Google privacy concerns go mainstream

You know that worries about internet security and privacy are becoming widespread when they start appearing in the Metro. For any overseas readers this is a UK free newspaper which is given away at rail stations and on buses, and while awaiting my cancelled train this morning I read a full page article in which they included statements by Chris Hoofnagle of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in the USA and by Kevin Bankston of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Both highlighted the large amount of personal information held by Google and that this information gives a substantial picture of your character and beliefs as well as private data. According to the article there are EU suggestions to add privacy warnings to search sites in the style of cigarette health warnings – not one I’d come across. As well as highlighting Google’s purchase of Doubleclick it also mentions another purchase of a genetic profiling company, though whether this is slipped in for dramatic effect is hard to say as no further details are given.

The Google view is presented in such a way that it sounds a bit wooley and unconvincing, and there are numerous mentions of Orwell’s 1984 and Big Brother as well as the KGB and Stasi. (wonder if they were reading my previous post!) They also mention the recently announced plans to extend search into areas where you can ask very personalised questions such as “what shall I do tomorrow” and the Eric Schmidt comments about being at the very early stages of compiling information.

So is this just a bit of journalistic bandwagon jumping or a sign of the big Google backlash? Regular readers will know that I have reservations on the subject of keeping personal data online and the tracking of online activity. I don’t use Gmail or other online data storage mail systems, and I don’t use online bookmarking. Whether it’s politicians or big business there are too many people I don’t trust to have access to our private lives. Maybe I’m not in such a minority after all.


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