, would we want there to be no checks and balances on who can listen to what we do (especially without court orders)? I didn't think so. Thanks.

Imran

EmailHosting.com said...

I really don't think that Google would actually go in and modify your content. I would love to see a situation where they would actually do it.

Imran Anwar said...

I did not say they did, do, or will. As I said, by accepting their new terms and conditions, you are giving them the right to do so. People should know that. Thanks.

Imran

Anthony S said...

Giving Google the right to change your content is going against you own right of free speech.
Microsoft and Google are pleasing the Chinese government and playing by what the Chinese government wants as they probably want to create a friendly alliance for there own benefits but not us the customers.

You can claim that China will benefit from advances and technologies given by Google and Microsoft but these companies are lowering themselves to a censorship government to gain more money.

Its not about the publics right to freedom, it's about how much more capital can be gained over last years report.

It is a scary fact that Google does have the right at their disposal to modify your own content that you publish and most likely still claim you as the owner of the content.

Better still it doesn't say to what extent they can modify the content, so we can assume they can modify all of it anyway they please.

Imran Anwar said...

Thanks, Anthony. That is exactly my concern. There is no limit to what control they CAN exert over what people will still think YOU said/expressed. Thanks for the comments. Hope to see you visit regularly.

Imran

Imran Farooq said...

I thought this was a very interesting post. I really liked this comment that I read in an article about the censorship Microsoft did in China:

Rebecca MacKinnon, a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School, wrote on her blog, referring to Microsoft and other technology companies: "Can we be sure they won't do the same thing in response to potentially illegal demands by an overzealous government agency in our own country?"

The fact is that there are no boundaries if companies are making these decisions based on bottom lines. I'm sure Microsoft is thinking that China is too valuable of a market to pass up but that shows that they are willing to compromise principles. I would not be surprised at all if China is not the only country that is doing this with corporations or that it won't happen in the U.S.

Imran Anwar said...

Even though I am constantly complaining about the way Bush administration people are trying to turn the US into the USSR, I did not think of this really good angle you linked to the Google/MS story above. Thanks!

Imran

prying1 said...

I figure anything I put on the Internet be it an email, post or picture inevitably or in essence becomes fair game for anyone. If I want it to be private I will not use the Internet.

Imran Anwar said...

Hi prying1. Thanks for the comment. But, by that token, we should not use telephones because the phone company can pry into our conversations, we should not mail letters in postal service because they can pry into it.

Pretty soon we would be living in a cave --- and would probably find Bin Laden prying into it. Rolling over and accepting usurping of our rights is not the way to keep our rights.

Imran

Anonymous said...

FYI you may be interested in the following story:

http://www.amnestyusa.org/countries/china/actions.do

Regards

Anonymous said...

If you don't want Google to control the way your stuff gets posted, don't post on Google.

I mean no offense, but I honestly fail to see the point of this (well written) piece. EULAs are always full of clauses and disclaimers that give the software provider impractically extensive rights over the way you use the software, and nearly any bulletin board or forum I've ever posted to has claimed ownership rights to anything I've posted.

So, who own these comments of mine, now that I've posted them to your blog? If I shouldn't trust Google not to abuse content I supply, how do I know for sure that I can trust you...?

Good wishes,
- T.J. in A2 MI

Imran Anwar said...

TJ, hi. My posting is telling people what they are giving away to Google et. al. Obviously, I know what I am doing as I put my content there. Most people do NOT know what they are signing away and I am hoping to make people aware. And to start conversations, your comment being a good example.

Thanks for the kind words. As far as your comments' ownership, too late, I already sold them to China for a plate of Chicken With Pineapple. :-)

Imran

Naushad said...

Good article , Every Google user should know exactly what is happening beneath and how they can get affected.