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Leaked letter establishes Google as the best thing for privacy since the invention of toilet cubicles

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In the wake of yet another scandal involving the misuse of customer data, Google appears to have lost its sanity. Following its attempt to bully the press into toning down coverage of the controversy, EU privacy authorities have vowed to step up their investigation into the company. This leaked letter shows the depth of concern the advertising giant has for European privacy rights.

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Google Inc.
Mountainview CA
United States of America

17th February 2013

      Jon Leibowitz,
Chairman, Federal Trade Commission,
Washington DC

     Joaquín Almunia
European Commissioner for Competition,
Brussels, Belgium

     Jacob Kohnstamm
Chairman, Article 29 Working Party,
Brussels, Belgium

     Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin
President
Commission nationale de l’informatique et des libertés,
Paris, France

 

Dear Jon, Joaquin, Jacob and Isabelle,

                                      Re: Your persecution of Google

As regulators representing the so called “privacy” interests of Europe and the United States you have all chosen to pursue Google over issues ranging from anti-competitive practices to deception, illegal activity and unfairness. So we’ve decided to send you this aggregated response. We reckon that if all data can rightly be aggregated into a policy silo, then all regulators can be rightly aggregated into a regulatory silo. Agreed?

If you think Google’s privacy policy has any bearing on privacy you’re barking up the wrong tree.

Anyway, we’ll get straight to the point. You’ve probably read in the press that apps developers who sell their products through Google Play have received the personal details of everyone who buys those apps. The data is trivial – name, email address,  Zip Code – in other words, nothing that the NSA doesn’t already have. But because Google cares about privacy we want to set the record straight before some zealot jumps to the wrong conclusion.

It seems quite a few people  – including the apps customers – are surprised by this situation. They’ve been running around quoting random bits of the Google privacy policy like “We do not share personal information with companies, organizations and individuals outside of Google”, as if such phrases are in some way relevant.

This is a misguided notion. If you think Google’s privacy policy has any bearing on privacy you’re barking up the wrong tree. Our privacy policy was never meant to tell you what actually happens to your data – its purpose is to remind you what you’d LIKE to happen to your data. In that way our policy is aspirational rather than rational – like marijuana prohibition or the European Data Protection Directive. Google lives in the real world – not in the world of fantasy privacy policies.

European regulators like yourselves pretend to champion high privacy standards, yet you cheerfully allow the US government and us to trample all over your citizens’ privacy.

As we’ve already said, our practice of sharing the personal information of people who buy Android smartphone apps with the developers is an appropriate, longstanding and legal part of our business process. So why is everyone droning on about customer consent? We’re just doing what is necessary for our business interests. Let’s not be hypocritical. European regulators pretend to champion high privacy standards, yet you cheerfully allow the US government and us to trample all over your citizens’ privacy. Enough said.

Anyway, Google believes in the creation of a global family. When we say “We do not share personal information with companies, organizations and individuals outside of Google” we include everyone in the Google family – along with apps developers who we’ve never met. We trust and embrace anyone who will help us make a living. In that way we’re like all governments – and most regulators. We are in fact the embodiment of the European ideal. And the American ideal.

With all due respect, you’re not doing yourself any favours by making such an issue of our occasional scandals. First you persecute us for an innocent mistake made by a lone engineer when we sucked up the communications content from a few million careless WiFi users. Then you complain about some trivial circumvention of the privacy settings in Safari. Now you’re frothing about us broadcasting a few personal details of apps purchasers without consent or notice. This seems to us more like an arcane moral crusade than responsible pro-market guidance. You Europeans should follow the FTC’s example and maybe you’d end up attracting some global leadership in the information industry. Right now we’re afraid you’re looking like the regulatory equivalent of a backwater sheriff from Podunk Louisiana (no disrespect intended to Louisiana).

Right now we’re afraid you’re looking like the regulatory equivalent of a backwater sheriff from Podunk Louisiana

We will explain once again how the latest “scandals” evolved. The WiFi grab was the innocent work of a lone engineer, the Safari workaround was the innocent work of a lone team and the Apps disclosure was the innocent work of a lone Google department.

That’s what makes Google great. No matter what the scale, there’s a place in our business model to suit your initiative. At Google we don’t believe in burdening you with restrictive bureaucratic oversight. We lead the world because we don’t play the ball inside the boundaries – we play the ball to WIN inside the boundaries. If the ball goes over the line occasionally, that makes great sport. And it makes a great corporation.

On that note, we should address claims that Google has again breached the 2010 Buzz Consent Decree with the FTC. Our reading is that the consent decree requires us to obtain ‘express, affirmative consent’ from users whenever we changes our privacy disclosure policy.” Well, our policy of invading the privacy of our apps customers has been in place for years, so the Decree doesn’t apply.

Had you not hit us with a $22.5 million fine we wouldn’t even need to monetize data as much as we do to make up for the seven hours of lost profit you imposed on us.

Jon, you got away with slapping us over the Safari breach, but the American public won’t stand for such vandalism a second time. Had you not hit us with a $22.5 million fine we wouldn’t even need to monetize data as much as we do to make up for the seven hours of lost profit you imposed on us. And as for Europe, you are the ones who set the standard for our reaction. Anytime your telco regulators impose a new burdensome restriction on your mobile sector the providers simply add a new cost on their customers to make up for lost profits. That’s how commerce works.

You lot in Europe bleat on about “net neutrality” and “digital divide” and “Internet as a fundamental right”. Well you can’t have it both ways. You can’t demand the moon and then dodge the question “Who’s going to pay?”

Well, we’ll tell you who’s going to pay. Google is going to pay. Or, more precisely, the public will pay by putting money into the businesses that put their money into Google. Then Google banks its profits, invests that money in buying up patents and finally allows the banks to divert our savings as loans to struggling startups that – when the bank debt gets too high – we snap up for a bargain.

And we achieve all this without paying the required amount of tax in places like the UK. That means we can make more profit and thus help fundamental human rights even more.

So by attacking us you are damaging the prospects for a safe, fair, accessible and flourishing Internet. We hope you feel smug about that.

Yours sincerely

Eric Schmidt
Executive Chairman

Sergei Brin
Chief Executive Officer

(aggregated)

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P.S. This letter is satirical (scary when satire meets reality like this eh!)