I did another spot on the Project tonight on Google making users’ search histories available for download. Did the usual privacy-is-a-concern bit, but I do think this is a good move by Google. It is a positive development if people are aware just how much information they are putting out there.
I gave some quotes to the Project yesterday about hate speech on Youtube. As an online civil libertarian I’m always very, very skeptical of any attempts at the censorship of the internet, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that I would have a go at Youtube for censoring jihadi videos. In this case, I was talking about the impracticality of policing all the content that is uploaded to Youtube, but I did say it’s their right as a business to decide where to set the balance between neutral platform provider and curators of content. When government wants to step in and set the rules, there I take issue (sometimes after having a chuckle); but I’m not about to tell any business, even Google, that they must be forced to pay for the bandwidth and storage space for ISIL. (I actually think they should, within reason; but I respect their decision.)
One of the many dilemmas for any operator of a site with user-generated content (or any site with users, really) is that the more policing you do – removing ads, spam, copyright infringements – the more responsibility you are forced to take for everything else, whether it slips through the net or was simply not dreamed up when the terms of service were written. This is a real headache for Google’s search business. Since they have demonstrated that they can and do take links down in certain circumstances, it’s getting harder and harder for them to make the case to law enforcement and courts in dozens of countries around the world that PageRank is king and not to be interfered with on a case-by-case basis. I can only imagine that there are lots of resources, human and lines of code, policing the search results in dozens of jurisdictions around the world already. Many would argue that the power to remove content from a site or index implies endorsement of content that remains – a sort of Google theodicy.
As always, my conclusion is this: free communication on the internet brings with it benefits so enormous that it’s changed every aspect of our lives. We can’t keep those benefits and at the same time stop horrible people using it to say evil things. The price of admission for the internet we enjoy and take for granted is that sometimes these things are going to happen.
I’ve had another appearances on The Project recently, talking about scammers who use news events to lure people in. I do like talking about scams, but there’s often very little practical advice you can give someone.
I was on the Project earlier in the week talking about Dallas Buyers’ Club “crackdown” on Australian torrenters. Check it out below.
Today the Abbot government released their cost-benefit analysis of the NBN and their own, mixed-technology model. Not surprisingly (for a report commissioned by the Government), the analysis finds that the Coalition’s fibre-to-the-node NBN is more cost-effective than Labor’s fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) model. The case for FTTP isn’t good, according to this document. The mixed-technology model comes out $16b ahead in terms of value for money.
I discussed this report on the The Project in the evening. Have a watch below.
Setting aside the issue of the impartiality of the study, one can assume they have the costs in the ball-park at least. But what about the benefits? This is where the debate will be, because some of the assumptions about the value to the country of faster broadband are highly questionable.