n late January Google made what it described as a “small change” to its privacy statements that not only has major implications for advertisers and market researchers but also your personal privacy.
If you are one of the estimated 200-400 million people around the world with a Google account, you received an email that explained the change in broader terms. Essentially the new privacy agreement simplifies the pages and pages of reading no one ever does when they sign up for these accounts and creates one blanket set of terms for all of the sites under the Google umbrella, which includes well known ventures such as Youtube, Motorola and Adroid but also 106 other internet start-ups it has acquired since its inception in 1998.
Through this virtual cornucopia, Google has been able to collect important psychographic and demographic data on its users. By amending its privacy policies it is able to take the information you have provided about yourself on multiple sites and neatly package it for hungry advertisers.
Since the late 90s, Google has evolved from a well made search engine to free provider of high-quality email hosting, office planning and scheduling software, web analytics, SEO, mapping and navigation and perhaps most terrifying to the public– market research aggregator.
While these ambitions may seem ominous to many, you have to ask yourself who—you, Google, or the government—should draw the line between private and public information? You should.
This question will continue to be hotly debated well into the 21st century and beyond, but the fact is that the majority of companies that attempt to charge for the resources or entertainment they provide find they can’t get enough people to pay to survive.
“This is happening because there’s no such thing as a free lunch. People want things such as email and social networking for free, but companies still need to make money. And few things are more enticing to Google’s money-paying customers than data they can use to target ads.” – The Wall Street Journal
Companies like Google are successful not just because they provide quality products but because they are able to monetize their service with the highest valued currency in a technologically advanced economy—your personal information.
So are you a Luddite if you don’t want to give it up?
No, but if you don’t want people to know what you are thinking, don’t tell them.
This move is not only good for Google and the advertisers Google is selling your information too, but also you. If you don’t own a dog or plan to, then why should Pedigree waste its ad dollars on you and you your time on their advertising?
I want to know about things I am interested in, and the companies marketing these things want me to know about them. So what then is so bad about this? If you don’t want advertisers knowing where you eat, stopping checking in. If you don’t want them knowing what you listen to stop blogging about it and putting it on Facebook. That’s the beauty of public information– anyone can have it.