TMI Google?

Ten years ago a search engine service by the name of "Google" appeared. With its page ranking system and related searches, it quickly gained popularity and grew to be the #1 search engine.

In 2002 Google made the search algorithm corporate and sold it to enterprises.

In 2004 they released gMail with its innovative ad-targeting system which looks at our e-mails for keywords. Over time came Google Maps, Froogle, gTalk, Picasa, iGoogle and many others.

Just recently Google released another new feature in gMail - video and voice chat - a service which (as its names implies) allows users to start a video and voice conversation from within their browser (assuming they have the hardware of course). They also released Google Flu Trends, which not many people are aware of. The idea behind Flu Trends is that by tracking search queries, Google can predict how the flu is moving sooner than the CDC can. How are they doing this? Well by tracking searches with specific keywords (like cough, fever and such) then mapping it to a region in the US, the more queries in an area, the more flu activity (in theory).
Now let us recap - Google has provided us with a number of tools over the years to find more accurate information, communicate quicker and easier, shop smarter, not get lost and even stay healthier. But at the same time, they are holding on to all this information.

At the risk of seeming like I'm proposing a "Google Conspiracy" (which I'm not) - it would seem that we are putting all of our eggs in one basket. What do I mean by this? Lets imagine that some day, some how, Google gets hacked and all this wonderful information about individuals that Google has gathered gets exposed. Remember what happened when CitiGroup got hacked? Names, socials and credit cards numbers - all gone. But if they were to hit Google, they would be getting much more that just names and credit card numbers and an address - they would essentially be getting everything that makes us... us. Search history, emails, friends lists, past conversations, pictures and even a voice sample (assuming Google is storing video and voice chat like they do with regular instant messages). If that were to happen, identity theft would be virtually unstoppable.

I'm not saying that we should not use the wonderful services provided by Google because if I did I would be a hypocrite since I use most of them my self. They are practical, convenient and work very well; but as with any web service - but I can not help wonder, have I placed my self at risk just because of convenience?

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14 Comments

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Once I found a really hot pr0n site using Google search. It was tits-up the best pr0n site online, by far. But stupid me, I forgot to bookmark it. Fortunately, Google saves my whole search history. Within minutes I was back to browsing my favorite pr0n site. Thanks Google!

It amazes me how Google can be such a hypocrite about it's own "do no evil" slogan and then spit on privacy and yet STILL people trust them with their e-mail, search history, and other data.

That's almost as impressive as their ability to brainwash people into thinking that "enhancing" their Internet "experience" means 'advertising'.

who the hell bloody cares?
Im an innocent person who genuinly uses the internet the same as the next person. I couldnt care what they do with my searches if im honest.

"voice sample (assuming Google is storing video and voice chat like they do with regular instant messages)"

I seriously doubt that.

actually, if you use googles blog service (blogspot), under your profile there is a field called "Audio Clip URL"
granted the field is options and you could put any clip you want, but the option is still there.

Regardless of the "conspiracy theories", I'll still HOSTS-block *.google.* here...
If they wouldn't use my search input for creating "personal" ads, I wouldn't probably do that...
But well.

We all know this data collection is driven by advertising.

Google is trying to target its ads so get more clicks and gain more money. Facebook is the perfect example, I log in and get ads for beer, singles site, dating tips. I then log in as a Woman and get ads for diets, morgages for woman & sexual health.

Until Advertisers stop paying for web services & content we use/view then its only going to get worse.

I know I'm a nut job, but outside of Search I don't use Google for anything else... (Well Gmail is my preferred email for SPAM only).

I just don't trust any organization with the amount of information Google wants. Irrespective of their intentions I don't trust them.

Same goes for search queries. if you use iGoogle, it sames your most recent searches once you log in. Also all your chat logs are stored within GMail as well.

Say you just use GMail, I bet a lot of people keep all sorts of personal infomation in their archive/inbox like invoices from Amazon or Ebay, they often have your address on.

If you use Google Checkout that retains your credit card infomation for future purchaces + your billing address.

Is there any reason to assume Google stores this information in a personally identifying way? It would take a somewhat larger, more expensive, and more complex database to store data this way, as opposed to storing sets of anonymous statistics. If Google leaked anonymous statistics, what difference does it make to any individual? The real issue here seems to be the risk of someone tapping into Google's data mining tools, not the data itself. Hopefully Google would notice something like that before any serious damage could be done.