Here are some more developments in the Google/privacy issue since I wrote my original article about Why You Shouldn’t Trust Google.
Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, confirmed what I wrote about Google and privacy in my previous post — Google is not the only one with access to their massive databases of your personal information:
“If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place. If you really need that kind of privacy, the reality is that search engines — including Google — do retain this information for some time and it’s important, for example, that we are all subject in the United States to the Patriot Act and it is possible that all that information could be made available to the authorities.” [Emphasis mine]
Google also released several new products that will give them a shocking amount of new data:
Google Nexus One Phone — Mobile phones with GPS are basically tracking devices that people carry around with them everywhere. (The battle over your privacy about this data is just beginning — does the Government need a search warrant to get access to your precise location at any past point in time? At this point the decision seems to be leaning towards, “no search warrant needed”.)
Where were you at 2:17pm on January 9, 2009? Whoever controls the phone company or smartphone GPS app probably knows the answer within several feet of accuracy. Google takes it further by being able to match your GPS coordinates with your Google Account (required to purchase a Google Phone), which can then be matched to IP addresses, cookies, HTTP headers, and related data in their other databases to construct massively detailed profiles about what you were doing online and even offline.
Phone companies apparently already record your precise location and store the location data for a year or longer. The perspectives of Eric Schmidt and the Justice Department seem to indicate that the Government wants that data, and that search warrants, or other 4th Amendment requirements that US Citizens would normally expect to protect them, don’t apply. My point isn’t that people should not carry around cell phones; my point is that so much personal data should not be concentrated in the hands of a single company.
Google is also launching something called Google Fiber for Communities:
We plan to test ultra-high speed broadband networks in one or more trial locations across the country… We’ll offer service at a competitive price to at least 50,000 and potentially up to 500,000 people.
If Google owns the infrastructure for the Internet, all the data that passes through Google’s servers is presumably accessible to Google (and anyone else with access to their data) for storage and data mining.
UPDATE March 4, 2010: Topeka, Kansas temporarily changes name to Google, Kansas in an attempt to get Google to bring their Google Fiber for Communities program to Topeka.
Google has launched Google Chrome OS which will give Google even more data because it looks like users have to login to the operating system with a Google account (which is linked to much of the other data Google stores about you).
The rumored Gdrive seems to be slowly appearing as part of Google Docs. As Chrome OS is adopted and developed, Google storage of your hard drive files will probably evolve further.
Google Buzz appears to be an attempt at a Facebook-like social networking system where users volunteer to give even more of their private information to Google, including information about personal relationships.
Much of this data is already being collected by different companies. But when it is given to one single company, it’s too much centralization of data.
A common argument about Google and privacy is that, “privacy no longer exists in the age of the Internet.” This is just not true. Those who claim the privacy no longer exists or that privacy is not important don’t understand why there needs to be strong protection for privacy.
“Privacy protects us from abuses by those in power, even if we’re doing nothing wrong at the time of surveillance.”
In the Age of the Internet and mobile devices, privacy is not the same as it was in earlier times — but that doesn’t mean that we should abandon privacy completely. If people do not resist violations of their privacy rights, those rights will continue to be stripped away until it is too late to do anything about it.
- Google Gains Access to Prescription Records (via Mashable)
- Google to Track Your Location by Cellphone
- Google Chrome – a browser with severe privacy issues
- Google to Hand Over Your IP Address and Data to Viacom
- More on Google Privacy
- The 7 Most Pressing Reasons to Control Google & Search not SEO (SEO 2.0)