Friday, October 29, 2010

Who Is Responsible? 

This is an interesting rant by a journalist on the subject of Google and privacy.  The reporter blames consumers and not Google for inadvertent gathering of open WiFi channels as Google's cars drove by photographing street views, taking GPS locations and sniffing WiFi.  The reporter's opinion?  Consumers are idiots for failing to password their WiFi channels.  Of course, he is right.  Locking a WiFi channel against outsiders is a basic step in security -- one everyone should take the instant WiFi is installed. 

But, being right doesn't matter.  Google's reputation still took a major hit from consumer and privacy activists, and Google was forced into providing apologies to all concerned.  This raises a PR and legal question.  How much liability should companies have for the behavior of users?  There should be a point at which companies are no longer held responsible because the user lacked common sense.  This is not a new issue.  Think of ladders and the many warnings pasted onto them.  Those warnings came from lawsuits ladder companies lost because of ill-considered use of their products.  In Google's case, if anyone should be held responsible, it should be makers of WiFi equipment.  But, it is too late now for that discussion.  Google has been held responsible.


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