Why we need a 'do-not-track' bill

May 10, 2011

Ever wonder how much Google actually knows about you? Or what information your cell phone is tracking without your knowledge? On Tuesday, the Sen. John Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) will introduce a "do-not-track" bill that would allow consumers to block Web sites and marketers from tracking their activity on the Internet.

Join Scott Cleland as he discusses just how much the organization knows, what privacy concerns you should be worried about and what the "do-not-track" bill could mean for you. He will be online Tuesday, May 10 at noon ET - ask your questions now.

Note: Cleland is a paid advocate for Microsoft, AT&T and other rivals to Google.

Google is bad and getting worse. Every new "free" product extracts more data about us. Together, Gmail, Documents, Maps, Street View, Chrome browser, Voice, and soon Music Beta and the Chrome OS--will leave no privacy stone unturned or unexploited. And "free" lures the hardware manufacturers and Web users in. We are becoming Androids! Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook are not saints, but they are less pervasive and ambitious in data-gathering. My questions: 1) Realistically, can we get a clear & enforceable "Do Not Track" law WITH Opt-in to track? 2) Can Congress, the Supreme Court, or the EU force Google to turn its products into discreet chunks of business with no info sharing?

Great question.  Google is unique in having a mission to collect everyone's private information and it is unique in having the capability and business model that seeks to collect all information on the Internet. 

In the book I predict there will be comprehensive privacy legislation and Do not Track legislation passed in the U.S. because the poll I conducted with Zogby last year showed 80% of Americans want the choice of do not track to protect their privacy and safety on line.

The legislation will pass eventually it is simply too overwhelmingly popular and bipartisan not to.. the open question is how strict, useful and comprehensive it is.  I also think Google will generally not comply with whatever is passed because they are culturally averse to asking permission for anything... Law enforcement will eventually have to force Google to respect and obey the law. 

In the telemarketing trade, the "Do Not Call" list has been a mixed bag: the most egregious offenders ignore the list and spoof their caller ID. Why would we expect a different result from a "Do Not Track" list? While the impetus for this legislation is laudable, history has demonstrated that the organizations with the capacity to comply are the least likely to offend. Why not pass legislation that constrains the use of tracking data, rather than its collection in the first place? Wouldn't that lower the bar for compliance and get right to the heart of the matter?

I have to disagree. If you ask the people who have put their name on the Do Not Call list they would overwhelmingly be thankful how  much better it is now than it was before.   Perfect is the enemy of the good and no do not track bill will be perfect but it can do an enormous amount of good. People deserve the right to vote for themselves if they want to be tracked so they can get targeted ads, or they don't want to be tracked to protect their privacy/security and that of their family. right now people have no real choice because the technology is way ahead of what people want and the state of the law. 

Could these issues with Google and our information not be easily handled by expanding existing privacy laws?

Google is essentially arbitraging privacy laws. what is need is a comprehensive, consumer driven, technology and competition neutral privacy law that basically protects consumers basic privacy they have enjoyed for years before technology and clever/unethical entities started ignoring basic privacy norms online.

New privacy law needs to be oriented around the consumer interests and not technology or industry like it is now...


Hi Scott, the privacy debate prompts me to ask this 2-part question: Does google have a master key to open any google account? If yes, can the government subpoena Google to reveal information? Thanks Vicky

Google has collected all the world's information because they want to make use of it.  It may be difficult in some instances but I believe the Google data miners can pretty much extract whatever they want to from Google's "mirror of the Internet" as Google describes their database. 

Why that is so troubling is that the government can access that info without subpoena because laws protecting US citizens right to not have their property seized without compensation... are woefully out of date in the Internet age. If a judge is required to see your phone records the same should apply to your emails and texts etc.  its just common sense...

While the older generation may care about privacy, I don't think there's any concern among most people under 30. Do you see the trend continuing to move toward less privacy and fewer rights as they pertain to your personal data?

Most all of the assessment that young people don't care about their privacy is that the issue is framed unfairly and in a biased way.  If you ask a young person would they appreciate not having embarassing private information on them that is online not risk their ability to go to college or get a good job... they will most certainly tell you they care about privacy.

Think about it, younger people who have less experience tend to get in more car accidents, does that mean they don't care about safety -- of course not they just are naturally more impulsive and less cautious than those who are older.   I believe younger people will only care more about their privacy as they age as we have already seen to date...

Google continues to scan thousands of in-copyright books even though the Google Books Amended Settlement was rejected by the court. Ultimately, what do you think is going to happen with Google Books and their massive copyright infringement?

That Google continues to copy millions of books without permission, despite opposition of the DOJ and Federal Court and all the authors/publishers that Google is infringing -- is a perfect example of Google inherent scofflaw attitude. More than any major public company in the world, Google simply does not believe that laws that apply to others should apply to Google. 

Even In the Plex author Stephen Levy who trusts Google, included a telling comment in his book on Google that I will paraphrase from memory that had a top Google lawyer said: Google's leadership don't care terribly about the law or precedent.

As I explain in my book Search & Destroy Why You Can't Trust Google Inc,  Google has very different political values than most all Americans... Google does not believe in the respect of others' property or privacy -- their behavior over years in many different circumstances confirms this sorry fact about Google. 

Google Chairman famously asked "do you think Google has good values?"  The emphatic answer to that question in my book is that the overwhelming evidence is that Google has lousy values that would make most Americans recoil if they were aware of them.

Hi, I have been using internet for ages, and google has been my companion since the first time I used my web browser. But I am curious and would like to ask is Google secretly tracing people's information while we, the internet "dwellers" surfing the web? Are they constantly tracking our progress and sold our information to third party? What precaution should we take to protect ourself from these privacy-abuse issues?

Google's over 500 products and services track/record most everything you do online.  Unlike others they don't sell your information to others -- because they don't need to. As the information access monopoly, your info is vastly more valuable to Google's business keeping it for their own monopoly model than selling it to others who can't possibly monetize it as well as Google can.  My advice is be very aware of the information you are providing to Google and certainly don't use their services exclusively.  And when Do Not Track legislation passes opt out of being tracked... and in the meantime let your congressperson know you care about your privacy.... The system will work in forcing Google to respect people's privacy and the law it will just take a long time... too long a time

How is it that you think Google is the only company to track internet users? Go to your Adobe Flash player storage settings and tell me who is storing information about you. If you can't do that, don't complain about companies tracking internet users. If you can't find your Flash storage settings, you know nothing about Internet tracking, you just think you know.

Many many companies track users; Google just does it on a scale and scope that no other company comes remotely close to. 

Google is in a privacy invasion league of it own.  It may even be in its own privacy invasion solar system of its own. 

Google is the undisputed reigning Internet tracking champion of the world.

Google is the Tracker-In-Chief.

And Google's standard defense when it gets caught leading the pack in doing something unethical or illegal is to claim everybody does it... 

Being in the government, I have asked a number of people which they would be more concern about being published, their google account or their SF86. Google won in a landslide. The amount of information they have (and the same can be said for people with other webmail accounts) is staggering. Something should be done to make sure it does not fall into the wrong hands.

A big reason I wrote this book is that most people have no idea the totality of private  information that Google has collected on them!

Probably the most startling and troubling thing I learned in my four years researching this book is how they are very purposeful and meticulous in collecting every conceivable type of private information on people... every name, address, identifier you can think of and then add voiceprints, faceprints, "digital-prints," finger prints and even DNA markers to that...

I cover this in my book... it is so very creepy that any company proactively seeks to collect all this info and actually argues that it is a good thing that they are doing it.  

My strong point of view is that the danger of having so much private information in one place under the control of only one entity, is too great an opportunity and temptation to abuse.

Google is a privacy disaster of mind-boggling proportions just waiting to happen... 

Thank you for you questions!  they were great 


Gotta go now...


scott cleland

In This Chat
Scott Cleland
Scott Cleland is the world’s leading Google critic. He has testified before the U.S. House and Senate three times regarding Google, and is author of the new book, Search & Destroy: Why You Can't Trust Google Inc. Cleland served as U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Information and Communication Policy. He publishes GoogleMonitor.com and Googleopoly.net—and authors the widely read PrecursorBlog.com. As President of Precursor LLC, he consults for Fortune 500 clients. He lives in the Washington D.C. area with his wife and two children.

Note: Cleland is a paid advocate for Microsoft, AT&T and other rivals to Google.
Search & Destroy: Why you can't trust Google
Recent Chats
  • Next: