CyberTech Rambler

July 8, 2014

Its all tactics and PR stunt

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 10:37 am

Two stories demonstrates Google is getting more and more savvy with PR. The two are the “postponement” of removal of Independent Label’s music content from YouTube and the other the so-called clumsy handling of the removal of BBC’s Robert Peston blog post.

On the surface both are bad news for Google. Actually, no. For the Independent Label case, it is good for Google/YouTube in the long term. When you dig into it, it is no different from what Apple or Amazon will do to those “poor” Independent Labels. The only difference is Google is more tolerant of criticism than the other two. If they did what they do to Google, they will be doomed, especially with Apple. Google tolerance of criticism is going to pay dividend in the future as that portray it as the gentle giant compare to ruthless dictatorship of the others. Moreover, I believe both sides realize that Google is just using the threat as a bargaining tool and never actually has the intention of implementing it, save for extreme cases. Independent Labels are using the PR as a leverage tool and both parties know it. So my prediction is when it comes to the wire, both sides will find a compromise both can leave with.


The second case involving Robert Peston’s blog post is a more complicated story. It is most likely to be a computer error, i.e., nobody actually hit the “Approve” button to remove the post from search history, the computer simply does it on its own. I believe Google is not alarmed that this type of mistakes happened. In fact, everybody, including the EU, knows it is going to happen one day. We all know it will happen sooner rather than later. The only unknown is who is the “victim”. From Google’s point of view the sooner the better as it can then put the blame on the teething problem. If you ask me I believe they know it will happen so soon that they can blame teething problem. It is not inconceivable Google is milking this as EU censorship go awry. Google PR stunt backfiring on it as TheRegister claimed? I will not be so hasty. It is too early to tell. I will say it backfires if Google is forced by EU or EC to sign an agreement specifically targeting situations like this. This can still happen. Google, however, should be more worry with the link to search (US search) which redirect users to its full, untouched by the ECJ judgement, search on its search landing page for EU countries. I am sure Google’s lawyer had approved that as legal, but I think there is a possibility that Google  will be sanctioned for bleaching that judgement.

July 1, 2014

Facebook Emotion Study referred to Data Commissioner

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 6:35 pm

Everyone can see this coming ….

TheRegister frames it as a “consent” problem. To me it is not a consent problem, however, having explicit consent would had help. The issue is the way the data is made available to the researcher. Did they got anonymized data? and more importantly, how is it anonymized?

I think anonymized data was provided, so the question how was it anonymized is the more important question. It does not matter if the research was conducted on Facebook’s computers or the researchers’ computer. It is the question of what the researchers see. Not being well versed in law,  I am not the question of what the researchers see extends to their computer program. In these days where computers are shifting through data,  I believe this should matter.

Anonymizing the data opens a big gigantic can of worms. The research shift through so much data and inevitably personal details slip through. It is difficult to completely stop non-anonymized data going through. For example, if I say “ctrambler is an idiot” then simply because ctrambler is my handle on the blog and it points to a person, i.e., me, the data is not anonymized. Recognizing the impossibility of total complete anonymization, one simply has to demonstrate one had taken the utmost care to minimize as much as humanly possible. Hoever, do you want to stand in front of the Data Commissioner trying to convince him you tried your best? I will avoid it if I can.

Having explicit consent will alleviate this concern a lot. One can write the consent form telling participants that it is inevitable that some snippet of data will slip through. Most people recognize this and will be fine with it. Without explicit consent, the Data Commissioner adamantly will not be fine with it.

Forbes managed to dig out that may be the blanket consent Facebook is relying on to justify itself was after the research was conducted. Oops, big foot in one’s mouth. Details like this matters in the law courts, but not to me. My bigger beef is Facebook says that what they did is in accordance to their data use policy which permits the use of data in “internal operations” including “research”. I don’t think joe public’s definition of “research” covers being manipulated. My definition, which I thinks matches joe public’s, is research is limited to the data already present on Facebook, not something FaceBook try to collect on top of it, i.e., my response to manipulated news feed.  Neither do I see this as a legitimate “internal operations”. I see this as public experiment that will need explicit informed consent unless a reputable ethics committee says otherwise.


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