Google Privacy Videos

Here are a couple of videos from Google about privacy.   The first talks about how information collection can work and why it is done.  The second demos features in web history which make it a little less scary.  I wish the videos were a little more casual and less corporate, but they do demonstrate Google is working to ensure privacy and what features are available to you.

Long Term Value of Trendiness?

I’ve written about Facebook before – I think it’s a great site.  And its growth has been phenomenal!  Kudos to the team there.

But, there is no doubt that Facebook benefits from being trendy & cool.  Unfortunately, trendiness and coolness are things that easily wane.  What happens when all the teenagers move to BiterBook or the next social-platform of the day?

Certainly everyone remembers that 10 years ago, was the #1 destination on the planet.  And of course we all remember how hot Friendster was.

Obviously, I have no idea where Facebook will be in 5 years.  But, for any valuation measured in billions, you’d be crazy to invest.  Unless they’ve got staggering revenues, the risk of never seeing Facebook, or any company built on short term trendiness, return that much is just too high.

It would be interesting to see if AOL generated more than $4.2B in profits from the Netscape acquisition.  I don’t know.

Don’t Blog

galaxy You’d think that I’d be able to put two and two together and realize that a blog is a long term liability with little likelihood of making my life or career better.  And it lasts forever.  I can delete the website, but records of my misguided thoughts are indelibly written on the face of the Internet.  Why do I do this?

I write this today because I frequently get questions from colleagues about my blog posts.  If I say something too positive about Google or too negative about Microsoft, they say, “you just are anti-Microsoft now that you joined Google”.  And, if I say something negative about Google, they say, “are you planning on leaving or something?”  Why would what I write on this blog lead anyone to such a conclusion?

I guess to some, loyalty to their colleagues and employer would include always speaking positively about them.  I guess there is some truth to that.  But, does loyalty and dedication mean that you can’t publicly criticize?  Maybe I’m just a jerk!

Unfortunately for me, when I write, I always write to be persuasive.  After all, if you aren’t trying to make a point, what is the point?  But, I have the tendency to be so absolute in my specific argument that readers often want to apply my position on a specific to topic to more general topics.  This is a fallacy of the reader, and not a fallacy of the writer.

Nonetheless, regardless of who is misinterpreting the facts, I am the one with the reputation from this blog.  It doesn’t matter if I love working at Google, because when a reader who may be a VP at Google reads an individual negative post, they might think I am not a team player; my position in that single article was very specific.

So, to all you would-be bloggers out there – don’t start.  Unless you’re really trying to build something, blogging is a liability you cannot ditch.  It may seem like a place to write interesting things, but those things will come back to haunt you.  As for me, well, I guess I’m in it now.  This post marks my 400th blog entry.  It’s too hard for me to delete!

Lastly, let me set the record straight.  Regardless of what I say in my blog posts, I think Microsoft and Google are both great companies.  While I am worried that Microsoft is on the verge of dying due to its inability to migrate from the Windows albatross; and while I am worried that Microsoft will resort to leveraging its monopoly to ruthlessly crush Google; the fact is that nothing in life is nearly so dramatic or black and white.  It’s just the way I write.

Oh – but I really do think all lawyers are evil.  That’s not just being persuasive, that’s a fact.

Internet Trust – Present and Future

When you tell a friend a secret, you trust that they can responsibly own that information.   You know that your friend won’t give away your secret today, tomorrow, next year, or in 10 years.  You know this because you trust their character.  Character is not volatile-  you can generally count on it.

But, when you trust a company to hold your secrets, what are you relying on?  What is the character of a company that makes it worthy of your trust?  Unlike an individual, the character of a company can change over time.  CEOs come and go.  Economic success can wane.  Political pressures can ease or tighten.  Laws are written.  Public sentiment changes.  How can you know that the company you trust your password, profile, credit card number, email, contacts, etc will not change over time?  You can’t.

Online service providers (companies) are aggregators of secrets.  In order to pry a secret away from your trusted friend, the government would need it badly – they’d be specifically looking for you and talking to your friend.  This is costly and takes effort.  But, when large companies like Yahoo and MSN can hold lots of secrets, the desire by the government (or hackers) to tap into that pool of secrets is much much higher.  Worse, the executives that control the companies are not required to protect your information.  They don’t know you – and they never personally promised you anything.  Behind layers of legalese, EULAs, privacy policies and lawyers, they can reasonably justify that giving away your secrets was the right thing to do.  And the reasons for giving the information away may be based on laws that haven’t even been written yet.  Or laws written in countries you’ve never even traveled to.

Lastly, data never forgets.  Unlike your friend, who forgets, or can at least credibly say, “I don’t remember”, companies that collect data have no such fallback.  If it’s on a disk or a tape, anywhere, it cannot be ignored.  Ever.   If someone interrogated your friend, he could provide context about the secret which could significantly change the value of the secret.  But, when taking data from a company, context around that data may or may not be there.  Who will provide the context to explain your secrets?  Nobody.