Thursday, January 19, 2006

Where privacy is tradition

In light of US Justice of Deparment demanding user search records from Google, Boing Boing quoted this excerpt from John Batelle's "The Search" that I'll repeat here:

As we move our data to the servers at,,, and, we are making an implicit bargain, one that the public at large is either entirely content with, or, more likely, one that most have not taken much to heart.

That bargain is this: we trust you to not do evil things with our information. We trust that you will keep it secure, free from unlawful government or private search and seizure, and under our control at all times. We understand that you might use our data in aggregate to provide us better and more useful services, but we trust that you will not identify individuals personally through our data, nor use our personal data in a manner that would violate our own sense of privacy and freedom.

That’s a pretty large helping of trust we’re asking companies to ladle onto their corporate plate. And I’m not sure either we or they are entirely sure what to do with the implications of such a transfer. Just thinking about these implications makes a reasonable person’s head hurt.

If U.S. government gets any more invasive, I'd suggest Google move to where privacy is tradition - Switzerland. Just leave behind a small marketing department to do business with US advertisers.


Cs said...

It's not so easy to move such a big company. Just think of the employees. Would you fire everyone and hire people in Switzerland, or would you try to apply for visas and work permit for all those people and make them move? Also, the buildings, the computers, etc. And maybe the directors who would make that decision would rather live in the sunny California than in the foggy Switzerland. :)

Attila Szegedi said...

Companies will do whatever serves their business purpose if the benefits outweigh the costs. Numerous American manufacturing companies outsourced all of their actual manufacturing process to China - that wasn't easy either, yet they did the move as it benefitted them in the long term. Google can even keep the HQ in California as just one more of their research offices, just move their administrative headquarters as well as all of their systems that contain any sort of user data out of the United States. Moving the administration is important, as they then cease to be an American company; if they just moved their operational servers out and remained an American company, DoJ could still require the search records from them. Anyway, I'm sure they can work out what'll work for them :-)