Is Big Brother’s Name Google?

This blog now has a minimum age for readership.

You must be old enough to remember the phrase, “Careful, Big Brother is watching.”  Except now it should be, “Careful, Google is watching.”

I was just reading a Complaint and Request for Injunction that purports to have been filed with the FTC by EPIC (Electronic Privacy Information Center). Now, I read it on a web page. I have not checked with the FTC to make sure it is not an elaborate hoax, but this one would be elaborate.  Disclaimers now done.
According to this complaint Google really is collecting all of the information that passes through its hands. Oh, and its privacy policies may not be what you would want them to be. Ok, so why care now?  Privacy has been outdated for how long?   Well, because Google is trying to merge with the Internet ad power, Doubleclick. Then, Google will be able to use all the information it has been gathering:

  • Email histories from Gmail;
  • Histories of all search querries coupled with IP addresses;
  • Indexes of computer desktops courtesy of Google desktop;
  • All Instant Messages sent through Google Talk;
  • RSS feed usage and histories through Google Reader;
  • Details on your YouTube habit;
  • All payment information obtained through Google checkout;
  • Schedules on Google Calendar;
  • Presumably documents from Google Applications;
  • Your Orkut profile — including hobbies, friends, etc;
  • All searches done with Google toolbar, identified with a special cookie to track web movement;
  • and whatever else Google has planned for us.

All this to help it target Doubleclick marketing campaigns. If the special cookie in the Google toolbar gave you pause, the Doubleclick merger should get your attention. Doubleclick tracks your web progress as part of their marking business.

Anyone who thinks they can’t be identified by this kind of information missed the media storm when AOL mistakenly released some search data last summer. The AOL data did not include the kind of Personally Identifiable Information (PII) that Google stores, and people were still being identified by their search history. Now add in your IP address, email usage, billing histories and who knows what else — Google knows you.

Excuse me, I have to go delete my Google Toolbar.

Elaine

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Categories: consumer law, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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