Tablet PC Thoughts

Friday, February 03, 2006

Google? Privacy? Yeah ... sure ...

Since the beginning of Google, I have always been reluctant to allow cookies from their site. I've also been reluctant to heavily use many of their other services. Part of this has been my understanding of their overall architecture, and knowing that they could choose to store a whole lot of information about me. Is this just paranoia? No ... it is because of my understanding of the inevitable. I fully understand and accept that I'm just delaying the inevitable ... and so it's just my little game with the giant Google.

So what am I talking about? It's the fact that computers are getting to be so pervasive, and their ability to gather information about us, and create profiles, exceeds our own abilities to distinguish our own behaviors. We all have certain predictable behaviors, many of which we are aware of. We also all have behaviors that we are not aware of ... that become predictable to others who gather enough information about us. Computer systems are able to gather large amounts of information, and mine that information for patterns that we are not even aware of.

I often use the simple example of grocery stores and their "discount" or "members" cards. Yeah ... just sign up, allow the grocery store to gather information about everything that you have ever bought, and they'll give you a little discount. C'mon ... what could it hurt? Honestly, I'm not sure how it could hurt ... but I have thought through the amazing amount of behavioral data that they could gather from you. The potential for them to then prey upon your undistinguished behaviors and reactions grows quickly. They know what day you buy what. They know what aisle and shelf it was on when you bought it. They know the color of the packaging when you bought it. They know the messages printed on the packaging when you bought. They know the weather, the time of day, and the phase of the moon. Your grocery store knows much more about your buying patterns that you would ever think of.

And Google? Uh huh ... they know your on-line behaviors. Big time. According to this article FAQ: When Google is not your friend they have been recording everything that they can. Of course they have been ... storage is cheap, and only getting cheaper. They know every search you have done, and when you did it, and what Google Ads that you might have clicked on from the results. So what? Yeah ... I'm not immediately sure of the impact on my life, however it is interesting to think about what Google can start to know about you, and who you are, by all of this data. When are you on-line. When do you search for what. What kinds of Google Ads attract your attention. Where do you search from. To me ... this is pretty amazing. When you begin to think about mining this huge volume of data it seems to me that some interesting patterns have to emerge. Google can begin to know a lot about you, your interests and undistinguished behaviors. Google ... knows who you really are. Google ... knows your true identity.

Oh yeah ... you use Gmail? Google Groups? Google News? Google Alerts? Google Maps? Holy cow ... they have a whole lot on you! :-)

What is so funny to me is when people are all up in arms about the "government" and what "they" can find out about you. The article above really touches on an ironic twist. The government can find out all about you ... as soon as they get it from Google. You see, you have been giving your privacy away to Google and don't complain a bit. How could a company with a motto: Do no evil! do anything wrong with all of this information they are gathering about you? Well, I guess that we'll see. It's all inevitable ... if it isn't Google ... it'll end up being yet another company. The pervasiveness of the Internet, computers, cameras, sensors, and all things technological is merely the solidifying of the next substrate. The technologic substrate is forming all around us. The singularity is coming ... and Google is just an example of the evidence.


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