Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Re: Google's WiFi proposal

On Mon, 14 Nov 2005, Shannon M[deleted] wrote:


I actually visited the one and only Mounain View Google WiFi access point at Kapp's earlier this evening. I did so to discover what
the terms and conditions that the current service are offered
under. I don't know that the user experience or the terms will
remain the same in an eventual wider deployment, but it offers
a baseline to use in the resolution of some of my concerns.

I am not a lawyer and, regardless of my affinity for Law & Order,
I'm not sure that I fully understand what exactly the terms
they offer do actually mean. Specifically, I do not see a declarative
statement that they're not intending to log user traffic information.
The terms are here: https://wifi.google.com/tc.html

Here's a sentence from my ISP's General Policy that I'd love
to see Google plagiarize:
Sonic.net, Inc., functions as a common carrier; our standard policy is to not monitor or interrupt our users' activities, exert editorial control over their content, or censor them or their content.
Or perhaps Live555's policy for the free access point at
Dana Street Roasting Company:
"However, our base station never inspects the contents of your packets; it merely routes them to/from their destination on the Internet."

Unfortunately, Google's rather obtuse in the way it presents
its terms. They refer to their privacy policy multiple times, but becoming an ISP is so far out of line of their current business
practices that I'm not sure you can infer much from their
standard policy. Specifically, acting as an ISP gives them
access to a lot of data they didn't previously need policy for.

They're building a "free" network, so it's likely they'll
pay for it in some indirect manner. The potential corporate cost
savings I've previously projected not withstanding, I imagine
likely they'll turn to ad revenue. I don't think it's
unreasonable for them to be upfront about that aspect of
what they're doing, lest the city have 400 usless boxes
on light poles in five years because the company couldn't
support the network. I realize that's not a likely scenario
given the company's current financial outlook, but I don't
think it's an unreasonable concern.

These are real issues related to the impact of building out
this network that go unaddressed in the city staff report.
It was this lack of critical analysis that caused my initial
strong (but incorrect) reaction. I apologize for the brusqueness.
While I still hold the concerns outlined previously, I
do believe that council should cautiosly accept this proposal as it does offer a unique opportunity for Mountain View.

I've responded inline below to some of the other concerns that have been raised.

Thanks for reading this far. And I appreciate that
we're able to have the dialogue.


>> Do I blow someone out of the water each time I pick up my 2.4 GHz cordless
>> phone?
> Not so long as Google complies with FCC, part 15. You do realise this is
> already regulated, right?

The use of the 2.4GHz ISM (Instrument/Scientific/Medical) band is not particularly regulated. Anyone can use it and while there are restrictions on the amount of power you can output, a wide deployment of these transceivers would likely impact the number of channels available for others to use -- whether they be baby monitors, cordless phones, or other wireless access points.

> If you'll take the time to go out and read their Privacy Agreement,
> you'll notice, first off, that it's hugely simplified compared to the likes
> of SBC/Yahoo and MSN. And secondly, Google have repeatedly expressed their
> dedication to privacy--something SBC and MSN have not.

An expressed dedication to privacy does not, in fact, mean the company
protects users' privacy well nor that it does the most it could to provide for its users' privacy.

Upon accepting the Google WiFi terms, users are directed to install
their Secure Access client. See https://wifi.google.com/faq.html

From the Secure Access privacy policy: "Google may log some information from your web page requests ..."

The Google WiFi terms do not have such an explicit statement, but from the way the privacy paragraph reads within those terms, it appears that they expect users to be using the Secure Access client.

It is possible to access the internet after accepting the terms,
regardless of installation/activation of the Secure Access client,
but nothing on the webpage indicates that is intended behavior.

> The only reason I bothered ever responding to this thread at all was because
> of Todd's assertion, " I think this proposal should be roundly rejected."

Please see my comments above, as this is no longer my position.

>> Even if Google does this, they're not FORCING anyone to use it! And yeah,
>> I should hope they'd make everyone who uses it create an account--how else
>> would they track down and block abusers of the system??

This is not entirely true. Those who live near poles with access points may find their computers associating to Google's network without any particular effort in configuration on their part.

As it is, there does not currently appear to be any individual
authentication required. Whether or not that remains when the WiFi offerings move beyond their first few locations is to be seen.

In addition, the staff report indicates that Google will be offering
access in the library, so it is possible that public library users will be put into a situation where these terms must be accepted.
Not to mention that if this is part of "closing the digital divide",
we should work to make sure that the terms are fair and reasonable.


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