First, this post is about my current employer, Google, but this is my personal blog and the views expressed here are mine alone and not those of my employer.
I got quite upset this week while reading news about Google Street View and passwords recording, and few days before, about the tax issue. It is very frustrating that most of them are wrong (including major IT magazines) and very few talk about the real problems. Maybe this is generally true of all current media...
First, about the tax question and the Slashdot news "How Google Avoided Paying $60 Billion In Taxes" that was the basis of various other articles.
It seems no one has read the link, starting with the news author. In brief, the original article states that most (88%) of Google non US sales are handled by Google Ireland, employing 2000 people in Dublin, and not paying taxes in the US because it is an Irish company, while the Google technology was mostly developped in the US. Then it says that because many US company do that, US loses $60 billion per year, in total, not just for Google.
Then there is a second part, about how taxes paid in Ireland are low by using some structure in Bermuda, which is more disappointing in my opinion but strangely people don't focus on that and many articles don't event mention it.
Why do no one read the original article before propagating the news everywhere?
Then the Street View issue. For those who did not follow, here is a summary.
Google Street View cars list WiFi AP and cellular networks while taking photos of the world. This is used by the geolocation service to tell you where you are based on the cells and AP that your phone sees.
Last Spring it was found that some code from an engineer's 20% project had been included in production code without checking what this code was doing. This code was sampling data from open WiFi networks to make statistics on the kind of data, and storing the data. When this was noticed, all the cars were stopped and Google made a public announcement (how many companies would have just erased it silently?).
The total amount of data is 600GB. This week it was announced that after some more analysis by one of the public entities (Google did not analyse or use the data, and waits to be able to delete it after everyone worked on it), some passwords have been found in some of the data fragments. Everyone is shocked that Google stole their password. Who can expect that in 600GB of random data from Internet their would be no password?
Why don't people worry that their neighbor has their passwords and can read their email and access their facebook private videos? They call an accidental collection of the broadcasted data an awful abuse, while I am sure many people already collect that data for doing bad things, just they don't announce it publicly.
Yes, Google should prevent unwanted storage of data, and is working on improving internal process about that, but the real problem is that the confidential data is there and anyone can access it. Why don't journalists use this event to explain people that they should secure their networks?
I feel that everyone is paranoid about Google and is very happy to publish anything, without even trying to check or understand the information.
Being worried about a company knowing that much about you is normal (and good), but that should not prevent journalists to address real concerns on that topics.
Between the time I wrote this and the time I published it, I found a tweet that can explain how many articles are written.