Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Do No Evil -- Please?

So, Google owns the world of search (and more) - and keeps a lot of "identifiable" information on everyone every time they perform a search. They track the IP address, search string, and timestamp for every search for 18 months.

They claim it's to help them better optimize the search engine performance and relevance. Given their history as a geek-inspired company, I can believe that. There are a lot of other people that have their panties in a bunch because they are really, really concerned with their privacy. On the web. In a browser.

My knee-jerk reaction would be to tell those Prius-driving-Berkenstock-wearing-tree-huggers to just get over it and go back to mailing letters and using an encyclopedia. Then I got to thinking about how much I use Google tools.

Of course I use search - so they track what I search by, my IP and time stamp.

I use Google Desktop - so in theory they know everything about all my emails (non-gMail), music, chat histories and browser details.

I use Google mail occasionally - and they store all emails indefinitely.

I use Google talk sometimes - so they have a record of what I say and to whom as well as when.

I would be dead without my Google Calendar - so now they know what I'm doing and when - and also whom I know because of whom I chosen to share my calendar with (and all of their details as well).

I also use Google Documents to share and collaborate on (sometimes proprietary) documents rather than sending everything around via email.

I'll admit that I occasionally view You Tube - so they know what I view and what I post.

Hmmmm. Sounds like the NSA's wet dream, if you ask me.

I'm sure they could (I don't know for a fact they do) add one more piece of data to each of those tables - like my Google login ID - and then they would have a pretty picture of me as an individual. Not that I give a rat's ass, mind you.

Yes, there are other search engines - AOL, Yahoo, Alta Vista, Ask.com, etc. and all of them also collect the same kind of information.

BUT, the others don't have the any other cool applications to use - so they really only have a view of surfing habits, while Google has a potentially vast data store on many, many individuals (at least on the IP level).

Like I said earlier, I believe that they are storing all the search stuff for 18 months so they can improve search accuracy, etc, etc. But I hope that an over-inflated stock price and market dominance won't tempt them to do any evil things with all that data...

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