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Is this scary or what?
Google’s overall goal is to have a record of every e-mail we have ever written, every contact whose details we have recorded, every file we have created, every picture we have taken and saved, every appointment we have made, every website we have visited, every search query we have typed into its home page, every ad we have clicked on, and everything we have bought online. It wants to know and record where we have been and, thanks to our search history of airlines, car-hire firms and MapQuest, where we are going in the future and when.
Would this effort make the World a better place or is there some Orwellian motive? I can't help thinking that 10 or 15 years ago any such "goal" would have created a Universal uproar.
Rearrange the following well known phrase ... "watching - brother - is - big".
There are global pressures at the highest levels in both directions - both for personal protection and for data collection. Google's position is that your participation with them is both optional and protected. The infamous AOL data leak of last year showed that privacy can be violated through accident, and even when data is anonymized.
Here's the reality that we already live with: much of our "private" information is collected by various organizations anyway - and it has been this way for years. Whether the data is collected by Google, by various government agencies or by other private third parties, this is our present reality. Google's intentions may well be the most benign of the bunch!
Google's intentions may well be the most benign of the bunch!
Ted, you may be right, but you are presumably talking about Google as it is now. What happens five, ten or twenty years down the line when the new board of directors decides that the information they have collected can somehow be used legally to generate further profits?
I know I keep harping on about this but with the China capitulation a couple of years ago Google have already clearly illustrated that "Don't be Evil" only applies when it suits them. I am not talking about Page and Brin here. These guys were genuine visionaries but decisions like these will be out of their hands in future.
As I said ... a scary prospect and one that would have been inconceivable (if not illegal) just a few years ago. I am afraid that I would not trust any commercial company with all that information. Read again ...
every e-mail we have ever written
every contact whose details we have recorded
every file we have created
every picture we have taken and saved
every appointment we have made
every website we have visited
every search query we have typed into its home page
every ad we have clicked on
everything we have bought online
it wants to know and record where we have been and, thanks to our search history of airlines, car-hire firms and MapQuest, where we are going in the future and when.
I think I would be right in saying that no single organisation currently holds anything like that amount of information. If it was discovered that your government or mine tried to do this there would be a revolution.
What worries me more is that the search engine "market" is more and more a monopoly.
So, Google's assertion that your participation is "voluntary" is like my electricity company saying "your connection to our electric grid is completely voluntary - we'll just shut your lights off if you don't do as we say".
Given this, I think people who are worried about their privacy should do everything they can to confuse the Big Brother. Create several gmail accounts for different purposes, don't store your search history, use IP proxies whenever possible and always clean out your cookies. If Google is genuinely trying to collect data only to make their services better, this shouldn't worry them the least bit.
A employer from google once said, we even want to be able to pick the job that best fit the users.
Think LOGIC here, a company with such BIG power is a tread to all, dont get paranoid but just think about it, I can say I really have NEVER used anything els then the search.
The final piece of the Google future is called “cloud computing”. Instead of using the internet to search for information that we then copy and use to work on documents stored on the hard drives of our computers, using the software on those computers, Google wants us to create all our documents online, to work on them online using Google’s web-based software, and to store them online on Google’s vast global network of servers. Google has recently launched its own web-based software programs – called Google Apps – that enable us to create password-protected word files and spreadsheets, edit them and store them online. These applications – along with Gmail, Calendar, Google’s online diary, Picasa, its picture-management and storage system, and Presentations, its online version of PowerPoint – mean Google will provide all our computing and storage needs, not on our PCs but, as Mayer puts it, “in the computational cloud”.
Google’s overall goal is to have a record of every e-mail we have ever written, every contact whose details we have recorded, every file we have created, every picture we have taken and saved, every appointment we have made, every website we have visited, every search query we have typed into its home page, every ad we have clicked on, and everything we have bought online. It wants to know and record where we have been and, thanks to our search history of airlines, car-hire firms and MapQuest, where we are going in the future and when...
Welcome to Googletopia.
Having that much information available on individuals is truly frightening. One thing to consider is that Google uses a lot of distributed processing. They were talking a while back about putting trailers full of computers in neighborhoods for distributed processing. With that type of architecture, I would think that it would be easier to get the data.
Also, consider that they appear to have made a huge mistake with verification on the webmaster tools. I got a bunch of notices today that sites showing a 200 for pages not found could not be verified with via an uploaded page.. Cool.. I've been verified that way for quite a while. Apparently, that was not secure.
The potential for abuse is horrific. Already google has shown evidence of leaning a particular way politically. Consider that you can't run adsense on gun related sites. Guns are legal in almost all of the US.. Ok, so it's their ballgame but it shows their leanings. Also, consider that they yanked the ads critical of the organization that took out the ad slamming General Petreus. (they did reverse themselves later I believe).
Can this info be available to people who would use it maliciously? Easily...
Gee, you run for office and you are on the wrong side of the political fence from the current google board. All of a sudden a list of the the p_rn you surfed is given to the media. The letter from an ex girlfriend saying what a jerk you are gets publicised. The non politically correct jokes you emailed to your brother or best friend are on page 1 of the new york times. The results of a blood test showing an StD are suddenly revealed... Yep, I really feel comfortable with one organization having all that data...(btw that was all hypothetical.. I have absolutely no skeletons whatever in my closet /straightface)
Oh well, maybe I should drop out and join the Amish.. Change my name to Stoltzfus and spend my days guiding a horse drawn plow through the fields....
Oh well, maybe I should drop out and join the Amish.. Change my name to Stoltzfus and spend my days guiding a horse drawn plow through the fields....
Frankly, I don't think this will be necessary because the "future" described in the article will never materialize. I think, Google is making several mistakes with their vision. Their mistakes are in:
a) Their insistence on collecting so much information. How much of it is ultimately useful? Perhaps a very small percentage. But aggregating, storing and developing algorithms to parse and data mine it will be expensive. Will we really click (or perform any other action they might yet invent) that much more when they know everything about us? I doubt it. Above all, I doubt that the ROI will be sufficiently high to justify all this.
b) Looking at any problem only as a technical challenge, essentially ignoring ALL the other dimensions - social, legal, etc. I don't think this can be changed (definitely not quickly) because it's wired in the company's DNA, but the consequence of that is that they'll stumble more and more.
c) Underestimating the backlash from the general public.
d) Underestimating the backlash from webmasters. I realize that in their vision we won't matter very much because Google will be searching everything - and probably less and less just web content. But that vision is still years away and for now, they're known as a WEB search engine. It's only as good as the sites that come up in results (i.e. the sites that allowed themselves to be spidered by that engine).
If they write us off as a vestige of the "old Internet", they'll be making the same mistake as Yahoo in the 1990's: Yahoo jumped too fast to the conclusion that search won't matter in the future. Google seems to be thinking that web sites won't matter - they want to be indexing our documents, public records, all kinds of books and even personal diaries. Let's see if it's really as useful as simply indexing THE WEB. I doubt it.
e) Overestimating their technical competence. Google is not perfect. Its results are riddled with crap and let's face it - any engine that doesn't even know who wrote a piece of content and who copied it is not very sophisticated. Better than other engines - sure, but not that good, either.
Now that their engineers are leaving for hotter startups, will Google have enough brainpower to manage their growth and their supersized ambitions?
Underestimating the backlash from the general public.
This may be the most important point. The vast majority of people know nothing about this yet. When the "anti brigade" bandwagon starts rolling it could be difficult to stop.
Google however have the advantage since they will no doubt have their PR people already working on the "answers" when the protests start. They better have because this could create massive bad press for them. The initial concerns that are being expressed now are probably only the tip of the iceberg.
The other thing is that governments and legal authorities could perhaps force them to release all this information on people when they require it. I think it's just too much information for any single authority to control.
The other thing is that governments and legal authorities could perhaps force them to release all this information on people when they require it.
Don't forget the 'shark-in-a-suit' brigade - aka lawyers. I have one of those EZPass things that lets you get through the tolls faster. Every entrance and exit on a toll road or bridge is recorded. Lawyers are now suing to get that info, especially for divorce cases.
I think it's a matter of time before lawyers realize the amount of data they can get. As far as the time required to sift through it, they bill by the hour so the more the merrier for both sides..
I'm not sure about the backlash part though.. In the US, people are being turned into spineless castrati. A majority of people will be more interested in who wins survivor.
I did work with a guy when I was a civilian with the navy 2 decades back. He refused to put his social security number on his travel orders and travel refused to pay. It went up through our captain and admiral, to NAVSUP, then to the senate armed services committee. The answer came all the way back down... "Pay him and no, he doesn't have to put his ssn on the form"... How many people would take a chance on their careers by sticking their necks that far out? (BTW - he got a promotion to FEMA not long afterwards)
The good thing is that a lot of the IT people are more or less independent thinkers and might be motivated to try some rebellion. I wonder how many people will lose their adsense accounts in the process?
Lawyers are now suing to get that info, especially for divorce cases
That speeding ticket is technically part of the "public record", so it's not a perfect analogy, but nonetheless your point is well taken -- NOTHING is guaranteed to remain private anymore. Not when there are lawyers and $$ involved.
First, most of the Google services are not widely accepted. They are just a try to find the next gold mine. These services also help to disguise the fact that they are a search with ads. Nothing more.
Second, there will be the next Google, i.e. a search engine coded by some geniuses in India, China, South Africa, or maybe even Silicon Valley. If search promises to be profitable, it will become more and more appealing for investors and startups.
Third, at some point there may be anti-trust lawsuits. After all, someone will stop Google.
What happens five, ten or twenty years down the line when the new board of directors decides that the information they have collected can somehow be used legally to generate further profits?
Page, Brin, and Schmidt will have complete control over Google for the foreseeable future. Unless something really drastic happens.
They structured Google's IPO so their shares have 10x more votes than normal ones. So between the three of them, they control 70% of the voting shares of the company.
[edited by: Sharpseo at 8:33 pm (utc) on Oct. 23, 2007]
They didn't seem to want to IPO, they thumb their noses at Wall street, most of the projects that launch don't have any direct correlation to revenue. It's all just about collecting your personal data. But if you took away their billions, you probaly wouldn't see them so anxious to have their lives captured and recorded by Microsoft.
For a group of people who want to harvest everyone’s lives and make them available to everyone, the Google folks are incredibly private.
It's not that most of this info isn't out there in some database somewhere, it's that it hasn't been collected and organized yet.
It's also why Google will in all likelihood absolutely crush Microsoft, unless at some point they decide to team and create the largest information clearinghouse ever. Microsoft thinks in terms of money, in terms of products, in terms of competing with Google, Yahoo!, whoever. MSFT just doesn't get Google.
“Yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should.”
From Jurassic Park kinda sums it up.
Once they put all that stuff together, there is no going back.
If Google wants to do it and truly belives that people will agree with their vision, then in big bold type they should tell you exactly what they collect how they combine it and how long it is stored and let people make up their own minds.
If you want Google to keep a digital record of every aspect of your life, that should be between you and Google and you should have total control over what gets stored in there and there is nothing wrong with that so long as you really consent to it.
Yes, very true. When the general public finds out and knows it may be a different story.
Maybe but in Britain for example you will get the "Do you feel guilty" line. Here you have a CCTV nearly everywhere, numberplate reading robots in central London and elsewhere, websites that track your mobile (cell). Once a tax woman phoned me on my new pay as you go cause I owed them £50. She just tried the phones she triangulated at my postcode. You know your emails and phones are anyway screened cause of terrorism, and somehow, somehow you get used to it..
In Germany they discuss if they scan your computer if you are a terrorist. Interestingly enough though one court in Germany ruled though that IP adresses are not be displayed in public (ie an anonymous WP edit).
Additionally what Google does, the competition will do too I guess.
Recently I discovered the wee field where the Goooostapo saves my searches unasked and switched it off, millions of others won't even notice. I also tend to now search on Yahoo when I ie research for this forum. Currently logged into yahoo is my gf.. But that's me.
Joe the Butcher won't likely care, does not understand nor needs to understand what you can do with data..
Does Joe really give a damn, if his visit to find the cheapest freezer is recorded, that a profile is built of him and that he is manipulated.
Google et al want easy manilpulated consumers and can easily discount some lefty liberals that lets face are anyway moaning penny pinchers..
I am not talking about Page and Brin here. These guys were genuine visionaries
I think you fell victim to spin here.
The algo existed and worked in a University setting, IE University of Berlin. The guys that gave us our search at that time did exactly the same thing, backlinks. It's a short term strategy that works in an honest world. Game theory see hawk and dove.
The genius was if at all with the guy that gave them money and certainly in their determination and implementation. While the one guys in Germany tried to struggle to convince some university officials to give them more money the others had some serious money and risk takers behind them. Maybe their genius lie in asking the right person. That's still not a vision.There is doubtlessly a perfect exploitation of human psychology, easy search box, with no frills attached, no brain needed as in altavista, speedy etc. No intrusive ads, clever doubtlessly but still no vision.
The only vision I heared is that they want to prepredict everything you search.. hmm ..Well 1984 was written a lot earlier ..1945-48.
So hmm vision hmm collect and order all information and prepredict everybodies behaviour then control them into behaviour I want for my bosses, shareholders, adwords customres. Reminds you somehow of an intelligence service, old ideas ..
That privacy moaning will work in Googles favour. They will say we are nice cuddly Googlers give you a button to opt out and all that haven't opted out are exactly the easy manipulated sheep that drive a large proportion of commerce.
They didn't seem to want to IPO, they thumb their noses at Wall street, most of the projects that launch don't have any direct correlation to revenue. It's all just about collecting your personal data.#
That's what scientists do. Ie Francis Galton, the forfather of Biometrics (essentially what Google does) and cofounder of nature counted all stones in Westminster Abbey just for fun. Incidently he proved in the 19th century that prayer is inefficient and invented a couple of other stuff (fingerprints, statistics). One smashing idea was selective breeding of humans. In victorian times and early Edwardian times, Eugenics was not a bad idea, it was a new vision. Especially when all the soldiers in the Boer War were deemed unfit it became en vogue.
Galton wasn't a bad guy, he really believed that by selectively breeding for INTELLIGENT (not for other traits later attributed to the term Eugenics) people that he would do something good for humanity. Dumb people were to be sent to nice places. He called his utopia kanneseawhere or something stupid. His best pal was Pearson, the one with correlation coefficient. He was imo the aggressive one. Sadly Galtons good yet typically arrogant victorian intentions in biometrics were later abused as we all know. Galtons cousin was Charles Darwin btw. They were elite at the time. Stanford et al probably see themselves as elite. Obviously I am not trying to imply that Google wants to selectively breed anyone, but they use biometrics in a pretty ruthless and uncontrolled manner, which is what I try to get here at. Normal biometrics these days are used to predict illnesses, population developments. That someone basically wants to analyse, predict and use the planets population behavioural data to sell ads is a pretty new scale I would say.
I am not sure if most people besides lame private issues do actually grasp the scale of what they try to do. Already now they have the power tom control a large portion of the global economy. If they can predict what you want they can also alter the search and direct your life. Does Google employee 1289 have bad intentions, no, but maybe Google employee 1378 had a bad day needs to show he is innovative, his department didn't make a profit and so the notch is pushed a bit up from delivering a good service to outright manipulation.
History has a weird habit of repeating itsself. Wonder if they are elite enough to understand this .. ;) Bit like Tony and Georgy boy repeating essentially the WW1 troubles in Iraq. Good intentions eh...
Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and Google is openly persuing just that. The problem is their simply being honest about it, others are following suit without saying so.
Fact: your information has NEVER been less safe than it is today and tommorow isn't looking so hot either.
All over what? thats easy, access to your wallet. Button them up folks.
That someone basically wants to analyse, predict and use the planets population behavioural data to sell ads is a pretty new scale I would say.
Database "overlays" for exactly this purpose have been around for a couple decades at least in the direct mail and catalog industries in the US - and the results can be spookily pinpointed. So Google's goal here is not new, although both the scale and fine detail of information are expanded.
Interesting note: according to Bloomberg, "The European Union's review of Google Inc.'s $3.1 billion bid for DoubleClick Inc. will focus on the competition aspects of the deal, not privacy issues..." (Full Article [bloomberg.com])
Sept 2007 -
"..Google Chief Legal Officer David Drummond said the purchase will spur competition and protect consumers' privacy[bloomberg.com...]
I guess by "protecting", (consumers' privacy), he meant protecting it from anyone but Google getting all the ad tracking data (and profit).
Privacy groups debate DoubleClick settlement
The means were even more devious -- with DoubleClick settling and agreeing to not combine tracking data from multiple clients, (e.g.- if "BigDude1" surfs to site bigshoes.tld and buys a pair of size 13, then anonymously visits a dating site which display DoubleClick ads, he should not get solicited to purchase something from the GalsWhoLikesEmBig.zzz).
Do you think Google / Adwords doesn't know where you been and where you might go next -- if prompted by an ad?
DoubleClick tried to go even further:
"...The states' investigation came about after DoubleClick's acquisition of Abacus Direct in 1999, and the firm's announced plans to link its new offline, personally identifiable consumer profiles to online tracking data. In the wake of the announcement, consumers filed lawsuits..."
Ok, so having one of the oldest cookie baking, pixel planting, user profiling, ad serving giants, one who already lost civil class action suits for privacy related charges --- having them hitched up to Google's wagon is a good thing?