I’d like to start this post with a proposal to our good friends at Google: Come up with an application called “Google Open” in which all of its uses of the data gathered on its gazillion other applications are known to the public. The company loves to use common vernacular in its other programs — eg. “Hooray, no spam here! on Gmail. It could simply explain its policies on the information it keeps on its infinite amount of network space.
While although virtually everyone uses Google applications of some variety — I use four main ones on a constant basis — all those who address the issue of Internet privacy seem on edge about what Google has up its sleeve. The CNBC presentation in 2006 of “Big Brother, Big Business” (brought to you by Google Videos, of course) mentions the possibility of the online giant one day selling the personal profiles of its users to retailers and other private agencies. It should be noted that Google turned down the show’s request to be interviewed whereas other representatives of other private information gathering systems such as Axciom and Verint Systems did not.
A 2004 article in the The New York Times, “To Aim Ads, Web Is Keeping Closer Eye On You” by Louise Story serves as a foreshadowing of such possible activity by Google and other search engines: “The Web companies may prove they can use their algorithms and consumer information to better select which ads for visitors better than media companies can.”
Now that’s pretty much a proven fact.
I also found the following quote very interesting from a man who is considered one of the forefathers of biometrics technology, Joseph Atick, who is now the executive vice president and chief strategic officer of L-1 Identity Solutions: “Big Brother is a concern. Big Brother, if let and allowed to happen, will happen. And our job as responsible humans in society is to make sure that does not occur.”
With Google and others being allowed legally to keep quiet, Big Brother is being allowed to happen. And as citizens of this planet, we should not be happy about that.
The solution? Not clear. In this day and age, saying you’re going to boycott Google is like saying you’re going to boycott high fructose corn syrup. It’s everywhere. I, for one, am a proponent of what is suggested in the CNBC video: calling our local legislators about the issue. At least that would be a start in the right direction of forcing more a different kind of open, two-way discussion in the realm of interactive communication: the one between us and the giant companies that help us navigate through life.