July 30, 2014

Big Brother, and Google, is watching you…

Google + Orwell
Image by Inmigrante a media jornada via Flickr

I thought it was scary how much information Facebook had on me.  Yeah, right.

Next to Google, Facebook is just almost benign.  Almost.

Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google (which does email, calendars, documents, searches, maps, directions, YouTube,  blogs, and so on), has his eye on you:

“Ultimately, search is not just the web but literally all of your information – your email, the things you care about, with your permission – this is personal search, for you and only for you.”

We can suggest what you should do next, what you care about. Imagine: We know where you are, we know what you like.

“A near-term future in which you don’t forget anything, because the computer remembers. You’re never lost.”

Yeah, a little scary.  What if I want to get lost? Go off the grid, as it were? Remember, this is the same guy that recommended that people change their name if they wanted to escape their online activities.

(Thanks to Josh Blackman for the tip, and for a great blog, too.)

Thinking about returning that prom dress? Think again.

Prom dress

Image by ricklibrarian via Flickr

Thinking about returning that prom dress?  Think again, says Ian Ayres, professor of law and economics at Yale and Freakonomics contributor. You’re committing fraud, he says.  And that text book you purchased at the campus book store while waiting for the cheaper one to arrive from Amazon, all the while planning on returning the more expensive copy to the book store?  That’s fraudulent, too.

The law frowns upon people who make a promise that they don’t intend to perform.  If you commit promissory fraud, you can be tagged in many states with punitive damages, and you can be prosecuted for the crime of false promise.

What is promissory fraud?  Black’s Dictionary defines fraud as “A knowing misrepresentation of the truth or concealment of a material fact to induce another to act to his or her detriment.”  Promissory fraud, also known as a “common-law fraud, is “A promise to perform made when the promisor had no intention of performing the promise.” In this case, the promisor is the purchaser, of the text-book or prom dress, who “promises” to purchase the merchandise, but, taking advantage of easy return policies,  take the now slightly used item back to the store for a full refund.

As one  comment on the topic stated: “both of these items are being purchased for an event that is both finite in duration and singular in occurrence . . . [i]t is customarily or explicitly understood that the buyer will only be permitted to return the item for a refund before the usage occurs.”

Is it a perfect example of promissory fraud?  No.

Buying an item with a present intention of returning it for a full refund does not fit squarely with the elements of promissory fraud.  But it is still a species of fraud.  And you shouldn’t do it.  It’s wrong.

(Thanks to the New York Times and the Freakonomics blog)