Sunday, March 4, 2012

Big Brother Google is watching you...?

Martin Lessard, IT blogger for Radio-Canada, recently wrote an article about Google's new privacy policy, which centralizes data they collect from you on sites such as Google and YouTube - data that used to be gathered separatedly for each site. While it's hardly a popular measure, this guy still managed to get a chuckle out of me with a part of the article, which I'm going to translate for you to the best of my ability:

I have two computers at home, plus an iPad and an iTouch. As well as my Android. At home, I'm not the only one who uses these. I use one or the other depending on the occasion, time or place. Or because my children use them to browse the internet.

However, since yesterday, Google reunites all of us under one profile, mine. Because don't think my wife or kids disconnect from Google to use their own account when they search on YouTube or Google Maps. While I look up Nietzsche and my wife is listening to What Not To Wear, my kids watch Bébé Lilly clips or a tutorial for making cannons in Minecraft.

I don't even want to think about what Google's algorithm is building about me! Sometimes I'll look up images on Google Earth with the keyword "Washington" to illustrate an article on American politics. Maybe, at the same time, my wife looks up "grenade" (NDLR: also the French word for pomegranate) to read a recipe based on this exotic fruit, and my kid searches for "how to build a bomb" on YouTube (and forgets to add Minecraft).

Washington, grenade, how to build a bomb! I imagine an American border guard who gets a Google alert, and my next visit to America could end up at Guantanamo.

Google, in a likely psychological profiling, already thinks I'm a psycho with terrorist tendencies, who likes both quantum physics and Barbie, searches equally for pictures of both dolls and war machines, looks at the same Da Cliff clips for hours and downloads advanced marketing strategy PowerPoint presentations on Pinterest.

It's probably exaggerated for comedic purposes, but it still gets you thinking. What if...


  1. Is that scenario possible with the current policy? I mean, I know Google divulges information to advertisement companies so that they can tailor ads to different users, that's part of the crap you have to take for signing up with a big corporation. But I'd imagine there would be a bigger uproar if they went beyond that, flagging people for terrorists based on search engine results. Even in America, where the government gets away with shit like the Patriot Act, that would be considered an egregious breach of privacy, and there would probably be riots in the streets if that was true.

    I'm starting to become very nervous with the hidden agendas of big corporations like Google and government practices. It's getting to the point where they could have the power to arrest anyone at any time, nailing them on some kind of internet-based violation of a law. I'm not someone who believes in crackpot conspiracy theories, but it's a scary thought nonetheless.

  2. I can't shake the impression the problem here is that the author is using a Google account which by his own admission belongs to him specifically as if it were an account belonging to his entire family. Garbage data in, garbage data out.

    That said, I'm not worried about the possibility of Google detecting terrorists via their search patterns - they're too busy helping their ad partners serve better ads, which is a cause I can get behind (if only so I can stab it in the back).