Google's growth makes privacy advocates wary

Submitted by reellis67 on Fri, 11/07/2008 - 14:33

Most people today appear to me to love Google, but how much do people really know about this 'indispensable' tool? I'm not going to post an extended rant about how evil Google is in some people's eyes, but I do think that this AP story is worthy of consideration, especially considering the integration that Google is developing with libraries.

Google's growth makes privacy advocates wary


This article discusses how information that is collected by Google could be used in violation of current privacy statutes. Some Google tools, such as their Chrome web browser transmit your keystrokes before you press the Enter key. This information is then analyzed by their systems to predict your search terms and offer suggestions. There is an option to turn this feature off, but the activity still occurs, just without user notification, giving the sense that web activity is now 'private'. Along with the information typed into the web browser, your computers Internet address is also recorded, creating a history much like what is visible in your local web browser, but on their servers.

Key concepts from the article:

"It's about having a monopoly over our personal information, which, if it falls into the wrong hands, could be used in a very dangerous way against us,"

“Court says that with all its products, Google has more opportunities than its peers to capture personal information without users realizing it. “

What does this mean? Well, it depends on whether you consider the best possible use of a tool, or the worst. In the best case scenario, the one that Google is presenting to the interviewer of this article, they are using this information to better serve the user, customizing the content delivered to that user based on their usage history. In the worst case, you have a company that is monitoring everything that you type, even if you decide not to perform the search, using that information to develop a profile of each user, which could then be requested from the FBI to profile you, all of which happens without your knowledge.

Is that necessarily a bad thing? Won't it help catch people doing wrong, breaking the law, researching terrorism? Again, it all depends on if you are a person who looks only at the positives or a person who looks only at the negatives, or rarer still, someone who considers all the possibilities and judges accordingly. Yes, this information could be used to do good, but it could also be used to market you, without your consent or ability to decline participation, used to develop a profile of you by skirting laws that protect you from just such an activity, and which could be used to build a monopoly on personal information. In the end, it is something that we each must consider for ourselves and act accordingly, but regardless of how you interpret this action, and these tools, you must consider how it impacts your rights, both civil and human...

Further Reading:

Center for Digital Democracy

Consumer Watchdog