Chas' Compilation

A compilation of information and links regarding assorted subjects: politics, religion, science, computers, health, movies, music... essentially whatever I'm reading about, working on or experiencing in life.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

What "do no evil" Google Knows about You

And what it does with it:

Google knows too much about you
(CNN) -- If you use Google, and I know you do, you may have noticed a little banner popping up at the top of the page announcing: "We're changing our privacy policy and terms." It gives you the choice to "Learn More" or, another option, the one I'm betting most people followed, to "Dismiss."

Who wants to read about what Google plans to do with all that information it has about us?

[...]

If Americans -- or people anywhere -- decided to take up Google's offer to check out its new policy, they would discover something so troubling, so frightening, really, that it would override the national tendency to leave companies alone to make money how they see fit. At least in the case of companies such as Google -- and now Facebook -- which know more about us than even our closest friends.

Here's what Google knows about you, what it stores right there on its servers, waiting for a hacker:

Google has every e-mail you ever sent or received on Gmail. It has every search you ever made, the contents of every chat you ever had over Google Talk. It holds a record of every telephone conversation you had using Google Voice, it knows every Google Alert you've set up. It has your Google Calendar with all content going back as far as you've used it, including everything you've done every day since then. It knows your contact list with all the information you may have included about yourself and the people you know. It has your Picasa pictures, your news page configuration, indicating what topics you're most interested in. And so on.

If you ever used Google while logged in to your account to search for a person, a symptom, a medical side effect, a political idea; if you ever gossiped using one of Google's services, all of this is on Google's servers. And thanks to the magic of Google's algorithms, it is easy to sift through the information because Google search works like a charm. Google can even track searches on your computer when you're not logged in for up to six months.

Facebook has even more interesting stuff: your pictures, your comments, your likes, your friends, your un-friends.

[...]

Google's famous motto is "do no evil." I won't accuse Google of deliberately doing evil. It has done much to improve our lives. It makes no secret of the fact that it seeks to make profits, which it richly deserves. I do believe, however, that it deliberately tries to deceive us when it claims the new privacy policy seeks "to provide you with as much transparency and choice as possible."

I followed the instructions and with some difficulty eventually downloaded pages upon pages of personal material about myself from Google. What I was looking for was a simple, shall we say beautiful, button telling Google not to save anything I don't explicitly want it to save. But there was no such button.

Google, like Facebook, owns trillions if not quadrillions-plus bits of information. They mine it, use it to sell ads, algorithm it. But my real fear is not Google. My real fear is that computer technology has turned into an arms race between good guys and bad guys. Google may see itself as a jaunty white hat wearer, valiantly protecting all our information. And it may be doing it to the best of its ability. But hackers are hard at work all the time. [...]

Is the concept of privacy, as we've known it, destine to become a thing of the past?

Read the whole thing for embedded links, and more about what is being attempted to contain this collection and use of personal data.

And here is something you can do, before March 1st:

How to delete your Google browsing history in three simple steps . . . before it's too late to hide your secrets


Also see:

Social Media Dangers in our Brave New World

Are Facebook's "Social Plugins" making the service less popular with older users?
     

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