Google, Facebook Insist Do Not Track Law Would Cripple California's Economy

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News Posted: Mon, May 9 2011 7:01 PM
The state of California is currently considering a bill (SB761) that, if passed in its current form, would require websites to ask visitors for permission before tracking them via cookies. While there are already apps and add-ons that allow web surfers to manually control what cookies they accept or refuse, the new bill would require companies to explicitly ask visitors if they wanted to be tracked. Google and Facebook have jointly sent a letter to the government claiming that passage of the bill would have disastrous consequences.

The relevant text is as follows:
[The bill] would require a... person or entity doing business in the state of California that collects, uses, or stores online data containing covered information from a consumer in this state to provide a consumer in California with a method to opt out of that collection, use, and storage of such information.

The bill would, to the extant consistent with federal law, prohibit a covered entity from selling, sharing, or transferring a consumer's covered information. (emphasis original)
Information covered by the bill would include the date and time of access, the location of the consumer (including the IP address) and any other personally identifiable information. This last covers a broad range of things, including everything from social security numbers to email or personal addresses.

Worst. Idea. Ever. 

To say that Google and Facebook think this is a bad idea is a colossal understatement. In just six pages, the two companies jointly argue against the bill on the following grounds:

  • It would sabotage the "rich content and free services" provided by the Internet.
  • Customers would be more vulnerable to security threats.
  • It's unnecessary, since all leading browsers contain privacy settings and/or incognito browsing
  • Online commerce would be rendered "unworkable" due to the "unprecedented and arduous regulatory burden."
  • It's unworkable and unenforceable, period. Can't be done. Nope.
  • Even if it was possible, it'd have "sweeping, negative implications for security... including health care, financial services, retail fraud, and online safety."
  • Such a measure would be unconstitutional, as it would "regulate business far beyond California's borders."

Add-ons and extensions are fine. Government protection is the devil.

The joint statement from the two companies eschews coherent discussion in favor of throwing every possible objection at the state government to see if anything sticks. This is a long-established tactic of the legal profession, particularly when appealing the decision of a lower court. While SB 761 would create certain burdens, it's clearly written as applying only to residents of California. The law doesn't make cookies illegal, it simply requires that citizens be presented with an option to choose. Furthermore, the bill allows the Attorney General to modify the scope or application of the definition of "sensitive information" and to consider the context in which the information is used, the ease with which it can be used to identify a person, and the potential adverse impact.

We're willing to bet Google and Facebook are far more concerned about their advertising revenue than anything else. Being forced to offer consumers a choice regarding such tracking risks sabotaging targeted advertising. For all their frantic posturing, none of the concerns ring so true as to present a clear and present danger to California's web denizens or its online industry.
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They think a lot of their impact on the financial economy of California. I too think that their bottom line is their chief motivator in opposing this law.

Dogs are great judges of character, and if your dog doesn't like somebody being around, you shouldn't trust them.

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CDeeter replied on Tue, May 10 2011 9:36 AM

Of course the bottom line is their motivator, as most of us would choose to opt-out of tracking. In fact, I can't imagine anyone actually choosing to be tracked. And if I can prevent the sale of my information, I would choose to do so each and every time!

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^Much agreed 

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AHH..... the arrogance of liberal hypocrisy!

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AjayD replied on Wed, May 11 2011 5:36 AM

More important than whether cookies are tracking my online activities, is what is being done with that data, and by who. Devices like the iPhone and iPad tracking my physical location, without my consent or knowledge, is also quite disturbing.

Whenever politicians try to craft a bill with regards to complex things they have no working knowledge of, such as finance and the internet, it is invariably a recipe for disaster. Leave it to politicians to think that more legislation is the solution to every problem.

 

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realneil replied on Wed, May 11 2011 10:39 AM

AjayD:
More important than whether cookies are tracking my online activities, is what is being done with that data, and by who

Al Franken is on them now.

The people who elected this guy got more than they bargained for. Every time I see him in a film clip or hear him speak, he sounds like he has a total understanding of the subject, and his constituents in mind. He's smart, and he can't be deflected either. Minnesota should be proud of him. He's like a Pit Bull.

The fact is that people don't like others keeping records on their activities and rightly so. I can't think of any good reason for your phone company to track your whereabouts unless you're a criminal and the Cops are after you, or maybe a runaway child that needs to be found. Their aggregate collection of data is unimportant and unnecessary too. You can bet your ass that they wouldn't do it if they couldn't sell that data to other companies and they're making a lot of money doing just that.

So, to sum it up, they will do crap to us and not tell anyone about it until they get caught, just to make more money. The fact that they do it on the sly makes it worse. They have no integrity.

Are they recording certain people's conversations? How do we know? If they were to monitor certain high level government official's phones, wouldn't they be able to possibly gain knowledge that would benefit their bottom line? Everyone in the US Government uses cell phones,........

They need to be regulated and policed to keep them in line because we already KNOW they can't be trusted to do the right thing.

EDIT: I just read that Google has just "set aside" 500 Million Dollars to defend against the government's investigations into their data handling practices. How's THAT for a war chest folks? Half a Billion Dollars will buy a crap-load of obfuscation, will it not?

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eunoia replied on Wed, May 11 2011 12:24 PM

.

...pending.

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realneil replied on Wed, May 11 2011 1:28 PM

^^^ Nicely Said^^^

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Joel H replied on Wed, May 11 2011 8:27 PM

AHH..... the arrogance of liberal hypocrisy!

These are not the Droids you are looking for!

And this, by all appearances, is not the conversation topic you intended to comment in. This doesn't fit the definition of hypocrisy--hypocritical would be if Google and Facebook claimed everyone ELSE should be banned from using the tracking they use themselves on the grounds of customer privacy. This isn't about hypocrisy. At all. Google and Facebook are making arguments that make sense given their own business interests.

Secondly, this isn't 'liberal.' In fact, the argument that consumers shouldn't be tracked unless they give consent is the more liberal position, provided you understand the concept of 'negative liberty' as opposed to 'positive liberty' (freedom from vs. freedom to). Regardless, this isn't a political issue.

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OK, I get it Joel.....You are a professional liberal blogger. Since your responses are always in regards to any negative discussions concerning liberals. We have fun discussing technology and entertainment hardware, any political jabs are done in jest. I have found that most on this site are very easy going and open to other thoughts and ideas, who do not go on the attack to those who don't think the same way they do. Like saying "you don't even read the posts!" without understanding that there may be a deeper thought process in the response that was given.
 
This is very political, since companies are saying, just because I sell you something...I can now track your habits and behavior! That is really a very typical liberal response. Everything is a political issue, either in govmnt or office/ family  politics. Of course you didn't say anything about Neil talking about that crackhead Franken? Only those who use politics so aggressively are the ones who say its not about politics!
 
I understand the concept of positive and negative in more terms than just how it applies to liberty! If you want to compare Liberty like it is some form of positive and negative particle, then it is harder to distinguish its eigendistribution, unless you are that particle which seeks freedom. Then it is just a matter of your location! So yes, you can try and make yourself feel smarter by doubling up words and belittling others. Yet, if you understand attritionist liberty and pejorative liberty then you know nothing about liberty.
 
Or you can just start posting more about the fun tech and interesting articles that the guys put so much effort into here on Hot Hardware, instead of posting just to push a political agenda.
 
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