In response to the increasing pressure on Google to become more transparent with its policies and protect its users, Google often claims that it does not want to violate your privacy. After congress, EU regulators, the news media, privacy advocacy groups, and average everyday users strongly voiced their concerns over Google’s plans to combine all the personal data it has of you into one unified profile, Google responded by saying that they aren’t collecting any additional information of you. Google claims that they are simply just combining your data from across its many services so that users get a better experience online.
This claim is obviously a load of garbage – nonsense. Although, Google loves to spew out the same old PR talking points to defend consolidating our personal information – the fact is that it certainly does not make for a better user experience at all. What it does do is that it makes for a better and clearer picture of exactly who you are so that Google can sell that information to advertisers. The newest craze in advertising is the obsession with personalized and targeted advertising. The days advertisers used to blast out their ads to the general public are pretty much over with. Now they want to get more efficient with how they position their advertisements by making sure that the people who see a particular ad are the right people who are supposed to see it – people who are more likely to purchase the product. That’s why Google, the biggest advertising-based business in the world, wants to know every little detail about you. A Google spokesman even admitted that the company’s desire is to combat “the faceless web”.
Your personal data is as good as gold to Google. The more they can gather of you and make it more efficient to organize that data, the easier it is to monetize it.
It is important to note that protecting our privacy should not be simply limited to ensuring that certain bits of us do not get exposed. The protection of our privacy, especially in the context of this emerging virtual world, should also be about knowing how our information is shared and to whom. In 2010, Danah Boyd, a fellow at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, wrote an article called “Why Privacy Is Not Dead“. She writes,
“The reason for this disconnect is that in a computational world, privacy is often implemented through access control. Yet privacy is not simply about controlling access. It’s about understanding a social context, having a sense of how our information is passed around by others, and sharing accordingly. As social media mature, we must rethink how we encode privacy into our systems.”
Ms. Boyd wrote that before the launch of Google Plus, but it can definitely be applied to Google too. She’s absolutely correct. We need to not only be worried about whether or not Google is collecting more information of us, in an attempt to control just how deep Google can intrude into our lives, but we should be equally be concerned about how Google is disseminating our information and who gets to see our data.
Also, keep in mind that the combining of data IS collecting more information of us. Google does not necessarily need to dig deeper into our lives to know more about us – the intrusive act of piecing together bits and pieces of us to create a completed puzzle image of us IS, indeed, new information. Therefore, the act of consolidating our personal data is an attempt to retrieve more information about us and further destroy any trace of anonymity.
So the next time you read about or hear another Google employee spewing out the same old lines about how we shouldn’t worry because they aren’t collecting any additional information of us but only combining information – you should be concerned. Red flags should immediately be going off.
The way Google uses information of you and what they collect of you should be made crystal clear. All we get from Google now is ambiguity, confusion, and disingenuous comments. Google needs to come clean and speak the whole truth and nothing but the truth – and yes, lying by omission is still a lie!
I highly recommend you read all three of these fantastic articles below. They all relate to one another. All three articles bring up another important point against the combining of personal information. The consolidation of our personal data does not let us modify our behavior based on where we are. In life, we don’t just have one persona, we have multiply personas. The way you speak and act changes to adapt to different people and environments. Combining our information is an attack on personal freedom; it limits how one can express herself/himself and how one can reinvent herself/himself:
Danah Boyd’s “Why Privacy Is Not Dead” – Click Here
New York Times “T.M.I.- I Don’t Want To Know” – Click Here