Google, the search company that knows everything about you, your friends, and that night in Vegas, is cutting off CNET over this story (which, ironically, now gets more Google juice thanks to this moronic PR move). From CNET:
Google could not be immediately reached for comment. (Google representatives have instituted a policy of not talking with CNET News.com reporters until July 2006 in response to privacy issues raised by a previous story.)
So what’s the big deal? CNET’s original article used Google to dig up all kinds of information about Google CEO Eric Schmidt, such as his attendance at Burning Man and his status as a pilot. Ground-breaking stuff? Not really. But it apparently pissed someone off. Here’s the real problem:
“But if you step back and look at the suite of products and how they are used, you realize Google can have a lot of personal information about individuals’ Internet habits–e-mail, saving search history, images, personal information from (social network site) Orkut–it represents a significant threat to privacy.” [Chris Hoofnagle of the Electronic Privacy Information Center.]
“Your search history shows your associations, beliefs, perhaps your medical problems. The things you Google for define you,” [Kevin] Bankston, [staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation] said.
Here’s my favorite part:
Wouldn’t elaborate on what it means? Are they serious? When DoubleClick did something similar back in 2000, the righteous indignation and outrage actually boiled over into the courtroom. Google is requiring users to give up the same information DoubleClick had to buy.
So, here’s where I say “boycott Google” and don my tin foil hat, right? Well, no. It’s actually a little late for that. Google already has the info, most of it publicly available on the internet from a variety of sources. I have a couple GMail accounts (although I don’t actually use them). Hell, Google is my default homepage. A lot of my data is there. A lot of your data is there.
But when your corporate slogan is (informally) “Don’t Be Evil“, shouldn’t you at least define what you are and aren’t going to do with the literally pedabytes of data. The Google privacy does say they will never share your information with third parties. But that doesn’t mean that all your data isn’t stored in all of Google’s services to “enhance” your experience. Enterprising Google hackers already know how to find MP3s, Social Security numbers, and credit card numbers. What’s to stop someone from cracking a Google–owned system and extracting all that data (aside from all the former spooks Google hires who secure their networks).
Google has great services, but they are not your friend. They are also now a public company and subject to laws that make them operate in the interests of their investors, not their users. Hmm… when I put it that way, they almost sound like…
UPDATE: Check out EPIC 2005.