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...and now, some unbiased reporting from USA Today... NOT!


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...and now, some unbiased reporting from USA Today... NOT!
Topic: Current Events 6:21 pm EDT, May 12, 2011

So, by now lots of people have heard that Facebook hired a PR firm to shill against Google on the basis of "Google invading your privacy and giving your information away"...

Rather interesting subject matter considering that Facebook absolutely adores doing this very thing... "monetizing" your contacts in Facebook by handing out a great deal of your personal information to anything you "Like" (or to anyone smart enough to bypass their questionable security filtering).

It seems to me that Facebook is likely attempting to capitalize on the nonsense left over from the mess that was the Google Maps vehicles literally picking up wireless confetti, in an attempt to use the court of public opinion to get the FTC to sternly forbid Google from doing anything remotely like what Facebook makes their money doing. (...and it's not like this would be the first time Google has been attacked this way!) Elimination of competition by government action? True innovation!

Since the actual "spoiler" story broke I've seen signs that a few major news outlets actually did take the bait and published articles critical of what Google is doing with Social Search (I guess they didn't get the memo that the jig is up)... and then a few minutes ago I spotted USA Today's article, which really takes the cake for slanted reporting. They stop just short of outright lies but they really go a long way to swing that double-standard--berating Google for doing things they've subtly misrepresented and in the next paragraph lauding Facebook for doing even more of the same thing. They even engage in the timeless tactic of not actually saying nasty things, but instead simply quoting J. Random Asshole's comments about it, even if J. Random Asshole just learned about the situation from the reporter that asked them a handful of minutes before. I think the best part is how they use an article exposing this sort of smear campaign to actually engage in their own smearing.

Here's some nice blockquotes that are probably lawyer-bait, but what the hell... There's no use talking about something like this unless you can point to specific examples:

Let's start with the byline:

It's not as if Google lacks privacy controversies to quell.

Well, I suppose if you count the manufactured controversies at hand and whatever the hell just went down in Korea, then you've got two, possibly three controversies. Notice how they don't come out and make an accusation, when stating that there's not a lack of rumors can say so very much more. Cheap, and just as effective as saying "It's not as if your sister's never been called a whore."

Just an inch below that (you can't really call them paragraphs, can you?) we have:

Google said that Social Circle in fact allows Gmail users to make social connections based on public information and private connections across its products in ways that don't skirt privacy.

I really doubt Google said that, considering they say nothing like that on the page practically no one's even noticed (because most people don't bother logging into Google just to do a web search):

Actually, that page seems particularly open and honest about exactly what's going on--which isn't much. If anything it makes it very clear that this is probably stuff you'd find if you actually did a Google search of the things people in your contacts list have posted publicly to the web as a whole (not just on Facebook). Also, these are people you had to explicitly add to your Contacts list in Gmail--this may confuse people who are used to seeing the box listing their recent contacts that's auto-populated by Google and think that this includes everyone you've ever emailed--it doesn't. It's highly likely that you might not have ever bothered to even manually add contacts yourself because you didn't need to, which means your "Social Circle" contains, well... no one at all. (Google actually address that lack of results elsewhere in the docs for SC, explaining that you have to actually add people to your contacts list first. Heh.)

In the next paragraph they bring up the issue of the Senate hearings where Google will answer questions about whether or not it's phones track people like Apple's phones do. Now, for anyone who's been actually paying attention to this (which most people haven't) it's basically a non-issue. When the story about Apple's phones accidentally keeping long-term logs of geolocation information broke, dutiful hackers tore into various Android phones hoping to find even more sources of entertaining private data... and were chagrined to find... not a damn thing. It turns out that on Android phones you have to go to a particular configuration screen and enable one or both of two large, clearly labeled checkboxes in order to turn any of that on. Google is just showing up before the Senate because the Senate asked nicely--not because they need to explain themselves. But again... the implication is the thing. To give another example of guilt by implication, the police are careful about who they accuse of being involved in child pornography because the moment that hits the news, socially that person is finished. It doesn't matter how mistaken the police might have been, they're going to be a pariah for a good long while. Of course, if Google blew off the Senate like Sony did, there'd also probably be a ton more finger-pointing going on.

Actually, on second thought, USA Today is a crap paper, yellow journalism is something they're no stranger to, most people already know this, and the article is a big stack of lies and misrepresentations, so screw 'em. I'll just add it to my list of papers that clearly took the shill-bait (which includes Forbes and NYT) and go on with my day.

...and now, some unbiased reporting from USA Today... NOT!

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