This Week In Web - 5.2.14

  •   Miki Pacifico

By Miki Pacifico

This week - Internet companies defy the NSA, Adwords upholds their own policies, and celebrity endorsements are meaningless.

Google defies NSA

Internet’s Biggest Players Defy the NSA

The last few years have been rife with scandals involving the government, hackers, and your personal information made available online. It’s enough to make a sane man want to build a mud-hut in a hillside and really go off the grid. This latest news may bring you a small beacon of hope, however. Large tech companies including Google, Apple, Facebook, and Twitter have decided that they will no longer be complying with the request made by the NSA to not disclose to customers when their information is being seized for criminal investigations. 

Now, you are probably thinking, like I did, that you are pretty far detached from those who might be involved in a federal criminal investigation, so your information is most likely not endangered. And that’s cool, we are pretty normal, boring people. If you are a criminal, however, you are probably breathing a massive sigh of relief that you will now be getting a heads up from your ISP. 

Investigators are all aflutter about this development, claiming the disclosure of the seizure enables criminals to wipe valuable information before it can be seized. Supporters of the disclosure hope that this development will require investigators to go through proper legal channels and due process before they can access your information, such as acquiring a search warrant instead of just a subpoena which would require them to prove probable cause rather than just relevance. 

This disclosure of seizure will not happen if the company is provided with a gag-order by a judge or other legal authority, or in the case of imminent risk of physical harm or the involvement of children.

My take on it? Well I don’t have anything to hide, but I would prefer the government not looking over my shoulder constantly. Receiving notification of the collection of my data would be appreciated, and I definitely feel that if an investigator cant provide probable cause to a judge then they should have no right to access anyone’s data ever. And I do mean EVER. I don’t care how awesome it is to watch Law & Order look up someone’s phone records. 

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Adwords Upholds Their Own Ad Policies

NARAL-Pro-Choice America launched an investigation into a series of what they considered to be misledeing ads shown in Google search results for abortion procedures. These ads point to a page owned by a pregnancy crisis center focused on counseling women away from abortions. The search terms used to display these ads centered around “abortion clinics” in the Naperville, FL area. The ads shown headline with “Abortion procedures”, and were disapproved by Google Adwords for providing misledeing information to the searcher. 

How this became national news, I have no idea. Personally, I didn't find the ads to be that misledeing, though I am not a Naperville resident hopped up on pregnancy hormones. I read the ad and while the headline may be confusing, the body of the ad clearly states that they provide information on abortion and its risks. At no point in these ads did they claim to provide abortion services. I wouldn’t even go so far as to say that Google “has a problem with” it either. They simply disapproved those specific ads. The account and campaigns from which they came were not shut down because ad disapproval is such a minor infraction in the world of Adwords. Ad disapprovals happen every day and to even the most up-and-up marketers (myself included). If you accidentally use more than one exclamation point in an ad you get disapproved, which is a lot easier to do than you might think. Let’s not get in a tizzy about this just because the words “abortion” and “Google” ended up in the same sentence. Those ads will be back up within 24 hours as long as they change the headline from “Abortion procedures” to “Abortion counseling”. Done and done.


"Ellen Degeneres" by ronpaulrevolt2008 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Celebrity Endorsements Don’t Mean Anything

Not surprisingly, a new study has found that celebrity-endorsed ads for products in no way perform better than ads without the celebrity. 

The only exception? Ellen Degeneres. 

In a country as divided on homosexuality and gay rights as the US, I find this oddly heartwarming. Now, can we PLEASE stop paying Kim Kardashian to exist?

"Stop the Spying NSA" by Light Brigading is licensed under CC BY 2.0