WSJ, EFF Seething Over Blogs, Google

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A sense of general unhappiness pervaded over a couple of issues, with the Wall Street Journal hinting at A-list blog types not fully disclosing their relationships with startups while the Electronic Frontier Foundation blasted Google’s Desktop 3 for its potential privacy threats.

WSJ, EFF Seething Over Blogs, Google
Google’s Search Across Computers Draws EFF Ire

There’s not much love online this week, despite the looming shadow of Valentine’s Day approaching in a few days. (Yes, where some people see a charming little cherub bearing a cure little bow and arrow, many people see a black-clad assassin wielding a compound bow with a very sharp broadblade arrow ready to strike one down for committing a romantic miscue on the 14th of February. Good luck to my fellow married males on what fellow writer John Stith calls “the Ides of February.”)

The Journal has been trying to drive more interest from the tech side of the world by making some tech-related articles available publicly, instead of keeping them inside its subscription model. They sure hit the mark recently.

An article by the Journal noted how Spanish start-up FON had several technology notables on its advisory board. Then the story dropped a little bombshell on the more influential bloggers:

Some lawyers and academics with expertise in the Internet said the disclosures by the FON advisers were adequate and appropriate. But Bob Steele, an ethics specialist with the Poynter Institute, a journalism organization in St. Petersburg, Fla., says bloggers with financial ties to companies — disclosed or not — have “competing loyalties” that could taint their independence as writers. “It’s still a problem,” he says. While many bloggers don’t consider themselves journalists, anyone putting information into the public domain about people or companies has certain ethical responsibilities, Mr. Steele says.

The article goes on to say that with all the blogging going on, “it is difficult to discern [bloggers’] allegiances.” Reaction to this, of course, was not entirely favorable. David Weinberger, interviewed for the article, thinks the reporter was reaching for something to grab:

Yes, there are stories to be written about the “murkiness” and “nuance” of the relationships of bloggers to their readers and to companies who pay those bloggers. But, Rebecca could not have picked a worse example than the Fon advisory board: We all were transparent about our relationship and not only is there no current compensation package for the advisors, we still haven’t even discussed it with (FON CEO Martin Varsavsky).

Then Google announced its latest beta version of the Desktop product. I suggested yesterday it would get attention from users regarding its Search Across Computers feature. It took very little time to garner that attention, as the EFF said consumers should avoid Desktop 3.

The news release, titled “Google Copies Your Hard Drive – Government Smiles in Anticipation,” claimed privacy and security are at stake for Desktop 3 users:

EFF urges consumers not to use this feature, because it will make their personal data more vulnerable to subpoenas from the government and possibly private litigants, while providing a convenient one-stop-shop for hackers who’ve obtained a user’s Google password.

EFF attorney Kevin Bankston called it “shocking” that Google would even think users would trust more personal information to Google, now that it has become public knowledge the Department of Justice subpoenaed Google for search information.

Bankston makes the very good point that most users will not configure Google Desktop carefully enough to protect items like tax returns or medical files from being part of the Search Across Computers feature. Google has attempted to address the security issue by describing how information can be cleared from the Google Desktop Servers by users, and that the information is not exposed to anyone doing a Google search.

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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

WSJ, EFF Seething Over Blogs, Google
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