So the previous posting on Google’s impact on privacy got Dugg yesterday (nearly 700 times) and the comments on both Digg and here have been, to say the least, entertaining and somewhat enlightening.
First, I’m apparently a paranoid conspiracy theorist who is freaking out for nothing. This may be true. I’m not even going to bother trying to convince anyone otherwise. I’ll only look more paranoid.
Nevertheless, the argument often brought up about how our privacy is compromised everywhere (online, credit cards, mobile phones, etc.) and that it’s unfair to single out Google has some merit. What I think people are missing about Google is that there is very little prerequisite to using its various services. We have to do a fair amount of work to sign up for a mobile phone or credit card (though it is getting a lot easier). Also, these are very often specialized services. While Amazon is gathering a lot about my buying habits, it’s fairly limited to just that.
Google on the other hand is trying to be everywhere. It wants you to search, shop, write, store, email, chat, publish, sms…and the list goes on. They want to be everywhere because they have to keep growing. And they’ve made it very clear that their ambitions are not small by any means.
The other observation I’d make is how many people (to my surprise) strongly defended Google. It’s testament to the loyalty and trust they’ve been able to generate thus far. People genuinely believe that Google is going to do the right thing. And for me, that’s the rub. The “right thing” lies in a very murky, subjective place. Will Google sell your habits and content to a cartel in Central America? Obviously not. Will they triangulate your search habits, documents and emails to deliver a targeted ad? Probably. Is that bad? That’s up to the person I suppose. But I’m guessing that for most, they wouldn’t even guess that Google was doing such a thing. It’s nearly impossible for Google to convey all the things they’re doing with our data in a clear and concise way.
So it’s up to us to have some faith or simply stay away.