back to article Google's become an obsessive stalker and you can't get a restraining order

Google isn’t just interested in tracking you, or even very interested. Google tracks you with the defiant zeal of an obsessive stalker. What’s curious is that the American state seems almost as keen on the unfettered collection and use of location data as Google itself. Phones incorporated GPS silicon long before the iPhone …

  1. hplasm Silver badge
    Holmes

    Danger!

    "Security researcher... "almost had a heart attack" when he walked into a McDonald's "

    Tip: Stay away from McD's to avoid cardiovascular problems.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Security researcher Mustafa Al-Bassam reported on Twitter that he 'almost had a heart attack' when he walked into a McDonald's and was prompted on his phone to download the fast food restaurant's app."

    There is much criticism of the media when they pick up "facts" from wikipedia, but when the Register reads something on Twitter (with no details or evidence), it becomes the basis for 2 news stories?

    Many disputed this claim in the previous article and it seems to have affected very few other people - you'd think there would be loads of comments about this happening.

    Now, it is technically possible that the McDonalds app claim is true, but you would expect a Tech news blog to be sceptical about such a claim until it is verified, would you not?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    to misquote

    "only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to not remove their batteries"

  4. jason 7

    The thing is...

    ...I just don't see all this slurped data (if it actually exists) actually coming back to me in any shape or form.

    I don't get ads. I don't get emails from Google or anyone that I don't want them from. Even Amazon never emails me about potential purchases. No apps that I have scream at me "Oh while you are in this place check out...!"

    I'm either just not seeing it (maybe that's the point) or it just isn't a problem.

    Maybe some journalists are in urgent need of a blowj*b to help them calm down?

  5. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

    All that free stuff

    Back in the early days of the web (yes, I'm that old) I remember people putting content online for the sake of - so they could have an online presence.

    Over time, consumers have become conditioned to the idea that you should be able to get stuff on the Internet for free.

    That thinking has quickly become lodged in peoples' mindsets....lodged so strongly that it masks out the logic that somebody, somewhere must be paying for this. Yes, there's a certain amount of philanthropy and free-for-free's-sake out there, but there's an awful lot of stuff that carries a cost that somebody needs to cover.

    The trick that Google et al are using is to exploit peoples' expectation that they can get stuff for free without thinking too much, if at all, about where it's coming from. Before they realise that they're paying for it with their personal details and their privacy, it's often too late as they are already so heavily bought-in to the product or service.

  6. Squander Two
    Devil

    Don't be evil.

    It's the sort of classic misunderstanding of human nature typical of a bunch of IT geeks. They thought having "Don't be evil" as a motto would stop people being evil. In fact, of course, it just made the group complacently believe in their own non-evility, and so they cut themselves and each other way too big a break when conducting the moral critical evaluation that makes up most of our daily existence. Google's entire staff have been rendered completely qualmless.

  7. Christopher Reeve's Horse
    Big Brother

    And even after all that effort...

    It does seem like a massive imbalance between the amount of effort going in to targeting adverts and the final result. I still don't care about any adverts I see, and mostly consider them a negative influence on my purchase choices.

    If only the people who pay for adverts hosted could see how ineffective they are for the user rather than be blinded by the ability of Google to apply sophisticated targeting. Most effective targeting can be done from instantaneous user behavior, not from long term tracking.

    You're browsing a IT website, it doesn't take a clever person to work out that IT related adverts are more likely of interest to you. Not, 'you're browsing an IT website and that annoying advert that's been following you for weeks pops up for something shitty you once browsed for a completely unrelated reason'. Context is everything, and Google never know *why* you've behaved in the way they've monitored

    So, more interestingly, why does this massive imbalance of effort really exist? The advertising clearly sucks balls, it's can't just be a self fulfilling prophecy can it?

  8. Mage Silver badge
    Devil

    You can't say no?

    Actually I have data disabled on my Android phone, I've only enabled wIfi to download an ePub reader app and a text editor (which complains on every load that that it can't access internet). I removed Amazon's Kindle eReader App because it would pop up warnings about being unable to connect, even when it wasn't listed as running and hadn't been used (I use Calibre and my real Kindle's serial number to convert DRM'ed Amazon to ePub).

    I use the media player, camera, FM Radio, SMS, regular voice.

    I transfer eBooks and photos and video via USB storage mode.

    Something similar with my tablet.

    Google, you stink. There should be a special hell for companies like you and Facebook, destroying people's privacy. So called "Social Media" (Google+, YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter) etc is worse because they are more exploitive and encourage people to share information that can't be automatically gathered and also OTHER people's information!

    Now MS is stupidly destroying their lucrative automatic repeat sale software business by trying to be like Google.

  9. SirWired 1

    "What the FCC did this year, with little fanfare, was cripple telecoms companies and wireless networks from doing what Google and Facebook do. That’s a very odd decision. ... If behavioural advertising is so bad consumers need an opt-out, how come you can opt out of your ISP's profiling, but not Google’s. "

    Really?

    Then what do the steps here do?

    http://lmgtfy.com/?q=google+targeted+ads+opt+out

  10. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Google still does the wardriving

    They call it "high accuracy mode" and they hammer you to allow it every single damned time you turn GPS on. It's so bad, I wrote my own applet to turn on (and off) GPS and skip that dialog.

    Google Maps will still occasionally notice you're not in "high accuracy mode" and ask to turn it on, but it's not so insistent.

  11. EddieD

    Do people care?

    Most of the folk who read and post on the Register are fairly seasoned technologists, they've read the articles, they've looked at the papers, and are aware of the possible implications.

    When I speak to my family and friends about data slurps, most of them (okay, the younger members) think that it's a good thing - or at least, not a bad thing - they know where their friends are, and how to get there, they get recommendations of cafés/bars/cinemas in the area, they get timetables, schedules, and so on. They feel that their lives are enriched with all this information that they receive in return for location/photo/personal data.

    Who is right? I'm not happy with the data slurp at all, and I try to minimise it. But that doesn't make me right.

  12. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    It will continue for a while longer

    Social inertia is holding up this kind of thing and will likely do so until people start getting annoyed by it in massive numbers. From the enthusiastic gushing I hear around me concerning phone abilities, Cortana and Siri, and "how practical it is", I don't think we will reach that stage anytime soon.

    But something, someday, will cause a massive change of perception, and then Google will have to dial back, which it will because Google is not full of idiots. Google employs very intelligent people and they are measured against the ultimate benchmark : ad revenue. Anything that makes that go down is anathema, and what was declared the month before in PR speak doesn't count.

    So, one day, people will get fed up with this, just like one day, people will vote intelligently.

    In other words, not during this century.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So turn off mobile data

    And as a side benefit battery life doubles (on my phone, at least).

    Of course, most of us need to turn on mobile data for some things sooner or later, and then all the cached data will flood back to Google, but that's a price I'll pay for selectively using Google services and having Android "free". As soon as I don't need mobile data it gets turned off, and any data pimping they do in the background is largely unimportant. I won't be seeing real time location specific ads, won't be getting review requests. And given the limitations of Google Maps, it is soon going to be disabled on my handset, once I've chosen a paid replacement.

    For a luddite like me, the privacy issue is unwelcome, but I can limit how much it affects me day to day. For those who believe they need mobile data on all the time, I suppose they'll need to put up with the interactive creepiness.

    1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

      Re: You can't say no?

      I'm not defending Google, but (unlike MS) they never really "sold" you a product in exchange for cold hard cash. They made a product or service available for free at the point of delivery. They want to recoup their costs, so they slurp data (to them a commodity which they can exchange for (advertisers') cash).

      It's a bit harsh to say that they stink. Yes, there's a bit of whiff there, but if anyone signed up for Gmail, used Google search, Maps, Earth, etc. without putting their hand in their pocket, and thought that Google were providing all that shiny out of the goodness of their corporate heart, then that's more than a little naive.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It's a bit harsh to say that they stink

        they stink, and stink badly. You say they gave us something for free and now just want to recoup the cost. To me this is suggesting those huge corporations are run by altruists who splash billions to give away free stuff, and THEN shock, horror, it dawns on them: uh, this has cost us money?! Damn, we've got to recover some of this, right? I mean, we love to give away stuff for free, but maybe we can recover some costs to cover for the new thinny we're gonna give away to humanity. There's this thing called Big Data, maybe that's the way. Or donations, or kicstarter, hey, spare a copper guv for THE Alstruists of the Universe.

        Well, this is bullshit. They knew EXACTLY what they wanted (money, more money, and even more money - fair enough), they knew EXACTLY how the human nature works (gimme FREEFREEFREE and then you can fuck me anyway you want, I don't care!!!!), then they MISLEAD the people by providing the FREE!!!* and CONTINUE to mislead them by suggesting oh, this data some misfits call "personal" is anonymised, nothing to worry about, and it's really insignificant, look, just a string of nonsense letters and numbers, no harm done, really. And if data isn't anonymized, well, look, it's ALL for your benefit, Dear Valuable Customer, a lovely McShit 10% off ad pops up on your mobile screen, spectacular invention for the mankind, you DO want this 10% off, don't you...

        If they'd been genuine and honest, they would have said: look, most things are NOT free, they cost money to make, and we are NOT here to lose money, we are a BUSINESS. So we'll give you this app IN EXCHANGE for being able to make money of the data generated by your when you use the app. Yes / No.

      2. Mage Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: You can't say no?

        Even with No Script, due to stupidity of web design and services it's now very hard to avoid Google on a regular PC.

        What alternatives are there to an Android phone that isn't (A) overpriced, (B) dead, (C) someone you never heard of, or (M,N) a dead zombie platform?

        Many cheap "feature phones" are GSM only, which (in Ireland) operators can turn off with no 2 year retail warning implied by SOGA, but only needing to give a 6 month notice to Comreg (the Irish version of Ofcom or FCC).

        1. Captain Queeg

          Re: You can't say no?

          "What alternatives are there to an Android phone that isn't (A) overpriced, (B) dead, (C) someone you never heard of, or (M,N) a dead zombie platform?"

          There isn't - but then I guess you pay your money and take your choice. If you really want to minimise the google gouge your options are either:

          (A) - Pay over the odds to avoid it but retain similar benefits via a different business model

          (B) - Put up with the "missing" functionality but retain core stuff

          (C) - Blind trust the no-name to be less intrusive

          (M,N), Pretty much the same option as B.

          Android market numbers tell you the way things have gone and continue to go.

          In the end though the best way to avoid it is to simply not carry a phone - sort of option B on steroids.

        2. Alumoi

          Re: You can't say no?

          What alternatives are there to an Android phone that isn't (A) overpriced, (B) dead, (C) someone you never heard of, or (M,N) a dead zombie platform?

          Any decent phone (say S3 or similar specs) with CyanogenMod. Slap AdAway, DisableServices and AFwall+ and you're good to go.

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: You can't say no?

            All UNOFFICIAL. More apps won't work in CM because of this. Stock or bust.

      3. H in The Hague Silver badge

        Re: You can't say no?

        "I'm not defending Google, but (unlike MS) they never really "sold" you a product in exchange for cold hard cash."

        Good point.

        I would much rather buy their products and be a customer, instead of getting them for free and myself being the product. (And they would get more money from me, as I never click their ads since they relate to stuff I research for work and would never buy myself.)

        They've got some good products, I'm prepared to pay for them, so why don't they give me the opportunity to give them some cash? Seems like a missed opportunity.

        1. VinceH Silver badge

          Re: You can't say no?

          "They've got some good products, I'm prepared to pay for them, so why don't they give me the opportunity to give them some cash? Seems like a missed opportunity."

          I'm inclined to agree - but with a caveat. At some point in the past, I would have been willing to pay them for stuff. These days, however, I wouldn't trust them not to take my money in return for the goods and services, and then carry on profiling me anyway.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: You can't say no?

      Why pay the extra for a Google Bundled Services phone?

      If you don't want tracking, turn GPS on only for a few minutes a month, don't leave data on etc just get a phone without the Google services and it'll be a lot cheaper. Or, just change the ROM in your current phone to one without bundled services (many ROMs you have to jump through a few hoops to put it on as it isn't bundled due to licensing restrictions, so it is easier not to have it).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: You can't say no?

        But more and more apps are becoming root- and custom-aware and WON'T RUN in those environments.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So turn off mobile data

      Yup. Google Play was munching my battery, so I did a full factory restore and then ignored the prompts to sign in to google.

      Battery life is now good for about four days on standby, rather than about 12hrs as it was previously.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: and then all the cached data will flood back to Google

      So they're free to track you as much as they like as long as they don't spam you with ads? Doesn't sound like "the privacy issue is unwelcome", it sounds like you don't have any privacy.

    5. BenR

      Re: Do people care?

      I have to say, I agree with you. I too try to minimise my data-slurping, but a recent (as in yesterday!) event has caused me to be grateful I missed / forgot to turn something off.

      I got home from work to find a Penalty Charge Notice from TfL claiming that my car had been seen parked on a Red Route in Shoreditch High Street at 07:58 on 18-Aug-2016. Now I know for a *FACT* this isn't the case, as I haven't been to London since January in any capacity, and my car hasn't ever been to Shoreditch since I've got it from new - the closest was probably a trip to Wembley Stadium about 3 years ago. Sadly, I have no proof of this, because the day in qeustion was an otherwise uneventful Thursday in August, where I had no meetings, no phone calls or anything to demonstrate where I was.

      EXCEPT for the Google Location History from my phone, which shows me at my house in Sheffield until 08:19 in the morning, and then driving to work. I've then managed to get hold of the door logs at the office which shows I entered the building at 08:55. So obviously, I couldn't have been in Shoreditch. I'm hoping that this is enough to get TfL to cancel the charge.

      But, frankly, I'd've been slightly screwed for evidence if it wasn't for this data-slurping collection. No meetings. No other senior staff were in the office that day so I was in charge. No bank charges / ATM withdrawals showing me to be elsewhere at the time. And I'd struggle to get access to the Sheffield Council CCTV/ANPR images showing me driving to work without an FoI request, which could take forever.

      I'm in no way saying that unfettered access to this data is uniformly a good thing - far from it. It's just that in some cases, it could prove to be handy to you as much as it is handy to Google et al for revenue purposes.

      1. Bernard M. Orwell Silver badge

        Re: Do people care?

        "Sadly, I have no proof of this"

        Nice how you had to prove your innocence rather than them proving your guilt, as should be the case. Gotta love the instant fine system.

        1. not.known@this.address Bronze badge
          Black Helicopters

          Re: Do people care?

          They can probably "prove" your guilt because they have a photograph of your number plate at that location. If you're lucky, the butthole who cloned your plate will have put it on a completely different vehicle and even TfL should be able to spot the difference.

          Unfortunately, most of the little sh*ts who do this sort of thing are smart enough to use a genuine plate from an identical vehicle in which case you're back at Square One.

          Of course, you could always let TfL go to court and get them to "ask" for the CCTV from (in this case) Sheffield Council - you can be ignored easily, but courts take a dim view of people - even Councils - flipping them the metaphorical bird...

          A friend of mine once had a similar problem with Surrey Police - except he was playing space cadet on an RAF station a couple of hundred miles away at the time he was alleged to have been illegally parked. Luckily the traffic officer in charge had a sense of humour as the station CO offered to send a couple of loaded Tonkas in the event the timestamped photos of my friend entering and leaving didn't carry enough weight as evidence.

        2. BenR

          Re: Do people care?

          QUOTE: "Nice how you had to prove your innocence rather than them proving your guilt, as should be the case. Gotta love the instant fine system."

          I thought that, but then I suppose the TfL argument (as the statutory accusatory body) would no doubt be to turn round and say "We've got proof of guilt in respect of the traffic womble that was about to stick a ticket on your windscreen before you drove off. As they're a 'trusted' person - much like the Rozzers - we take their word as sacrosanct, so it's up to you to refute it."

          The fact that said traffic womble has either:

          a) written down the wrong reg plate / misread the reg plate at the time / misread the reg plate from his notes when he got back to the office, or;

          b) been duped by a cloned plate of some kind seems to be irrelevant.

          Either way, I've also asked for confirmation from the traffic womble's notes (and NOT from the DVLA data) of the make, model and colour of the car. I know for a solid fact it wasn't me - and that isn't internet bravado. That's me knowing that at the time of the incident, my car was outside my house while I was in my bathroom having a shower before work 150 miles away!

          1. cd

            Re: Do people care?

            When I lived in NYC I saw a "brownie" (parked peeps wear brown uniforms) writing tickets on cars from a seat on a city bus. Obviously had a quota to meet. Worst part was those drivers would not get their copy, just a tow-away someday.

          2. Smooth Newt
            Meh

            Re: Do people care?

            They can probably "prove" your guilt because they have a photograph of your number plate at that location. If you're lucky, the butthole who cloned your plate will have put it on a completely different vehicle and even TfL should be able to spot the difference.

            Can you ask the Home Office for all your ANPR data for that day? Come to think of it, the national ANPR network shouldn't have much problem detecting cloned plates automatically anyway, but that's probably a non-starter as might be useful to the citizen intead of the secret policeman.

          3. elDog Silver badge

            Re: Do people care?

            Haven't cell phone photos become de rigeur for proving that something happened (or didn't)?

            We've had multiple (hundreds/thousands?) of cases in the fine ole USofA where police were caught with their pants down - guns drawn - and firing at whatever. Maybe only 10% of these have reached the level of media-caring but when they do the videos/photos become very incriminating.

            Security cameras vs. People's cameras.

          4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
            Big Brother

            Re: Do people care?

            "confirmation from the traffic womble's notes"

            Even out here in the provinces, the traffic wombles have been using digital cameras for evidence for years now.

        3. David Nash Silver badge

          Re: Do people care?

          Exactly, I'd be asking them to prove it, not the other way round!

          1. Chris Miller

            Re: Do people care?

            Round here the traffic wombles take a photo of the car before issuing the ticket. I assume they send a copy with the demand for money (or will do if you query it), but luckily I don't have any first-hand experience.

        4. King Jack
          Headmaster

          Re: Do people care?

          If it went to court they would have to prove it was you and your car. If you just deny it you will win. They would have to produce solid evidence (probably a clear photo of you, not your car.) I know this because I fought a red light ticket and won. I didn't have to prove it wasn't me I just denied it. They had no evidence just an accusation.

        5. Stuart Castle

          Re: Do people care?

          On the spot fines have always worked like that. You don't need a ticket to go to a station. If there are no ticket barriers, you don't need one to go on the platform, but if a ticket inspector sees you and there is even a chance you have been or will get onto a train, they will try and fine you (I have experienced this: I was waiting on the platform for my sister who was on a train, and was threatened with a fine because the ticket inspector saw me. He backed off when I asked him to take me to court).

          It's the same when you are dealing with some government departments (the Information Commissioner's office and Health and Safety Executive come to mind). If someone lodges a complaint against you, they will investigate it. They will investigate it under the assumption you are guilty, and if they find you are, they will fine you. To avoid the fine, you have to prove you are either innocent, or have taken steps to avoid the complaint will not happen again.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Do people care? @ BenR

        It would be easier to fake all those logs.

      3. m0rt Silver badge

        Re: Do people care?

        @BenR...

        I am intrigued.

        They say it was seen, but what proof are they offering? Surely they have to provide you with the information in question. If it is based on an 'official' just writing down the registration, surely mistypes/mis-spellings occur so they also must provide other aspects of the vehicle, namely type/colour etc?

      4. Adair

        Re: Do people care?

        @BenR - Which is brilliant, and there's no reason at all why your phone (and mine) shouldn't be allowed (by us) to log that data and store it for however long (set by us) for whatever we need to use it for. It's the slurp, isn't it? 'They' have decided, in their self-interested paternalistic way what 'they' will do with 'my' phone and 'my' data, usually regardless of whether I want them to or not, and often without even telling me, or giving me any means of intervening.

        It's 'free' they say; good, so I'm 'free' to do whatever I like with 'their' system; but it's a shame it's so bloody inconvenient. Hopefully, over time, the means to take back control will become easier, but only a relative few are ever likely to be interested. It'll take something disastrous to shift the level of complacency that most of us show towards our phones, and our data generally.

        1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

          @m0rt - Re: Do people care?

          They say it was seen, but what proof are they offering? Surely they have to provide you with the information in question

          I seem to recall that, with the police, they refuse to show you their evidence unless the case goes to court.

          I'm sure I got a parking ticket one time and the notice said "Pay £X fine now. If you want to see our evidence, pay £Y."

          It makes you wonder if the police, councils, etc. are copying the mafia's modus operandi....

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Do people care?

          "Hopefully, over time, the means to take back control will become easier, but only a relative few are ever likely to be interested. It'll take something disastrous to shift the level of complacency that most of us show towards our phones, and our data generally."

          Ah you mean like in that film where all the proles dress in drab grey are watching Glorious leader on the big screen then the "rebel" comes in dressed in colour and she swings and throws a hammer through the screen? Oh wait. That was a advert for IBM.

        3. swampdog

          Re: Do people care?

          Not necessarily. I got a littering ticket in the post. All that was on it was the time and registration plus "threw cigarette butt from car window". Registration was wrong. You'd think that would be the end of it. Nope. Just got another ticket with the registration "corrected" to match mine. The time put me in the middle of gridlocked rush hour half a mile from the supermarket I went to, where (luckily) I still had the receipt for less than ten minutes after the offence. Not possible to even drive from the offence to the supermarket in/at that time, let alone buy all those goods and get through the checkout.

          Then I just get blanked by them, leaving me with "pay the fine" or "pay double later" or "take it to court and pay more plus expenses". Given that it would have cost me a f*ck sight more to travel all the way back to a court appearance, I wussed out and stumped up.

          I am still annoyed about it and it happened about four years ago. I am not so annoyed as when I got fined for failure to display road tax. New disc fell off the windscreen. It was on the floor only minutes yet in that time some twat spotted it. That was over twenty years ago and I still fume about that one.

          Kudos to anyone who has the tenacity to fight back though!

          1. BenR

            Re: Do people care?

            Thanks to all for the replies and advice.

            In answer to as many of the questions as I can remember while typing in the El Reg comments reply box:

            Photo of car: There is no image of the vehicle at all (that I have seen or that they refer to). Simply a PCN based on a reg number from the traffic womble who was allegedly about to stick the ticket on the windscreen but the car drove off before he could. In some ways, I guess i'm lucky it happened this way round, as if they had stuck the ticket on and just logged the reg number, I'd then have to prove I never saw the windscreen ticket and the first I'd've known about it would be a summons through the letterbox. This is currently my second biggest hope.

            Fake logs: Agreed. It would be fairly trivial to fake them, certainly in terms of the paper-copy-only submissions they accept. Conveniently, both my personal mobile and my work iPhone have logged the same data, and it is presentable electronically if they ask. Further, the door logs from work came with a signed letter verifying their accuracy and veracity. I can probably get a copy of the AD and web proxy logs too, which should prove which part of the subnet i was connected to, thus my physical location to some extent. It's all about a preponderance of evidence at this point. Should it go to court, my office manager has also said she can provide CCTV footage if required of me sat at my desk the entire day, as I happen to sit adjacent to one of the cameras. TfL have been informed of this.

            Keeper, not driver: This is a bit of a worry, as even if they accept the evidence, it only proves I wasn't there, not the car. As it turns out, I was the only person with access to the vehicle at the time, as my GF (who only very rarely drives my car at the best of times) was out of the country at the time. And as I drove the car to work that day, it would have been tricky for someone to nick it, drive to Shoreditch, park illegally, and then return it to the car park at work without me noticing...

            Other ANPR: This would be absolutely ideal to get hold of, but I've no idea how I would do so before the thing went to court. I also have no idea how long Sheffield Council will keep ANPR / other camera footage when it isn't being used for enforcement purposes.

            Other details about car: I have requested that TfL supply me with information regarding the make, model and colour of the vehicle observed by the traffic womble, and expressly NOT the information they will have rec'd from DVLA so I can confirm. If it's a "cleverly" cloned plate, it won't prove anything; but if it's a simply typo / error then it might help.

            What else?: It has also been pointed out to me that if the traffic womble was close enough to slap a ticket on, they were close enough to see the driver and should be able to provide a rough description. It might help with the driver was obviously not the same ethnicity as me, but as I am otherwise an averaged sized, 25-45, white, dark haired British male, it might not be the distinguishing characteristic I'd hope for!

            TBH, my first biggest hope is that the evidence I've sent off to them is sufficient to cast doubt on their information, and they simply cancel it. I have no idea the likelihood of such happening having had no dealings with TfL in this kind of regard previously. A couple of other parking tickets at work which have arisen from misunderstandings over when permits need changing / tickets fallen out of windows etc. have been resolved and cancelled with very little bother once I've been able to speak to a person.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Do people care? @swampdog

            Its the people like you that make their little scams profitable.

            Fuck em and FIGHT till the bitter end.

            The sweet taste at the end is worth it.

      5. Dan 55 Silver badge
        Flame

        Re: Do people care?

        Bet they can't find another photo anywhere else in London that day or other days either side. If your car suddenly materialises in the middle of London then disappears, obviously something's wrong with their data. Why should the onus be on you (or anyone) to prove your innocence because Crapita's not doing its job properly?

      6. Flip

        Re: Parking Ticket

        How can you be issued a ticket if they can't prove it was your car? If your car was not there, they don't have a picture of your licence plate or VIN, so how could they issue you a ticket in the first place? Do they send out tickets to everyone with a (for example) red car?

      7. Blotto Bronze badge
        Megaphone

        Re: Do people care?

        you shouldn't have to go to such lengths to prove your innocence against such a charge. Its their word against yours and its totally unreasonable for anyone to expect you to do so much to prove they are wrong.

        Anyway the info you have in no way categorically dismisses the fact that your car was recorded in their system at the time they said they did. you could have got a bus/taxi/bike/lift to work whilst you had loaned your car to someone that drove it to London, or you could have given someone else your work pass & phone whilst you where driving in London.

        even a timestamped photo may not categorically prove you where not driving your car in London.

        of course it is most likely some shister has cloned your number plate, but the TFL process is to make it very difficult to prove your innocence rather than notify them some is scamming them

        1. BenR

          Re: Do people care? re: Blotto

          QUOTE: Anyway the info you have in no way categorically dismisses the fact that your car was recorded in their system at the time they said they did. you could have got a bus/taxi/bike/lift to work whilst you had loaned your car to someone that drove it to London, or you could have given someone else your work pass & phone whilst you where driving in London.

          even a timestamped photo may not categorically prove you where not driving your car in London.

          Exactly. I'm fully aware of that. I can only hope that TfL are not wankers and the evidence I do have is sufficient for them to doubt their own evidence, of which they don't seem to have very much. What you say is correct, but Occam's Razor has to apply somewhere right? What would be the benefit in someone else having my pass to get into the office? Why, if I were in London, would I give someone else my phone for the entire day? At that point, it starts to look less like a minor parking infraction and more like some kind of grand conspiracy.

          Otherwise, in a similar situation, I am completely and totally unsure as to how someone could demonstrate their innocence. If someone has "cleverly" cloned the plate and put it on a matching vehicle (same make, model and colour), then how could *ANYONE* show that it wasn't their car? Unless by some miracle you're caught on camera doing something else somewhere else?

      8. davcefai

        Re: Do people care?

        I think your problem will be that you can prove where your phone, and you, were. If British law is similar to Maltese you have to prove that you CAR was not there. All fines are directed at the owner, not the driver so, in theory, your wife, offspring or a car thief could have parked the car.

        So you also need to prove that you were in full possession of the car at the time.

      9. Jerry G.

        Re: Do people care?

        Did you loan your vehicle to anyone else? Did someone use your vehicle (such as a family member) without telling you?

      10. Harman Mogul

        Re: Do people care?

        There is another way to combat PCNs — denial. Follow the appeals procedure and make it clear that you will go to PATAS (the arbitration service) and beyond if need be. The outsourced administration (in the Midlands) will concede. It's a numbers game and it's simply too costly for it to send somebody qualified down to town to appear in front of the arbitrator to contest a determined and credible appellant.

      11. SImon Hobson Silver badge

        Re: Do people care?

        I got home from work to find a Penalty Charge Notice from TfL ...

        Better than my mate who got up to go to work (worked nights on that contract) to find his car had been stolen. Went to police to report it, and was told it was in the pound.

        Went round to the pound, to be told that it had been towed away for illegal parking - even though it was actually legally parked. The complete shysters had towed it away and then painted the yellow lines on the road ! The way he tells it, he's lucky he didn't get banged up got GBH because I think he'd have been happy to reach over the counter and drag the person behind it through the narrow gap that's too small for a person to get through. But he would have had no proof whatsoever except for an amazing stroke of luck.

        A voice from the back office chirped up and said "I remember that car - I noticed it because it's parked there during the days and gone at night which is unusual". One of the admin girls recognised it and was able to corroborate that it was in fact parked legally so he got it back without forking out.

        These days, if I'm parking anywhere I'm not familiar with, I snap photos with the phone showing where I'm parked and any markings/signs showing - and the ticket if there's one involved. There's been enough reports on the telly about people doing dirty tricks like this - so a few seconds with the phone is worth it. And as others have said, it's a PITA and costly if you end up having to travel half way across the country to defend yourself.

        1. BenR

          Re: Do people care?

          I'm pleased to be able to say that TfL have admitted this is an admin error where the incorrect reg details have been recorded. They are to issue a cancellation letter forthwith.

          1. Blotto Bronze badge

            Re: Do people care?

            @BenR

            pleased that its sorted for you. What did you tell them to have them re asses the case?

      12. NCos

        Re: Do people care?

        Since when has proving your innocence been part and parcel of UK law? I would have thought that the onus would be on TfL to provide proof that your car was parked where they claim at the time they claimed.

      13. therebel

        Re: Do people care?

        Not sure that evidence would help. Your location services prove where your phone was. Your key card door entry report shows where your key card was. Neither of those proves where your car was.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      This article may have been inspired by the McDonalds debacle but it deals with Google's location slurping from years ago to the present day. Did you read it or were you so incensed by the headline you just had to comment?

      Good straw manning though!!

      1. m0rt Silver badge

        I was in Duke's Bar and Grill, in that Lunnin, recently. I have a distinct policy of NO location tracking on photographs. Imagine my chagrin when all of a sudden, after taking a pic for an email of the huge rib, (not social media), when I get a big prompt saying 'Do I want to tag this photo with Duke's Bar and Grill?'

        So regardless of having geo location on photographs being off, the location is still linked to taking a pic even though it isn't embedded in the image itself.

        This shows a distinct alteration in approach to tracking by Google. In otherwords, we are tracking you, but since you are not using that information yourself, that means you are not being tracked.

        I do not trust Google. They don't offer any way of really opting out. I would even pay google for using their services, if it meant I wasn't used for advertising.

        But that doesn't fit into their business model.

        Recording everyday data on people seems to have become a 'right' in the minds of companies, more recently, bringing them into like mind with governments everywhere. One day, when this is all history, this period will be looked upon as the 'WTF were they thinking?' Era. Assuming no apocolypse, etc.

        1. Dan 55 Silver badge

          If it's a real honest-to-goodness proper old-fashioned e-mail, why are you using the Gmail app? Get K9 Mail or something.

          1. m0rt Silver badge

            @Dan 55 It was actually using Blackberry hub app. It wasn't the email program that was offering this, it was the Gallery app - I had taken the picture, then swiped to use it, it was then it was offered.

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              "it was the Gallery app"

              Possibly the coordinates were recorded in metadata in the image file and it was the gallery app that reconciled them with the premises.

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
          Pint

          One day, when this is all history, this period will be looked upon as the 'WTF were they thinking?' Era.

          This must the third or fourth comment optimistically assuming that eventually people will "rebel" and it'll be sorted out. More likely the megacorps will eventually be openly running things and only armed rebellion will change things, if that's even possible.

          Mokie Coke ----------------------->

          1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

            and only armed rebellion will change things

            Except that by then, it'll be impossible to organise armed rebellion as they'll know enough about you, who you communicate with, what you say to each other, etc, to be able to spot it well before you have the ability to do anything meaningful and get you locked up as a terrorist.

            Read the articles on "how to build an authoritarian state" - there are several steps, two of them being "pervasive surveillance" and "oppression". Google are near enough to the state of having pervasive surveillance, and the governments (in various countries) have furnished the vague "anything we don't like is terrorism if we say it is" laws.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "This article may have been inspired by the McDonalds debacle but it deals with Google's location slurping from years ago to the present day."

        The great thing about the comment section is that you are allowed to comment on any part of the story, go figure!

        (etiquette would suggest you state which part you are commenting on though)

        ((in fact you can comment on anything that pops into your head while reading the story))

        (((As the quote and the comment was taken from and based entirely on that part of the article it is not a straw man, your comment is a false fallacy)))

    7. Christopher Reeve's Horse

      You can opt out of receiving the 'targeted' adverts, but can't opt out of the profiling.

      Also, the thing I think is more worrying, you have no access to Google's information profile about you. You can (for a small fee) see you full medical record, and information about you held by companies should in theory be accessible on request. I don't see a way a requesting that Google tell you *everything* they know (and have inferred and associated) about you...

      It would be amazingly interesting (and scary!), but won't ever happen as it would give people an instant understanding of the kind of profiling abilities that are routinely happening.

      1. SirWired 1

        Yes, you can view everything Google has on you; it's called Google Dashboard. They've had it for years. And Dashboard can also be used to tell Google to stop collecting things.

    8. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: Do people care?

      Over time people simply become resigned to things and, after enough time, no one will have ever known it any other way.

      We know we are being watched and tracked by numerous means all the time. That horse has bolted and one more coming out the stable probably doesn't really make things any worse.

      There are risks, potentially great risks, but most people don't see those as great risks to themselves. At least not great enough to demand it stops. And, if we are honest that would mostly be right; if 'they are out to get you', they will, nothing will stop that.

      For some, being offered a menu app is an intrusion, for others it is welcomed. I would quite like my phone to tell me when the next bus is going to arrive when I reach a bus stop. Though I would want the option to enable it or not, and not be asked at every bus stop I pass.

      I think it's going to be intrusiveness which causes more outcry than tracking, though battery drain from forced-enabling GPS, losing functionality if you won't, is a very reasonable and legitimate complaint.

      The situation now is many people want the good but don't want the bad. Over time that 'bad' will become seen as just something which is and people will adapt to it. How many CCTV cameras have you been watched by today?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Do people care?

        re. Over time people simply become resigned to things

        aka boiling a frog...

    9. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: It will continue for a while longer

      "Google employs very intelligent people and they are measured against the ultimate benchmark : ad revenue."

      I'm not convinced on this. They ought to be able to get on top of all the bad practices which have driven people to use ad blockers yet haven't seen fit to do that.

    10. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: The thing is...

      "I don't get ads. I don't get emails from Google or anyone that I don't want them from."

      Neither do I but I have to work at it. An ad blocker is one factor. Another is maintaining my own domain and a multitude of email aliases on there, including short term ones for those who confuse needing and wanting an address for me.

      "Even Amazon never emails me about potential purchases."

      I'm not sure why you wrote "even". Amazon are far too smart. They realise that it would lose business. Even so I'm thoroughly pissed off with their repeated attempts to inveigle me into Amazon Prime.

      1. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

        Re: The thing is...

        Even so I'm thoroughly pissed off with their repeated attempts to inveigle me into Amazon Prime.

        They're far too bloody sneaky about trying that on: have an up-vote for that.

      2. jason 7

        Re: The thing is...

        But whatever ads I do see on the web...are NEVER useful to me. Never products or services I would buy or use. So once again all that 'slurped detailed info' is either not being used or useless.

        Once again EVEN Amazon's choices list for me contains stuff I have no idea why it's in there.I'm a Prime user and so that means they have a mass of data on me and they still can't get it right.

        Laughable.

        1. Squander Two
          Devil

          Re: The thing is...

          Some people have realized that you can deliberately browse for weird obscure items during the same session as more common things just to give Amazon users a nicely surreal experience. If it's the sort of thing hardly anyone ever looks at, a few clicks can be enough to game the stats. Which is why you occasionally find yourself saying "People who bought this bicycle storage shed were also interested in a super-realistic warthog costume and a ten-pack of vibrators? What the what?"

          Some people have strange hobbies.

      3. IsJustabloke Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: The thing is...

        "Even so I'm thoroughly pissed off with their repeated attempts to inveigle me into Amazon Prime."

        I know what you mean.... I'm on my 4th free trial :D

    11. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: It will continue for a while longer

      You underestimate the power of an ascended fad: like how we call photocopiers Xerox machines even when they're not. Google's trying for the long game: to capture the market so completely that people can't perceive a world without it: usually by making a world without Google much worse (to quote the Smash Mouth song, "You might as well be walking on the Sun").

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It will continue for a while longer

        "like how we call photocopiers Xerox machines even when they're not"

        This isn't really common in the UK; they're usually just called photocopies and photocopiers here (or just copiers). Can't recall anyone ever calling them "Xerox machines" or similar.

        From what I remember the photocopiers I've seen tended to be Japanese makes like Canon or Brother. Granted, I wasn't when the technology was introduced, but Xerox were clearly never influential enough to become the genericised term here.

        (Apologies for distracting from what are probably more important issues; whether my observation says anything about the point you were actually making is open to question).

        1. Captain Queeg

          Re: It will continue for a while longer

          "This isn't really common in the UK; they're usually just called photocopies and photocopiers here (or just copiers). Can't recall anyone ever calling them "Xerox machines" or similar."

          True, but we do have Hoovers, Biros and Transit Vans.

          1. Wensleydale Cheese Silver badge

            Re: It will continue for a while longer

            "True, but we do have Hoovers, Biros and Transit Vans."

            Tarmac: an Australian colleague simply didn't recognise the word.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: It will continue for a while longer

          "This isn't really common in the UK; they're usually just called photocopies and photocopiers here (or just copiers)."

          Remind me again what you call vacuuming the carpet.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: It will continue for a while longer

            "Remind me again what you call vacuuming the carpet."

            Xeroxing the carpet?

            Never heard of it...

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: It will continue for a while longer

            "This isn't really common in the UK; they're usually just called photocopies and photocopiers here (or just copiers)."

            "Remind me again what you call vacuuming the carpet."

            We call it hoovering. Which I'm well aware is a genericised tradmark.

            We don't, however, use "Xerox" in the same way. That's pretty much all I was saying; there was no implied point being made as some people are assuming(!)

        3. Martin Maloney
          Happy

          Re: It will continue for a while longer

          "...Can't recall anyone ever calling them "Xerox machines" or similar."

          To cite just one example, what about Jello? When a commercial product or service becomes dominant in its category, its trade name often becomes a generic term.

          Have you ever ordered a fruit-flavored gelatin dessert?

          As another example, people say, "Google it," rather than "Yahoo it" or "Enter a term into any Internet search engine."

          1. Dagg

            Re: It will continue for a while longer

            Have you ever ordered a fruit-flavored gelatin dessert?

            No, I just order jelly.

    12. Warm Braw Silver badge

      Re: Do people care?

      they get recommendations of cafés/bars/cinemas in the area

      What's the difference between a "recommendation" and an "advertisement"? The problem is not only that the data is slurped in the first place and delivered to a bunch of large corporations, but that the data you get back, supposedly "in return" is simply a leash drawing you into a prepackaged set of corporate revenue opportunities.

      There may be some idependent businesses in those results right now, but the direction of travel is that in exchange for being tracked, all you find out is that there's a McDonald's, a Nando's and an Odeon nearby and the inveitable consequence of that is that there will only be a McDonald's, a Nando's and an Odeon because the local businesses will be outbid for the advertising.

      The technology is not enabling communication between people, it's channeling that conversation through a channel that is highly scrutinised and controlled and directing it for corporate gain. So those kids aren't getting what they think they're getting - but hat's a hard message to get across.

    13. Squander Two
      Devil

      Efficacy.

      I know I've told this story before, but I'm boring that way.

      Like every other male on Facebook, I kept getting adverts for "Hot young promiscuous women in YOUR AREA inexplicably want to meet you!" Kept rejecting the adverts as offensive (which, since Facebook knows I'm married, they are), to no effect. Then one day my wife got our daughter the DVD of Annie, and I happened to make some comment on FB about a silly detail I noticed in the film. Immediately, all those ads vanished, to be replaced with "Lithe young men in stripy leggings and leather caps in YOUR AREA want to meet you!" Facebook are supposedly one of the world leaders at personal data-mining, and they have an algorithm that goes something like IF [mentions a musical] THEN [gay].

      They have also served me adverts for a motorcycle hearse -- for all those Hells Angels' funerals I'm always organising -- and (and I swear I am not making this up) an amphibious assault vehicle. I'd love to claim I'm exciting enough for these adverts to have been pointed at me for a good reason, but I do IT for banks and like cooking and gardening.

      To be fair, I did also discover the music of Meiko via a Facebook ad, and she's now one of my favourite singers. But I'm guessing that's just because her fanbase is mainly gay bikers mounting amphibious invasions.

      I do object to the invasion of privacy in principle, but I'm not worrying too much about its actual effects just yet.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Efficacy.

        "Gay bikers mounting amphibious invasions"

        Why would they do that? The only explanation must be that they were on acid.

    14. Wade Burchette

      Re: Do people care?

      "When I speak to my family and friends about data slurps, most of them (okay, the younger members) think that it's a good thing - or at least, not a bad thing."

      And yet, the same people do not like it when the government does the exact same thing. A for-profit corporation cares just as much about you as the bureaucracy does, which none at all.

    15. BenR

      Re: Don't be evil.

      I think you're probably right here.

      They probably don't think too much about collecting the data, because it's mostly anonymised for bulk data usage, and the data that isn't anonymised is encrypted and logged to a single account etc. etc. And anyway, they're the only ones using it, and only so we can serve up targetted ads that people might be interested in, and who doesn't want to be told about the five Starbucks' within a thirty yard radius of their current position at any given time anyway?

      I suspect they see it as useful data to provide convenient services, and haven't fully thought through the downsides of it due to cognitive bias.

      But as we all know, it only takes one weak link in the chain of trust for it to become abuse of power.

      Yes, UK Police National Computer database. I'm looking at you.

    16. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Danger!

      I'm just trying to work out why anyone, or even 2 people, should downvote this.

      1. Jeffrey Nonken Silver badge

        Re: Danger!

        Obviously they were laughing so hard, they hit the wrong button.

      2. Herby Silver badge

        Re: Danger!

        Re: McDonalds...Cardiovascular problems...Downvotes...But I like quarter pounders with cheese, and an order of fries with a nice coke occasionally.

        Yes, only occasionally.

    17. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

      Re: to misquote

      I don't think that's a misquote, more like paraphrasing to me :)

    18. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It will continue for a while longer

      Most people are thick -- after all they voted for Brexit (stop the foreigners, put up my wages, expect nothing else to change). And if you asked them to vote for capital punishment they would in their droves again.

      So you are correct, nothing will change. The country is *full* of dickheads.

    19. BillG Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: So turn off mobile data

      The future dystopia of pervasive personal tracking, that was once merely Sci-Fi, is here, but … look how shiny it is! Does yours have a dual lens? Mine does. It’s Quad HD. And all that free stuff. You can’t say no.

      Beautifully said, Andrew. Have a pint on me.

      Unfortunately, when it comes to privacy we are all frogs and we are being slowly boiled.

    20. Sam Adams the Dog

      Re: Do people care?

      I don't care very much, and to the extent that I do care, I like it more than I hate it.

      I'm always amused when my phone tells me something that proves it knows where I am, what I'm doing and what I'm thinking; and in the far more frequent situation when it is dead wrong, I get to chortle over its stupidity in a self-satisfied manner.

    21. DougS Silver badge

      Re: So turn off mobile data

      How does turning off mobile data stop your data from getting to Google? Do you also have wifi turned off? I suppose that would prevent Google tracking you, but a smartphone without any sort of internet connection is rather pointless, sort of like a car without tires - yeah technically you can still drive it but...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: So turn off mobile data

        How does turning off mobile data stop your data from getting to Google?

        It stops it going in real time, which reduces the value a tiny bit, but crucially it means that THEY can't reach me unless I've chosen to enable data, and they can't drain my battery with unrequested two way snoop 'n' spam.

        Do you also have wifi turned off?

        Most of the time. Settings for mobile data and wifi are moved to the quick access toolbar, so its hardly a chore to flick on and off.

        but a smartphone without any sort of internet connection is rather pointless,

        But I still always have access to and use the advanced capabilities when I need them. Most of the time when the phone is in my pocket it only needs to be alert for voice and text (that don't use mobile data). I don't need to have the phone permanently waiting for email or the latest social media post, so why slash my battery life just to pimp my data to Google in real time, and enable them to spam me in real time and on a location specific basis?

        Yes, my privacy is still being compromised, but in a manner that minimises the cost to me, and reduces the value to Google.

    22. Oengus Silver badge

      Re: to misquote

      "only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to not remove their batteries"

      I wonder if the tendency towards non-removable batteries is by design to stop us from being able to really "turn off" devices.

    23. Steven Roper
      Big Brother

      Re: It will continue for a while longer

      "So, one day, people will get fed up with this, just like one day, people will vote intelligently."

      "Until they become conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious." - George Orwell, 1984

    24. clickbg

      Re: So turn off mobile data

      Better yet turn off mobile data only for "Google Play services".

      You can do that on any Android device from Settings > Apps > [Show system] > Google Play serivces > Data usage > Background data > No

      For the too paranoid, you can also use a outbound firewall(requires root) and the crafty app "DisableService"(requires root) in order to 1. Stop all connections from Play services 2. Disable all Location related services part of that app.

      Or you know buy a phone without integrated tracking.

      1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

        Re: So turn off mobile data

        I have turned off shed loads of things, such as background data. Do not believe for one second that Google fully honours any such settings. I've seen my phone send 500k+ plus packets for.no apparent reason. It baxks off during the night so battery life looks acceptable, but as soon as the phone is picked up it gets going again. And yes, I keep turning off the damn location services that of course cannot be enable on a app-to-app basis.

    25. Scorchio!!

      Re: So turn off mobile data

      "For a luddite like me, the privacy issue is unwelcome, but I can limit how much it affects me day to day. For those who believe they need mobile data on all the time, I suppose they'll need to put up with the interactive creepiness."

      Your post is a fair summary of my feelings. They are beginning to make MS seem like a baby. It's tempting to use weather data, but the thought of being tracked is an uncomfortable one.

      1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

        Re: So turn off mobile data

        MS is creepier still, since they sneak in spying in paid for and "free" (traded in) PC operating systems. Supposedly operating system for grown ups, on real computers.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: So turn off mobile data - Lose your own cloud

        I always thought that having your very own personal storm cloud raining on your head was a fantasy.

        Gosh! Google cracks it again.

    26. Kiwi Silver badge

      Re: Google still does the wardriving

      They call it "high accuracy mode" and they hammer you to allow it every single damned time you turn GPS on. It's so bad, I wrote my own applet to turn on (and off) GPS and skip that dialog.

      Not any more, at least on my phone. Now when I turn GPS on it always goes straight to that mode and I have to remember to go into the settings to turn it off.

      I would love a copy of your applet as I've not even begun to look at programming for Android. If you're willing to pass on then either put it somewhere we can find it or nicely ask El Reg to put us in touch (they can take this message as my OK :) ).

  14. nematoad Silver badge

    Not so.

    "And all that free stuff. You can’t say no."

    Oh, want to bet?

    As Robert Heinlein wrote "TANSTAFL" there ain't no such thing as a free lunch.

    1. Hollerithevo Silver badge

      Re: Not so.

      And taking Heinlein to heart, I always check what's on the menu. And it's not to my taste. I have an ancient pre GPS BlackBerry take works fine. I have an old iPad that I use for FaceTime and the occasional quick web look-up via Safari, and I always refuse to say 'yes' when Google wants to know my location. My PC and laptop are as locked down and blocked as I can make them. Here at work, if I happen to Google 'jam sandwiches' one lunch time' I am haunted by adverts for jam and sandwiches for weeks afterwards, which makes me sad for all those people paying to have their adverts served up to me when I Google this stuff for fun, to see what is going to haunt me.

      I have not yet found an app I've needed so much I'd give over my immortal soul. But I'm old-fashioned.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just say no

    to google and all that social Media data slurp.

    Sadly saying no to google means one of four things.

    1) going to Microsoft for a Windows Phone

    2) going to Apple as at least thay are saying that they won't sell your data to anyone else

    3) turning off mobile data and wif-fi on your smart phone (and BT as well in some places) - Seems a shame to not use all that lovely technology though

    or finally

    4) give the smartphone (properly erased) to someone who does not care about privacy and revert to a dumb phone.

    I've gone with the last choice. I do have an iPhone 5s but it is for company use only. Data/Wifi is turned off 95%+ of the time. No web browsing either. Just emails from the corporate server. Even that's going at the end of the month when I get made redundant.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Android phones now examine your location and invite you to rate the cafes

    Simple, lets do a crowd thing, down rate all the cafe's, tell the owners that google is responsible, fins a layers, start a tort.

  17. Frank Zuiderduin

    Can't say no? Mate, I haven't even said "maybe" yet. All I carry is a 'dumb' phone and it suits me fine.

    1. tiggity Silver badge

      Re: Android phones now examine your location and invite you to rate the cafes

      Must have missed that.special android feature

      I never get asked to rate a cafe, pub or whatever even though GPS often enabled

      However I know people who make a few pennies to subsidise their Google Play gaming purchases - they had to explicitly sign up to Google services and then get micro payments for giving their opinions.in surveys which sometimes include questions seemingly based on location history - is this what it's referring to?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Android phones now examine your location and invite you to rate the cafes

      I'm sure that somewhere in Google's T's & C's there are the words

      'By accepting these Terms and Conditions you agree that you cannot take legal action against Google Inc or and Subsidiary of Google Inc in any jurisdiction."

      Down rating places (cafe's etc) also opens yourself to legal action in some countries. YMMV but I'd be careful. You may end up needing a Lawyer of your own.

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

        Re: Android phones now examine your location and invite you to rate the cafes

        No contract can remove your rights. That's why there's always another clause that says if any clause is found not to be enforceable then rest is still valid - heaven forbid they would make sure that the clauses are actually legal and enforceable before they make you sign.

      2. nijam

        Re: Android phones now examine your location and invite you to rate the cafes

        > I'm sure that somewhere in Google's T's & C's there are the words...

        I believe that clause, and maybe part of the surrounding text, would be ruled void under the regulations concerning unfair contracts. Like chunks of most EULAs in fact.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Android phones now examine your location and invite you to rate the cafes

          So why haven't they?

  18. chivo243 Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Had I known

    back in June 2004 what Google would become, I would not have signed up for Gmail.

    That is all.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Had I known

      "That is all."

      No it is not all.

      Are you still signed up? If so, now you know what Google has become, why?

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In the 70's the various governments would simply have had the b*lls to break up quasi- and actual monopolies such as Google, Facebook etc. (think Bell/ATT etc) using anti-trust legislation. And Bell/ATT etc. actually never were as far as spying on their general customers, they were more than satisfied just to make shed loads of money. Almost seems like a golden age when you think about it.

    Nowadays politicians seem either scared of offending these corporations (or their lobbyists) or else actually enjoy some financial reward in leaving them be. This leaves us in a situation where we effectively have just one choice of search engine, one choice of social networking software etc. (the alternative you may be using now is likely to either be bought by these corporations or fade away due to the inability to scale in the face of the quasi-monopoly). So naturally they feel they can do what they want - from spying on you, thru stealing other commercial property to... what next?

    What makes a company indulge in this kind of behaviour that would be labelled sociopathic if exhibited by an individual? Maladjusted senior management I guess - someone at the top with swivelling eyes has to have said 'Yes' to it all - though having to find ways to demonstrate stellar growth and satisfy greedy shareholders must also contribute.

    (good movie on this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Corporation_(film))

    Ultimately these companies are run by naughty children who want to get away with as much as they can - only a slap on the knees from a teacher is likely to make them stop, but unfortunately we've had decades of propaganda telling us that the whole teaching system (read 'government') is wrong and we should just let the kids do what they want. This hasn't happened by accident - anyone who thinks conspiracies are the preserve of the loony left should check out old scrotes such as the Koch Brothers and Antony Fisher (who knew that buying tasteless Buxted chickens back in Blighty would have led to the creation of half the bonkers free-market organisations around the world).

    Which is why we now have a situation where millions of people whose lives have been ruined by the greedy and irresponsible behaviour of all of these global companies are blaming ... everyone except these corporations (the Mexicans, Clinton, Obama, the EPA...)

    We're unlikely to get out of this mess until informative articles such as this become widespread and highly visible, and we get a bit of consciousness raising going on.

    Unfortunately it looks like we've already lost the mainstream media to big business, so I doubt it is likely to happen. Whether you are a supporter or not (I'm not) what the Corbyn affair has demonstrated is that when Big Business is potentially threatened, even by a midget, the threat is immediately swatted by all, including the major newspapers (The Guardian being one) and TV.

    Unless some Panama Papers type revelation occurs (and some part of the media is willing to publish them), Google and co. will go on monetising us and trampling on individual rights for the foreseeable future. Individuals will just end up with an increasing feeling of powerlessness - and blame it on the nearest group of people below them on the food chain.

    Thank heavens for Mexicans, 'people of colour' and the residents of Benefits Street !!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Simple. They've become TRANS-national and can now play sovereignty against you: country vs. country. It's like with the oil companies. They'll abuse all they want because if you don't like them, they can just pack up and move to another country, taking their precious tax revenues with them. For the country in question, it becomes a choice of 10% of something or 100% of nothing. Transnational companies are built to jump easily in order to exploit whatever country's easiest to plunder, so in a fundamental way they have a leg up on actual countries.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lie back

    and think of Google during this looong, deeep penetration...

  21. Planty Bronze badge
    Stop

    Opinion: Your choice

    Unless you are a total pleb, we are all aware of the deal Google offers.

    Lots of nice stuff, for free, in exchange for knowing stuff about you, and using that knowledge you serve you more relevant adverts.

    That is is. If you don't like it, go to Apple or Microsoft, or Yahoo, Facebook or whoever, and they will do EXACTLY the same, but offer you inferior products or less free stuff.

    1. Aitor 1 Silver badge

      Re: Opinion: Your choice

      I would prefer to pay and not be tracked, but I don-t have the choice.

      WP: tracked, don't pay and the apps are bad. Eternal work in progress.

      iOS: walled garden, overpriced,almost no choice.

      Android: spyware, unstable featureset for developers: O.S updates lag.

      And remember, mobile is the future of computing. A very BLEAK future.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Opinion: Your choice

      OR I could go to my government representative and say "citizens need better inalienable privacy protection that's fit for the 21st century".

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Opinion: Your choice

        IMO, there is 'Google Tracking' and 'Facebook tracking' at one level and the others at a very different and lower level

        But hey, Android is Free and Open source (some of it) so why worry....Doh!

        Posting AC because I want to keep my exposure to Google down to a minimum

        You pays your money and takes your choice.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Opinion: Your choice

          You pays your money and takes your choice.

          You pays with your privacy and takes your choice.

          FTFY

      2. nijam

        Re: Opinion: Your choice

        > ... I could go to my government representative ...

        who would promptly vote to increase the amount of state surveillance.

      3. Planty Bronze badge
        Childcatcher

        Re: Opinion: Your choice

        You know that there isn't actually someone at Google looking your stuff right?

        What exactly are you trying to hide?

      4. Doctor Tarr

        Re: Opinion: Your choice

        @aitor

        I understand where you're coming from but you do have a choice. In fact you listed 3. You just don't like any of them. The 4th is to not use a smartphone.

        Unfortunately if you want the benefits of a smartphone you have to make the best of the available choices.

        It would be great for a company to release an entirely new phone platform (hardware & software) which you paid a subscription for but didn't store or share any of your data. I won't hold my breath.

        1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

          Re: Opinion: Your choice

          You just don't like any of them. The 4th is to not use a smartphone.

          Unfortunately if you want the benefits of a smartphone you have to make the best of the available choices.

          And that's where the authorities (in various places) have yet to catch up. I;ve made complaints in the past about things like this - only to get the stock response that "you don't have to use X, there are other choices". Unfortunately a choice between whether to lose your right arm, left arm, or a leg (or go and hide in a metaphorical cave) isn't really any choice !

      5. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Opinion: Your choice

        'OR I could go to my government representative and say "citizens need better inalienable privacy protection that's fit for the 21st century".'

        And much good that will do!

  22. Mikel

    Data everywhere

    The author's complaint seems to be not that Google collects and uses this data, nor how, but that others aren't permitted to do so.

    Put me down for "I trust Google." I completely approve of the transaction of exchanging my position data in return for the services that data sharing enables - with Google only. I don't trust carriers, cable companies nor governments with this data at all, so they can pound sand.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Data everywhere

      "I trust Google [..] I don't trust carriers, cable companies nor governments"

      Oh well, that's okay. So long as Google aren't strongarmed, coerced or outright forced by any governments into handing over the data that they've collected, that is. Or maybe just willingly hands it over because their interests overlap with those of the UK/US/whatever government.

      Or maybe just have it hacked or leaked, which wouldn't be such an issue if they hadn't collected all that data in the first place making them- regardless of whether *their* intend is in good faith- a target for those whose isn't.

      Because Google say "Don't Be Evil", though, we can *trust* them on this. As shown by the fact they're principled in respecting people's privacy, and not continuously- and pathologically- trying to override that desire because it suits Google's business plan.

  23. James 51 Silver badge

    I'd love a blackberry passport but BB10 is getting only security releases from now on and without a removable battery it's only a matter of time before it dies anyway (when my Q10 died I was able to stick a new battery in my seven year old n900 and start using it). I was thinking about getting a galaxy s6 for the VR but I that's google. Can get a lumia 950 with a continunm dock for £250 and it has a replaceable battery but I can't find out what it's phoning home about, how to stop it and it won't work with my pebble watch. A oneplus3 with cyanogen is looking increasing likely (I can compromised on the micro sd if the memory is that high).

    1. 2+2=5 Silver badge

      @James 51

      > I'd love a blackberry passport

      If you're willing to consider Blackberry then maybe you should have a look at Jolla?

      1. James 51 Silver badge

        I have looked at Jolla but the problems with the tablet and limited production runs of the phone have made me wary of buying a handset directly. A fairphone with Jolla is a better bet.

        1. 2+2=5 Silver badge

          > I have looked at Jolla but the problems with the tablet and limited production runs of the phone have made me wary of buying a handset directly. A fairphone with Jolla is a better bet.

          If the Intex Aqua deal results in a half-way decent phone then I would expect it to become readily available in the UK via eBay quite quickly.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Many don't see, or simply don't want to see where this is all going....

    https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/may/02/google-microsoft-pact-antitrust-surveillance-capitalism

  25. philthane

    1 Use alternative search, maps, docs,

    2. Manage your own backup and sharing via Nextcloud

    3. Use open source Android such as Cyanogen.

    4 Do not sign in to any Google service.

    Too much hassle for most maybe but it works for me

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    'there are other snacks available'

    When not in use, why don't you just stick the phone in an empty bag of Walkers Crisps?

  27. Scott Broukell
    Meh

    The Thing is . . . .

    Currently this 'Google' thing is all about our SmartPhones, PCs and SmartTVs. Just you wait till the global IoT roll out! Then our fridges will start sending / displaying messages about how the neighbours fed their kids simulated roast chicken entrail McGunk with xtra chili mayo and they really loved it! Wow! – so here's a 10% off e-voucher you can use with your next on-line shop. Our washing machines will tell us that an optical scan of those novelty boxers you bought four years ago shows that the fabric is in a poor state of deterioration and they should be replaced pronto – here's an e-voucher for those – Plus! A recommendation that you use Splungo-Wash-Blu-Matic detergent in future and here's a 10% voucher for that product, no wait, your Smart-Shopper(TM) has already been contacted by the washer-dryer and has called ahead and ordered that with your next shop – Really Smart!

    A rather bleak outlook if you ask me – but then we are no doubt becoming lazy and / or our behaviour is being modified towards, laziness, due in no small part to our voluntary adoption of all this wonderful technology! The more we adopt this apparently smart technology, AI-driven, deterministic life-style, the less we think for ourselves!

    I can feel the pull of Google Gravity right now, gently coaxing me towards the final plummet into the abyss of data numbness - it's only an itty-bitty profile you created for yourself on our servers - what harm could come of it.

    Can we just keep it as dumb computers and smart humans please.

    (I know, I know, it's all right, and thank you, but I do know the way back to my cave from here)

  28. LiarLiarLiar
    Stop

    jailbreak your phone and install a firewall

    and then block all google services, works for me

    1. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

      Re: jailbreak your phone and install a firewall

      There are open source Android operating systems that don't require the Google Apps suite. Chinese phones all have an OEM operating system available that doesn't use Google.

  29. This post has been deleted by its author

  30. simbalion

    Y'all are late. We knew this.

    Google has been a stalker for years.

    You are not forced to use Google's products. There is a functional internet without Google. Every product that google offers, there is someone offering an alternative. Many of them are free also. If you don't like being spied on, stop using Google.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Y'all are late. We knew this.

      "You are not forced to use Google's products. There is a functional internet without Google."

      What about the numerous sites which use googleapis ?

  31. DougS Silver badge

    Maps without GPS

    Yeah that sounds like a problem, but before smartphones people still used Google Maps, Mapquest, etc. You'd plug in your starting point (or better yet a point near your destination you knew you could reach without help) and your destination, and get a list of instructions. I went places with such a printed list on more than a few occasions back in the days from the mid-late 90s when mapping apps appeared and 2009 when I got my first iPhone.

    I forgot about the original iPhone lacking GPS, but the author acts like it is ridiculous to include a mapping app without it. Heck, before Mapquest there was the Rand McNally Road Atlas that we took on every trip with us when I was a kid which didn't have GPS either! My dad would drive, my mom would consult the map, he'd argue if she didn't tell him what he expected to hear, then pull over to look at it himself :)

  32. Herby Silver badge

    32 years early prediction.

    The year was 1948 when the book was written, but lots of the book 1984 are coming true. The thing is that it isn't the government that is doing the dirty work, it is business that are trying to "help" you.

    Yup, the prediction was a bit early.

  33. Alistair Silver badge
    Coat

    All things considered:

    I have to wonder what Google's Law Enforcement Services Team has on their plate.

    Yesterday?

    Now?

    Three years from now?

  34. the.auk

    It's much worse than that!

    A few months ago, after I had terminated my Android phone account with the ISP (because they gazumped me with a unilateral contract swaperoo), I was browsing my own SOHO web site which was 10 metres away over wifi, and I noticed in "tcpdump" that the phone was sending telemetry to Google for every page I looked at. It was transmitting through my home wifi to Google even though I was not logged in. Then I turned off the wifi in the Samsung/Android phone completely. So there was supposedly no 2G, no 3G, no 4G and no wifi. But then when I pressed the button to turn off the phone, I noticed yet more telemetry to Google over the wifi link even though the wifi link was turned very definitely off and supposedly logged out! And at the end of the few seconds of shutdown of the phone, there was yet more telemetry from the phone to Google.

    So even if you turn off every kind of communication, and you have no account with any ISP, Android still sends telemetry of every web access locally, and even tells Google when you have turned off your phone and the shutdown is complete. This level of intrusiveness is beyond the Pale. (That's where my father was born actually -- not in the Pale but just outside it.) So I have now removed the batteries to prevent this phone from doing anything more of an evil nature. Who knows, maybe the wifi has a wake-on-packet feature to wake it up when it's off. So the only way to be safe is to remove the battery. At least I think it's safe now!

  35. Tim Seventh

    So turn off mobile data / Internet

    This is my technological mindset when I use anything online.

    You are tracked, spied, stalked, and logged whenever you are online.

    The fact is this. Things that are online Are.Not.Yours. The internet is not your computer. The internet not your device. The cloud is someone else computer. The webpage is not created by you. Google/Apple/Microsoft is not made by you.

    SO you're choices are limited when you are online. There is zero way to know what is on that webpage before it loads them including key logger, spyware, virus, scripts, flash, image, video, etc. Other times you do want to know your location. In that case, you need to be online to sent data back and let google to track the coordinate to get your location.

    There are ways to set a vpn, mask ip, remote login, set a different account, use tor, use private browsing, add no script, add ABP, use traffic monitor, BUT the easiest way to draw the line is still this. When you are online, you understand the risk of being tracked in exchange for services required online. When you are offline, you should expect the privacy of not be tracked.

    If you can't use your smartphone offline, it means you don't have anything you need offline and you need more services online. That's your done deal for the risk involved. YMMV, but I have a few phones with one heavily required to be online while the other can do most work offline.

    tl;dr Expect to be tracked online. Keep your privacy by staying offline, use online services only when required.

  36. GlenMidlandsUK

    Sick and Tired

    Yes, Sick and Tired of hearing all the complainers moaning about how we're being spied on by our smartphones. There are a couple of solutions...... 1) Get rid of your smartphone and buy a Nokia 3310 and Paper AA Road Atlas, or 2) Stop thinking that you're so important and or special that your whereabouts needs to kept a secret. I for one couldn't give a fig where you are at any point in your dull uninteresting life, and I'm pretty sure no one else does either.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sick and Tired

      If you are so lacking in imagination to be able to understand the possible downsides of all-encompassing recording and monitoring of your every movement and use of your Smartphone/Tablet, I would have to say you are 'Special' ....... as in 'Special needs'.

      (PC Police please hold fire it is a joke !!!)

      The issue is not to do with any thoughts of being 'important' or 'special' but one of the loss of basic freedoms that you take for granted now which once lost will be gone for ever.

      It is also about thinking about someone other that yourself.

      My privacy is important but I also believe that yours & everyone elses is as well, even if you do not think so now. !!!

      Re-assessing your stance once it is gone is too late and I do believe that you *will* as time progresses and the negative results are a bit more apparent.

    2. Roj Blake Silver badge

      Re: Sick and Tired

      Do you have curtains or blinds on your windows?

      If so, why? After all, you're not so important and/or special that your activities need to kept a secret. I for one couldn't give a fig what you do in your dull, uninteresting home, and I'm pretty sure no one else does either.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Sick and Tired

        Don't be so sure. Those curtains and so on are because, at some point, SOMEONE has had the temerity to peek in: for grins, out of voyeurism, etc.

        Thing is, your home's your home, but the Internet is like the open, publicly-maintained roads. IOW, no expectations of privacy.

  37. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

    I mostly get ads for things I have just purchased, and have no intention of purchasing again any time soon.

    Friggin brilliant system they have...

  38. philonous

    Ineffective Governance is the Other Half of Story

    It is not surprising that big corporations will break every rule to make huge buckets of money. In modern times, it is surprising how effectively corporations have shut down public discourse on ethical business practices and government action in establishing the ground rules for the emerging industry.

    The EU has been far more active on this issue, but it is difficult to tell if it has effected more substantial change the US government which has been thoroughly captured by tech industry lobbyists (possibly also because the industry makes it easy for the government to surveil the population). The fact that ground rules for how business can be conducted are not even being discussed. That's probably the bigger story.

  39. AnonBastard

    Just to back up the point about "you can't get a restraining order", i'm looking at Google Analytics and Google Tag Services javascripts bring run (or, in my case, attempting to run) on this web page!

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I don't really get The Register's opprobrium on this issue.

    After all, El Reg has been shamelessly promoting Google - who has made no secret of its ambition to make the NSA and GHCQ look flat-out disinterested in people's behavior by comparison - and their Android operating system over its competitors for years, and engaging in an even more bizarre rage-fest against Google's biggest competitor who happens to make privacy a selling point. Perhaps they bought into the "Don't Be Evil" schtick, which turned out to be just as empty as "Hope and Change." Beats me. And certainly there is a laundry list of things to criticize Apple about as well, but The Register chose its priorities and is not having a fit because things turned out ... well, about the same as anyone with an IQ higher than their shoe size should have predicted.

    1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

      Re: I don't really get The Register's opprobrium on this issue.

      Guess El Reg thought there was a free lunch after all, and Apple wanted too much for their version of lunch.

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