Since some have asked — from media and Twitter — here’s my take on Google collecting too much data via its Street View car — not just wi-fi addresses but “payload data” that went over those networks:
Google fucked up.
It’s pretty much as simple as that. And their screw-up sure doesn’t help me when German media come to me asking how I can defend the Google they love to hate. I got a bunch of conspiracy-laden questions from a German reporter this morning: Google says it was a mistake and the reporter asks — not without betraying a considerable bias — “Is that really possible?” I responded: “Yes. Google is not perfect.” The reporter asked: “What will Google do now? Is there a chance to completely recover?” There’s wishful thinking in that question, eh?
Let’s analyze the situation: To what conspiratorial use could Google have possibly put a trace smattering of random data caught in one moment on a given street? I would challenge anyone to take that data and find a business purpose for it. In one second on one street in Hamburg one unknown user read a story on Focus.de. Yeah, so what?
Somebody fucked up. It was sloppy and stupid of them and sure doesn’t help their PR problem in Germany. But I struggle to see how this story shows anything more than that.
Well, it does show one thing: The bias that German media have toward Google. When I was at re:publica in Berlin, I got questions like these from many German reporters: “Isn’t Google too big?” they’d “ask.” Show me the law that defines “too big,” I responded. I contend that German media are merely jealous: Google understood how to make money online better than they did. And they are reflexively running to government to regulate it and can’t find a reason why. So when something like this screwup happens, they get their hopes up.
But this also shows how out of touch German media is with its audience on this point, for the German populace clearly does not mistrust and hate Google the way media do. They use Google more than just about any country on earth, giving Google search a 97.26% share of market. Was gibt? Was geht?
Here is video of the talk I gave at re:publica 2010 in Berlin on The German Paradox: Privacy, publicness, and penises. (Don’t be frightened by the first moments in German; it’s just an introduction and a joke — with fire extinguisher — about how I had threatened to Hendrix my iPad on the stage in Berlin.)
My subject is all the more relevant given this week’s letter to Google with privacy czars in a handful of countries trying to argue that Google Streetview taking pictures in public violates privacy. In my talk, I argue that what is public belongs to us, the public, and efforts to reduce what’s public steals from us. Journalists should be particularly protective of what is public; so should we all. (The czars also argued, amazingly, that Google shouldn’t release betas. They come, you see, from an old world of centralized control — and the myth that processes can be turned into products, finished, complete, even perfect — instead of the new world of openness and collaboration.)
With so much discussion — even panic — about privacy today, I fear that we risk losing the benefits of publicness, of the connections enabled by the internet and our interconnected world. If we shift to a default of private, we lose much and I argue that we should weigh that choice when we decide what to put behind a wall — and there are too many walls being build today. But we’re not discussing the benefits of the public vs. the private. I want to spark that discussion.
I use Germany as a laboratory and illustration of the topic not only because I was there but because they have something nearing a cultural obsession on the topic of privacy. What’s true there is true elsewhere, including the U.S., though only to a different level. I also only skim the surface of the topic in this video; there is so much more to talk about: how publicness benefits the ways we can and now must do business; how it affects government; how it alters education; how it changes our relationships; how young people bring a new culture that cuts across all national boundaries and expectations; how it multiplies our knowledge; how it creates value; how it leads to a new set of ethics; and much more. But that’s for another time and medium.
And here is a slice of an illustration of my talk by AnnalenaSchiller.com (who tweeted beforehand about having to draw a penis for the first time in her talk-illustration career) that appeared in the German paper Der Freitag this week:
Yet more: Here’s an interview with dctp.tv in Berlin that summarizes my views:
: LATER: Penelope Trunk, who lives in public, writes: ” The value of your privacy is very little in the age of transparency and authenticity. Privacy is almost always a way of hiding things that don’t need hiding.. . . And transparency trumps privacy every time. So put your ideas in social media, not email.”
: AND: I just got a message on Facebook from the woman I talk about in the Sauna in Davos, the one I said was an American freaked by the mixed, nude crowd of sweaty Russians and me. She thought it was quite funny … especially because she’s French (living in America).
Here in a bit more friendly video format is the keynote I gave to the Munich Media Days (in English) a week ago, which I linked to earlier. I decided to be blunt and tough and tell them I was worried about the protectionist talk I’ve been hearing from Germany and that they need to have hard discussions about the change that will waft over there from here. Carta also put up a transcript.
Here’s a piece I wrote for BusinessWeek’s social report on publicness. Snippet:
In the company of nudists, no one is naked. We are entering an age of publicness when more and more we will live, do business, and govern in the open. Some see danger there. I see opportunity. . . .
An accompanying video:
The Süddeutsche Zeitung’s Sunday magazine this week devotes its entire issue to the future of newspapers and journalism. I have a lengthy interview in it – in Germany, I’m afraid.
If you want to hear how bad my German is, listen to the start of this video, my keynote at Next09 in Hamburg this week. (Sadly, no one told me that the camera was set to record stage left and I pace a lot.)
Over the last week, I’ve seen no end of stories about American newspapers printing extra copies for the Obama inauguration. The subtext is rather sad: It takes an unparalleled historic event to put papers in demand again.
Then today, as I walked to the U-Bahn in Munich, I saw and bought a rather remarkable publication: Zeitungszeugen (Newspaper Witness). I figured it was a media review and, as an official wonk, I picked it up. To my surprise, the publication is instead filled with replicas of German papers from February 27, 1933, all about the burning of the Reichstag, including a large Völkischer Beobachter, the Nazi party paper. It’s a fascinating and disturbing historical collection. But hours later, it turns out that the Bavarian government is suing the British publisher, claiming copyright on Nazi documents and fearing that though educational, the publication could attract neonazis. It banned the publication and ordered it seized. (Can they see the irony in that? Meanwhile, as I write this, I’m watching German TV comic Harald Schmidt — the bizarro David Letterman — and, in honor of the opening of Valkyrie — which I saw last night — his sidekick is dressed as Tom Cruise as Graf von Stauffenberg. Irony around every corner here.)
Well, anyway, Nazi history aside, there’s a good idea here for American papers to use their presses before they disappear. We’ve long been able to order individual reprints for various dates (the desperate birthday present). But if papers are seen more and more with nostalgic affection and interest, why not print them as new publications. I’d start with a collection on the Great Depression.
Walking along my hotel’s street in Frankfurt, I came upon one of the most powerful memorials I’ve ever seen. I could have missed it.
On the sidewalk in front of Hebelstrasse 13, I saw metal squares among the paving stones.
Each of 22 squares carried a name and a story: Here resided Herbert Weichsel, born on this date, deported on this date, murdered in Minsk. One can’t help but look up at the apartment house, hear their voices, sense the tragedy and crime at eye level.
Small video cameras are already the hot thing, gadgetwise, at this year’s Davos. Robert Scoble is broadcasting live from his mobile phone, as Jason Calacanis did at DLD. Loic LeMeur is making videos all over for Seesmic (with a bigger camera). I’m playing with the Reuters/Nokia mojo cameraphone (see the videos below). The YouTube Davos Conversation booth is recording the machers on video with tiny cameras.
And I showed my FlipVideo (the $79, 30-minute, dead-easy video camera) to Kai Diekmann, editor of the biggest paper, by far, in Germany: Bild. He gets thousands of photos from his readers, who send it up to a simple number via their mobile phones. Now he’s practicing networked journalism and assigning and mobilizing them to shoot things. He also told me that next week, they’ll have a top chef from a popular German food show telling readers in the paper to send in videos that he will put on his show. Where’s the line among media there? Diekmann is then doing with videos what he did with phones and so he was wowed by the Flip and wants to order a thousand of htem. That’s what happens whenever I show it to open-minded new people: I tell them they should buy them by the dozen and distribute them to their readers to become producers. Here’s Diekmann:
Medium, a media magazine in Germany, just named a blogger, Stefan Niggemeier, as journalist — yes, journalist — of the year because of BildBlog, which follows, criticizes, and dogs the huge tabloid newspaper in Germany, Bild. Just to give you a flavor that translates easily, here’s a post about a picture that ran in Bild, supposedly of a Turkish prison cell, when readers noticed the similarity to a picture of a cell at Alcatraz — note that moment of networked media criticism. I don’t know enough about the German media society, but I suspect this award could be as much about antipathy toward Bild as admiration of BildBlog. And I suppose this could only fuel the fires of blogs-v-MSM (which I keep trying to douse). Still, I think it’s a positive sign that a blogger is recognized not only as a journalist but as the journalist of the year. (via Martin Stabe)