Ever had a Facebook stalker?
You know, the one person who seems to know everything going on in your life, even though you avoid them like the plague because they just seem a little….off?
There’s something unsettling about someone who knows a little too much about you. College-aged girls have a word for this, one that spells doom for any over-zealous would-be suitor, a word that spreads like wildfire to her social circle and basically ends his dating career overnight.
That word is “Creepy.”
When Google first announced, somewhere in the late nineties, that their intention was to gather the world’s data and make it searchable, that sounded innocent enough. Maybe even noble. How many of us thought that the data they were referring to would include the content of our emails, or how many sit-ups we did that morning?
When you piece together all the data that Google is gathering (or wants to gather) about us, they are definitely crossing over into “creepy” territory. You know that slick Android smartphone you love so much, the one with the GPS in it? Google owns Android. They developed it. And Chrome, which recently claimed the top browser crown from Internet Explorer? Chrome can know your passwords, everything you’ve ever searched for and every site you’ve ever visited. Google routinely parses your emails if you use their enormously popular Gmail service, all in the name of targeting ads to you. In other words, Chrome and Gmail (and therefore Google) can know your interests, your friends, your family, your hobbies, your job, your kinks. Even – no, especially – the embarrassing ones.
But no longer content to know the externals about you, Google now wants to know what goes on inside your body as well. Google Fit can deduce information about your health by cross referencing your exercise habits, heart rate, drug usage, and any other data gathered by the devices it aggregates. This is data that used to require HIPPA conformance for privacy, but now some folks will happily relinquish that right by simply clicking a license agreement they probably won’t even read. Remember the backlash against Target when they began predicting which of their customers were pregnant? That is child’s play compared to what Google is capable of.
If Google was a man instead of a corporation, chances are you’d think he was a little……creepy.
Um, What are You Planning to do with That?
What will they do with all this data about us? How do we know that they will do what’s in our best interests, especially if our interests run counter to theirs? Yes, I know Google’s motto is “Don’t be Evil”, but hell, HP’s was “Invent” and I don’t see a lot of that going on.
Remember that Eric Schmidt, former CEO and now Chairman, revealed his contempt for privacy when he claimed “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place” and “anonymity is too dangerous.”
Supposing for a minute that we can trust Google (and due to Schmidt’s comments, I don’t believe we can), what about the US Government, who can subpoena data on anyone, not just Americans, at will? Or the NSA, who won’t bother with a subpoena? Or the criminal element who would just love to hack Google to get access to all that information?
Remember, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you.