Tuesday, November 15, 2005

a few more things about Google WiFi

I spoke to Minnie Ingersoll of Google this morning who has been quoted in the paper as the project manager for the free WiFi proposal.

After identifying myself, I was passed to her officemate Chris who is serving as a spokesman for this project.

I discussed my discoveries on my trip to Kapp's last night. (These still haven't been moderated to the mailing list yet.)

Basically, they believe that their current privacy policy does in fact cover the services they would be offering as an ISP. I contend that it does not, or if it does, it certainly does not do it in a very clear manner. I brought up the quotes from other service provider policies that are very brightline with regard to how they will treat user data under normal operations. I was told, and will grant them, that they are in a test environment with this deployment. I still do not think that precludes them from the necessity or ability to be just a smidgen more up front about their intent.

I also brought up my concerns about the Secure Access privacy policy, and I was told that if it's not good enough, then users could consider another VPN product.

They expect to present some bullet points about these issues at this evening's council meeting, but they were not prepared to discuss them this morning. Basically, I was told that they have 1000+ employees and their families who must be pleased with this service. Additionally, I was told that those employees are likely more conscious about being good internet citizens than most. I agree, that their rank and file personalnel are likely aware of these types of concerns, but the privacy policy basically says "trust us". I think we deserve more than that.

Some others on this list have said, in effect, "Hey it's free, let them do what they want. You don't have to choose to use it." For most of us, this is true. For library users and for those whom this is a tool for "closing the digital divide" it may not, in fact, be the case. I believe this gives us standing to voice concerns.

A Mercury News editorial today closed with "... Mountain View will be Google WiFi['s] 'business model' guinea pig ... that will lead a pampered life." They would have the council blindly say "'yes please'" today to [Google's] free-lunch offer". I hope that the council is more cautious in its acceptance of the offer.

I am aware that at least some of my postings on this topic have become fodder for internal Google discussion. To whoever decided to forward them, I appreciate that you felt that these issues needed to be raised. Some of what I have said, certainly initially, must be taken with a grain of salt and in the interest of having a complete record of my communications available I have reposted them to a blog here:

In the interest of protecting at least a modicum of privacy for those individuals who have been having this conversation, I have redacted email addresses and last names. Additionally, I am only posting correspondence to the mailing list, not any of the personal messages that have been sent to me directly on this. I certainly didn't plan on getting as invested with this issue as I have, and I don't feel that it's appropriate for me to make that decision for others. Should you not want your name redacted, please contact me.

I imagine that by this time tomorrow, we'll be rejoicing this nifty opportunity. I hope that the issues raised will be addressed, if not tonight, in the very near future.



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