There are big privacy implications of relying on private sector companies like Google instead of libraries to index knowledge. One of the biggest problems is that, in the age of the web, search engines don’t just index content and help you find it, they also track what you use and how you use it, thus learning more about you. They don’t just index what you want to find, they index you too.
An interview with Google’s chief executive shows that this is Google’s explicit goal.
- Google’s goal: to organise your daily life, By Caroline Daniel and Maija Palmer, Financial Times, May 22 2007. "The goal is to enable Google users to be able to ask the question such as ‘What shall I do tomorrow?’ and "What job shall I take?’" The race to accumulate the most comprehensive database of individual information has become the new battleground for search engines as it will allow the industry to offer far more personalised advertisements. These are the holy grail for the search industry, as such advertising would command higher rates. Mr Schmidt told journalists in London: "We cannot even answer the most basic questions because we don’t know enough about you. That is the most important aspect of Google’s expansion."
An OpEd in today’s Los Angeles Times examines these comments…
- Is Google’s data grinder dangerous?, By Andrew Keen Los Angeles Times, July 12, 2007. Still, if iGoogle turns out to be half as wise about each of us as Schmidt predicts, then this artificial intelligence will challenge traditional privacy rights as well as provide us with an excuse to deny responsibility for our own actions. What happens, for example, when the government demands access to our iGoogle records? And will we be able to sue iGoogle if it advises us to make an unwise career decision?
As Keen says, "Google is not our friend. Schmidt’s iGoogle vision of the future is not altruistic, and his company is not a nonprofit group dedicated to the realization of human self-understanding." See also: Privacy: "I have nothing to hide"
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.