I lead a double life as I’m sure most of us do these days. We’re on the internet doing our thing, whatever that might be. Meanwhile the gods hover overhead controlling the maze in which we find ourselves. We’re mice looking for that tasty morsel, that “feel-good moment,” which momentarily quiets our brain in its perpetual hunt for satisfaction.
Addicted to social networking is putting it mildly. We’re as committed to the internet as we are to the automobile and foreign gas. Yes, there are those who have managed to side-step both life altering inventions, but they are decidedly in the minority. But I would venture to guess that they too are affected, just as non-smokers are by second-hand smoke.
According to Webster, “Cancer…1. a malignant growth or tumor that tends to spread. 2. any evil that spreads destructively. …” I liken the pervasive invasion of Google and Facebook into our privacy like a cancer that can only have dire consequences. And just as a victim of the dreaded disease is never certain of his prognosis, so too we users of the internet might be viewed as lambs led to slaughter. When and where we meet with our destruction is yet to be seen.
You can draw your own conclusions from the following Wall Street Journal article in today’s paper.
Google Widens Its Tracks
by Julia Angwin
In a move that could make it harder for Google users to remain anonymous, Google Inc. said it would start combining nearly all the information it has on its users.
This could mean, for instance, that when users search via Google, the company will use their activities on sister sites like Gmail and YouTube to influence those users’ search results. Google hasn’t done that before.
Google traditionally hasn’t had the same amount of personal data about its users, and has kept much of its personal data separate.
But as Facebook gears up for its planned initial public offering this year, Google has amped up the competition.
Last year, Google launched its own social network, called Google+ in members’ search results. Google’s latest move would allow the company to include insights from services such as Gmail and YouTube to search results as well.
This could effectively rewrite the relationship between users and the world’s most-popular search engine.
Google has long treated users’ search queries as sacrosanct–in part because they can contain very personal sensitive information–about topics such as health and finances.
In June, at The Wall Street Journal’s All Things Digital conference, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt said, “Google will remain a place where you can do anonymous searches. We’re very committed to having you have control over the information we have about you. So, for example, if you want to continue to use Google and don’t log in, and don’t tell us who you are, that will continue to be true forever.”
Mr. Schmidt’s statement would remain true for people who aren’t logged into a Gmail, Google+, YouTube, Android phone or an other Google account. But as Google’s services become more ubiquitous and deeply linked, it could become more difficult for users to take Google up on that promise of anonymity.
“Google now watches consumers practically everywhere they go on the Web–and in real life, when using a mobile phone,” said Christopher Soghoian, an independent privacy and security researcher in Washington D.C. “No single entity should be trusted with this much sensitive data.”
Google said that it isn’t collecting any new information, just combining it to provide better service to customers. For example, the company said that it could alert a user that he is going to be late to a meeting based on Google’s analysis of the user’s location, calendar and analysis of traffic on the road to the meeting.
“We’ll treat you as a single user across all our products, which will mean a simpler, more intuitive Google experience,” Alma Whitten, Google’s director of privacy, product and engineering, wrote on the company’s blog.
Google added that it would continue its policy of not combining user’s personal information with data about their Web browsing collected by its DoubleClick advertising network.
The company last year signed a privacy agreement with the Federal Trade Commission. The settlement requires Google to ask users for permission before changing some of its privacy settings and requires the company to submit to privacy audits for 20 years.
This month, the company launched an advertising campaign touting its commitment to privacy.
Google until recently refrained from aggressively exploiting its own data about internet users to show them online ads tailored to their interests, fearing a backlash. But the rapid emergence of rivals such as Facebook has caused it to change its policy over time.
In 2009 Google for the first time started collecting a new type of data about the websites people visit, and using it to track and show them ads across the Internet.
Last June, the company launched Google+, which was intended to rival Facebook, Twitter Inc. and other social-media companies whose users have willingly provided information about themselves.
With Tuesday’s changes, Google is “setting the stage for one-upping” Facebook in terms of being able to better target online ads to website visitors based on what it knows about their interests, said Brian Kennish, a former Google programmer who runs Disconnect Inc., a firm that offers software to block Google and other companies that collect information about Web users.
(–Amir Efrati contributed to this article)
Makes me think of former New York Governor, Elliott Spitzer. He trolled the internet seeking sexual favors from women on online sites. I’m sure it’s safe to assume there are millions of men who do the same. What they do in the privacy of their own homes is their business…or is it? Not anymore it seems. Google is now the all knowing eye. Will it give up its information for money? To buy political favors? To get the Feds off its back? Who knows?
Our privacy is no longer sacrosanct. It’s in jeopardy of being relinquished to the highest bidder, which in this case…are the deep pockets of the almighty advertisers. They want to know what we want…so they can sell us more of the same. A vicious cycle over which we’ve ultimate control. Or do we?
We seem willing pawns in the battle of the gods. All of this may seem far-fetched, and I may be the one who cried wolf once too often. My voice is lost amidst the din consuming the internet. I’m just Chicken Little running around shouting “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” And the resounding response? Silence.
Even i have no idea what it is we should do…
…tomorrow…i’ll think about it…tomorrow…
Come March, it should make for good copy… I’m waiting to see. 😉
Google is already preparing users for the changes. I saw something to that effect as I went browsing earlier today. Seemed to say a lot…but nothing very substantive about protecting users’ privacy. Again, it’s up to we users to make up our own minds as to what we’ll do. Seems likely…we’ll just mosey along…business as usual. Hard to stop…once we start.
It seems that Big Brother, Big Sister, Uncle Sam and their minions on the Internet are all keeping an eye on us. It’s disconcerting to read and write e-mails to friends or family members and notice ads in the margins that either offer products or services mentioned in an e-mail or directions to a place alluded to in an e-mail. Thanks for reminding us that sending an e-mail or posting comments and opinion on a social network site (or even this site?) may not seem as innocent and could ultimately come back to haunt us.
Like a Harry Potter film of our own making. We know what the end will be, but somehow we can’t stop ourselves from proceeding…through the darkened cave, bats hanging overhead…across the rickety, wooden bridge, home to trolls and the like…round the curve in the bend, where gargoyles lie in wait… What’s wrong with us? 😉