Posts Tagged ‘privacy’

Storing Data in the Cloud Has Drawbacks

January 7, 2010



It’s not news to an old-timer like me who’s suspicious of all Internet services – especially “free” ones. See for example the posts on Google Public DNS and Google Wave. In the latter I list (most of) the Google services I use.

FTC LogoThe US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) document is at

Of course, as no less a person than Eric Schmidt says:

“If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”

That statement gave me the chills – but it is also a wake-up call to users worldwide. The amplification he gave is factually correct.

“But if you really need that kind of privacy, the reality is that search engines, including Google, do retain this information for some time. And […] we’re all subject, in the US, to the Patriot Act, and it is possible that that information could be made available to the authorities.”

His apparent assumption that people only require privacy if they are doing something scandalous or illegal is mind-boggling.

There are two types of information that I will keep in the cloud:

  1. Encrypted information where I hold the key.
  2. Information that I don’t mind if it gets plastered over the front pages of the New York Times and the Bangkok Post.

Anything else is held in encrypted storage using a tool that I trust: TrueCrypt.

Google Street View

November 14, 2009

GoogleI absolutely love Google Street View. I use it frequently to check locations where pictures were taken and also to travel vicariously. I am eager for Google to add Bangkok to their itinerary.

Recently I located a former colleague and found he’s a Professor at the University of Glasgow, Scotland. I was able to go right to the campus and see the Department of Computer Science Building. Amazing!

Still I understand people’s concerns about privacy. It’s one thing to allow tourists freedom to take pictures and even publish them online. But it seems so different when Google have their specially equipped cars (and trikes) with a camera mast that can look over walls and fences.

Now I see Switzerland is the latest country to raise legal challenges. See here.

I wonder if Google could have gone about it in a different way? My perception is they tend to start massive projects and then act all innocent when people object. Much the same with their book scanning. I am sure many people thus perceive them as arrogant. That’s a bad place to argue from.

But if Google asked permission from every authority who’d conceivably have something to say on the matter then they’d never get started. As an old boss used to say “It’s easier to apologise than to ask permission.”

Maybe if the Street View camera was lower so it photographed no more than the average pedestrian then some concerns would lessen. I don’t know if their setup is consistent worldwide.

All the Street View pictures I have seen have had vehicle license plates and people blurred for privacy. I have never seen a problem with that but it can make the pictures a bit annoying.

The thing I like least about the interface is the transition between pictures. I would have thought there would be a smooth transition, but instead it is a jarring change. Considering the lamentable internet speed I have here in Bangkok it is remarkable it works at all.

I don’t have any Street Views of Bangkok so here’s a picture of Santa Clara Caltrain Station in California. I used to travel to San Francisco regularly from here.


Google Street View Santa Clara Caltrain Station

Google Street View Santa Clara Caltrain Station

Very good for nostalgia.