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Google revives discredited Microsoft privacy policy for Friendster clone

Do no evil. Rrrright

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Can you trust Google's Friendster clone Orkut? The search engine behemoth certainly has ambitious plans for your innocent musings. And be careful about any business ideas you express there.

The privacy policy, which fades beautifully into view, looks innocent enough. But Orkut's terms of service harbor a nasty payload -

"By submitting, posting or displaying any Materials on or through the orkut.com service, you automatically grant to us a worldwide, non-exclusive, sublicenseable, transferable, royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right to copy, distribute, create derivative works of, publicly perform and display such Materials."

It's startlingly similar to the Microsoft Passport Terms which caused a storm of outrage two years ago, a reader points out.

Here's the old Passport policy:

By posting messages, uploading files, inputting data, submitting any feedback or suggestions, or engaging in any other form of communication with or through the Passport Web Site ... you are granting Microsoft and its affiliated companies permission to:

1. Use, modify, copy, distribute, transmit, publicly display, publicly perform, reproduce, publish, sublicense, create derivative works from, transfer, or sell any such communication.

2. Sublicense to third parties the unrestricted right to exercise any of the foregoing rights granted with respect to the communication.

3. Publish your name in connection with any such communication."

Microsoft was forced to amend the terms five days after our first story, amidst threats of defections.

On a parallel theme, Jeremy Zawodny - a software developer who works for rival Yahoo! (which has its own dubious privacy practices) - is nevertheless correct when he observes that Orkut provides the missing link for Google's marketeers.

"If you've been thru the Orkut registration process, you know that it attempts to collect a ton of data about you. The kind of demographic data that marketing folks drool over. And right now there are lots of folks dying to get that special invite and begin the sign-up process," he wrote here last week.

Orkut's cookie now nests cosily alongside Google's cookie, set to expire in 2038, which in itself suggests that Google plans to be in the data mining business for a very long time.

However it's the cloning of the notorious MSN Passport conditions that strikes us as a fascinating comparison in trust.These days, you only have to tell people you'll do no evil and they'll believe you.

Don't you love the way that Privacy Policy fades into view, just as your privacy fades out of sight? ®

Bootnote: We're assured that because Orkut runs on Microsoft® Windows™, there will be no security issues. Good choice.

Related Link

All your data belong to Orkut

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Yahoo! Rips! Up! Privacy! Policy!

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