Google Privacy Math


Marissa Meyer at the official Google blog:

So, today we’re making a homepage change by adding a link to our
privacy overview and policies. […] 

Larry and Sergey told me we could only
add this to the homepage if we took a word away – keeping the “weight”
of the homepage unchanged at 28. […]

We think the easy access to our privacy information without any added
homepage heft is a clear win for our users and an enhancement to your

Link: What comes next in this series? 13, 33, 53, 61, 37, 28…

Bravo Google!  But you missed something: you also added a hyphen!  The hyphen weight is now a rather beefy three.  My gosh, that’s quite a lot of hyphens.  I think you ought to go crunch the numbers again.  Stay focused, people!

The net has no time for respect

The Internet got and spread the news of Tim Russert's death a whole 30 minutes early, subverting NBC's wishes to keep the news private until Russert's family could be informed.  The person who "broke" the news, on Wikipedia, has been fired from his job at an NBC-affiliated company.  Peter Kafka at Silicon Alley Insider writes "Well, Internets, time to rally around your Woodstein."  (Wikipedia/Tim Russert Deep Throat: Fired)

Oh please.  Without knowing the details of the employee's contract, it's hard to judge whether firing was warranted, but still — the comparison is just silly.

From the New York Times: Delaying News in the Era of the Internet.

Online Insults and Suicide

The debate is growing.  From today’s NYT:

Gregory K. Brown,  a specialist on suicide at the University of Pennsylvania,
said that public humiliation could play a role in suicide because
“hopelessness is often a major risk factor, and if you’ve been publicly
humiliated and your reputation has been tarnished forever, you could
see how someone could become hopeless.” Such situations, he added,
could contribute to feeling that life is unbearable.

And unlike
some other forms of public humiliation, online insults can live in
perpetuity. Whether that increases suicide risk, Mr. Brown said, is an
open question, adding, “Although it’s plausible that’s the case, we
know very little about the role of the Internet.”

Link: After Suicide, Blog Insults are Debated

See also this TechCrunch discussion: When Will We Have Our First Valleywag Suicide?


Podcast: Brave New Family

The CBC Radio show Ideas posts some of its shows as (limited-time) free podcasts.  I’ve been listening to a new two-part series called Brave New Family that’s an excellent exploration of the consequences of sperm donation.  The summary:

Sperm donation has proven to be a Pandora’s Box. The vast majority of
donor dads do not want to be found. In rare cases some children are
seeking and finding dad and half-siblings in the process. Science
journalist Alison Motluk explores the complex portrait of the brave new family.

Links: Brave New Family (a short article and list of references), Podcasts.

Note that these podcasts are only available for a few weeks.

Ideas is the show that broadcasts the Massey Lectures.  I just noticed they’ve got a new series called How to Think About Science that looks very interesting too.

Google Health: Privacy Disaster Waiting to Happen?

Those aren’t my words.  That’s from the title to a post by John Paczkowski on the Wall Street Journal’s All Things Digital blog.  In regard to Google’s new pilot program with the Cleveland Clinic to store patients’ health records, he writes:

Of course, by making such records easier to share with medical providers,
Google may be making them easier to “share” with less well-intentioned
entities. Health insurance carriers. Potential employers. Online
marketers. The government.

Google, too.

As the World Privacy Forum pointed out yesterday, companies like
Google are not governed by the Health Insurance Portability and
Accountability Act or HIPAA. “Don’t assume your medical records are
protected no matter where they are: HIPAA privacy protections generally
do not follow the health-care files,” the WPF warned.
“HIPAA’s protections generally do not ‘travel’ with or follow a medical
record that is disclosed to a third party outside the health-care
treatment and payment system. … After you have disclosed your health
care information to a PHR (Personal Health Records) outside the privacy
protections of the health care system (HIPAA), your information can be
used or redisclosed by the PHR in ways that would not be permitted for
the same information if held by your doctor or health plan. Depending
on the applicable privacy policy, health records outside of HIPAA can
potentially be bought and sold, shared with merchants, and even
disclosed to employers.”

Link: New from Google: "Google Privacy Disaster Waiting to Happen"

Update: Lots of interesting discussion on this: see Michael Zimmer, Fred Stutzman.  Michael Zimmer has also been discussing privacy concerns with Microsoft about their similar efforts: More designing for privacy: Microsoft HealthVault.