Do you trust Google?

Do you trust Google?

Summary: Is it possible to innovate without privacy concerns stepping in the way?  Not so far.

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TOPICS: Google
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Is it possible to innovate without privacy concerns stepping in the way?  Not so far.  Some people will trust large companies with their sensitive information and others will continue to be concerned about the use of their data.  The privacy issue is going to become even more central as the next generation search engine s search the Internet, your desktop, and maybe even you.

Search engines like Google have been adding capabilities that attempt to make the search experience more personalized, and convenient for users, by recording your previous searches and tweaking the results based on your history.  They will increasingly rely on personal information to improve the overall search experience.   If the privacy and security issues are overcome, which is dubious at this point unless you think that banks are safe and secure, the information could eventually contain very sensitive information beyond browsing habits and emails,  such as medical records, financial transactions and long term even personal genomes.  Google has been working with several scientists to make information on human genes more accessible, according to "The Google Story" by Washington Post's David Vise.

For more basic scenarios, imagine the ability to ask Google "how much did I spend on food last week and on what specific foods?" The search engine shows you a pie chart of last weeks spending with the slice for "food" highlighted and a chart of the specific foods and their ingredients based on RFID tag info.  Or, after being prescribed a drug from a doctor, it automatically compares the drug against any other medications you are taking, against your own medical data and external sources to determine if it's safe.

Some of the functionality for the spending scenario is available in Quicken, Microsoft Money or from your online banking provider, but why not mash it up with your search engine -- look at food spending by groups and compare costs of those foods to other sources to see if you are spending your food budget money wisely in terms of costs and health using the infrastructure and search intelligence of a Google.

These usage scenarios illustrate what's in store for us and also the challenge in achieving this level of personalization.  I am going to follow up with several posts that examine what the future might look like on the privacy front with regards to the storing of sensitive information, and how Google and other search engine companies may gain the trust of users.  

To achieve this level of personalization, they need to take the "trust us" approach and turn it into a "trust yourself" one.  In my next post, I will attempt explain how search engine privacy may one day be put into the hands of users.

What do you think about the use of your personal information by Google or others to enhance user experience?

Topic: Google

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13 comments
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  • Data privacy and online data stores

    I had recently blogged about the issue of privacy, albeit in a different context.

    I was looking at how users can store their private data online, while at the same time be sure that the data they store is secure and not visible to the public.

    http://www.livejournal.com/users/gauthampai/32628.html
    buzypi@...
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  • Google has zero respect for users' privacy. ZERO.

    As I recently wrote (http://techrepublic.com.com/5254-6257-0.html?forumID=99&threadID=184332&messageID=1887579&id=2926438), Google is becoming quite apyware-esque with some of their applications. Most of their apps, while using personal preferences, or merging datasets in interesting ways are acceptable and ethical, albeit a bit creepy. But the ad system in GMail, where Google inspects your private data is completely unthical. I am sure that most users don't realise that the ads they see in GMail are based upon the content of their email.

    It is one thing to use data that is publically available to generate revenue, such as documents and information on public websites. It is another thing to use private data to generate revenue. How would you feel if Google was able to access Amazon's customer list and purchase history and display ads to you based on what you've bought there (yeah, I know that Amazon does this, but it is absed on data that you provided directly to Amazon, as opposed to data that Google just happens to have available to them, as is the case with GMail)? Or if they were able to display ads to you based upon information that your doctor or lawyer provided to you in confidentiality (which they can do, if your doctor or lawyer emails you at GMail)?

    GMail's use of your private data shows that Google does not respect their users. Their entire "do no evil" mantra is such a crock of lies, and has been so ever since they learned to monetize their traffic. Google needs to be taught a lesson in terms of the boundaries between public data that they harvest from public sources, and private data generated by the users of their various applications. I'm sure that if Google ever made an operating system, they would play ads based on what you do with it, and if they ever released an office suite you would get ads based upon your documents. Is this really what you want?

    The worst part is that everyone thinks that Google is such a saint, just because they aren't Microsoft. Guess again. Google uses/abuses personal data much more than Microsoft's dreaded anti-piracy or crash notification systems ever did.

    J.Ja
    Justin James
    • So don't use GMAIL

      So don't use GMAIL. Heck don't send private information via email. Email is not private. There is a copy of it on the mail servers of your ISP, your company, if it's company email, and every remailer that it passes through.
      You want privacy use sealed envelopes hand delivered by someone you trust, or better yet by yourself.
      Once you give a message to someone else it is no longer truely private. Your phones can be tapped, your snail mail read and you email intercepted.
      That's just the way it is.
      Using a "free" email conduit like Hotmail or GMAIL just makes it easier for other people to read your mail. It puts one more big corporation in your communication loop.
      P.S.
      I complained about HP in a znet post and received a communication from a HP representative at my place a work, at my work email address (which I don't have linked to znet.) So just by posting here you are putting yourself out there.
      carlino
      • True, nothing is private...

        ... but even with email, which gets transmitted in plain text across a public network, there is a reasonable amount of expected privacy. It is extremely rare for someone to go rummaging around my mailbox, despite it sitting on the side of the road unlocked. However, it is quite another thing when a company makes going through your personal data a company policy. Sure, my employer may go through my company email, if all that I am doing at work is work, then it isn't personal. And if I am conducting personal business at work, that is their time that they paid for, so really I don't mind of they go looking through my personal data that I generated at the workplace.

        But to make a snooping of my email a revenue generating policy? No way. And no, I do not, and will never use GMail (introducing GMail! The email service which *just* got virus scanning last week!). If my mail carrier went looking through my bills, and sent that data to companies (I can see it now, getting credit card ads because my girlfriend sent a letter asking me when I'd buy the engagement ring, or getting ads for Viagra because my mailman saw my last test results from my doctor, or whatever), it would be illegal. Why anyone would willingly subject themselves for whatever it is that GMail offers above and beyond Hotmail, Yahoo, or your ISP's email account, I have no idea.

        J.Ja
        Justin James
        • Nobody actually looks

          Even with the ad based system that they use - nobody is actually looking at your mail! It's a program that picks out key words and displays ads using a mathematical formula. It's not like they hire an army of people to sit and read your e-mails one by one and pick ads based on the content! Furthermore, it does happen in the regular mail system to a degree. When I turned 18 I got a package from Gillette in the mail - it was a Mach3 razor. Not an ad, that's true, but somehow they knew that I was, 1)a guy, 2)my address, 3)turning 18. Kinda freaky... Or how about credit card ads? If your credit rating is higher, you get more ads for credit cards than if you have a low rating. How do THEY know? Ever get unsolicited mail before you went to college inviting you to apply for this scholarship or to attend this university. Heck, my college sent me a letter inviting me to study statistics because I took the AP Statistics test. Everything you do is recorded (unless you pay with cash) and all the information is made available to companies. The system Google uses though doesn't result in anything other than the little box ads next to your message. That's a lot less scary then credit card companies knowing my credit score or colleges knowing my AP test scores without me actually submitting it to them.
          PoFigster
    • Google Trust

      IT states in the license aggreement that google's computers will read your email. And its not like people are reading.

      But it should be understood, and common sense to not send sensitive data through webmail, for 2 reasons, webmail is someone else's system. If it is not your's do not trust it. You shouldn't send sensitive data through any email, because packet sniffers at the ISP level, or on a logically local hub, can easily intercept unencryted email.

      --------
      Discuss this or any technical issue at <a href="http://www.freetechsupport.us">www.FreeTechSupport.us</a>
      jtoppi
      • Common sense is rarely both "common" or "sense"

        Sadly, if people had common sense, I would no longer be receiving forwards that tell me that Bill Gates is giving money to people who forward hat message. 99% of people don't read license agreements, 95% of people have no clue "how the Internet works", to them it's magic, just like electricity. The idea that something in webmail is stored on someone else's server has never occured to most people. It's all magic.

        People send sensitive data through webmail all of the time, about half the people I know use webmail as their only personal email address, because they know that even if they change ISPs, they will not have to change their email addresses. For the same reason, I pay Earthlink $6/month (and have done so for the last 7 or so years) for an email-only account, because I know that they will always be there, I just would rather pay the money and have a real POP3 account. :)

        J.Ja
        Justin James
    • Google Trust

      IT states in the license aggreement that google's computers will read your email. And its not like people are reading.

      But it should be understood, and common sense to not send sensitive data through webmail, for 2 reasons, webmail is someone else's system. If it is not your's do not trust it. You shouldn't send sensitive data through any email, because packet sniffers at the ISP level, or on a logically local hub, can easily intercept unencryted email.

      --------
      Discuss this or any technical issue at <a href="http://www.freetechsupport.us">www.FreeTechSupport.us</a>
      jtoppi
  • Don't be ridiculous.

    I take the UNIX philosophy here: do one thing, and do it well. Google is a web search engine. A web search engine it should stay. A search engine with features like shopping, maps, routes: fine. When it starts asking permission to search my hard drive, I turn away.
    Twey
  • Privacy? Does it still exists?

    What is privacy anyway, except for an illusion?

    If anybody wants privacy, then get an island like Robinson's. Wherever you are, you are tracked. As you pass an airport, you need to fill out a landing card with an address on it. Fake it, and you will eventually turn up on a CCTV and the authorities will track you anyway.

    And now about Google... Well, by law, the Data Protections Act requires you to give your consent for the use of your personal data. So if you think that Google is sending you targeted ads when you haven't given your consent, sue them. But even then, if you think about it, will anyone give you a 2Gb mailbox for free? Free is also an illusion. Just like the "free" DVD player you get when you buy a TV. The price already includes it, plus you will be renting movies... so more money will go out from your pocket...

    By the way, even if you pay for email servers, it just means that you "probably" won't receive targeted ads, but never that your data is private. What can be stored on disk, paper, or any other medium will never be private. Its just a code of conduct about using the data, recently become law (DPA).

    P.S: Even your brain is not private if not while asleep, after you've had a few drinks down the pub...
    ceasar_z
  • Google IS Big Brother!

    Data "mining" is the most lucrative fatsest growing business in America & the world, tho Europe is starting to clamp down on it.
    You REALLY think Google will pass up the countless Billions of $$$ that info is worth!!
    You really think the FBI & other government agencies are going to ignore the biggest source of PRIVATE information in the world!! There are already stories slipping out on the Net of gov. agencies already mining that data!
    We're all a bunch of wussy lambs following Big Brother into a total police state.
    Won't you be proud to tell your kids and grandkids that you not only did nothing to stop it,,, but actually helped build it??
    rogueOne