Monday, January 18, 2010

is big google watching you ?

Last week's cover story of the German news magazine Der Spiegel was all about the masses of information that google collects on its users, and the potential threat in that should the company one day go over to the dark side. Some of that really did sound scary, especially the quote from a top executive who didn't seem to have an understanding of the concept of privacy at all.

Personally, I am not worried that much, as I like to believe that my preferences and habits are sufficiently eccentric to confuse all market researchers that care to look at them. Amazon.com has been trying to figure me out for ten years now and aren't any closer to understanding what I really like, or to knowing what I haven't bought yet. They don't even understand that the same person can act as a writer, bookseller, and reader, and that in four different amazon markets (US, UK, France, Germany). So I'm not worried that the google robots, just from managing my blog, will figure out what I'm thinking (*wave to the nice robot*).

But I think that everybody should make sure they think about what information to reveal to whom, and, crucially, not to reveal all to the same company. I.e. if a given company is already handling my email and blog, I wouldn't want them to run my mobile phone and my bank account as well. It's just elementary "don't put all your e-eggs in one e-basket" kind of thing, but I think it can prevent considerable damage should one of the baskets go awol one day. Oh, and for anybody worried about what their search habits may reveal, there is ixquick.com a meta search engine that doesn't record customer details.

And come to think of it, my shiny new phone (not from google) doesn't have an off switch, but it does of course have a microphone and a camera. After reading this article I began to wonder whether the phone was maybe spying on me. Now that would be a big brother type scheme extremely easy to implement. I think the next few years in communications are going to be interesting.

PS some of the Spiegel content is online in English translation, but I don't think this article is.

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