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
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