Monday, February 8, 2010

Google Superbowl Ad - Why You Should Worry

Have you ever seen a sleight-of-hand artist at work? A pickpocket, or perhaps a magician who steals your watch as he looks you in the eye then ogles your girlfriend?

Google is doing something similar, and they proudly showcased it during their recent Super Bowl advertisement. Sadly, few are distressed.

Here's the ad:

Don't you find it a little bit creepy that an entire life arc can be reconstituted via Google search queries? And if not, why?

There are significant privacy alarms this very scenario confirms: Nameless searches are anything but anonymous, and intimate details of a person's existence can (and are) reconstructed more quickly and easily than the general public realizes.

There are two sides to this dissimulation. First, it's laughingly simple to overlook the correlative ability of major search engines, and to misjudge their capacity to connect the dots from seemingly random instances of an individual rummaging through the scads of data available at the click of a mouse.

Second, the retention of this associated information means that it's available for review by law enforcement, evil doers, and lawyers engaged in discovery proceedings - not to mention the search engine organization themselves.

Is there money to be made by sharing search patterns with titans of finance and industry? Of course. Do Google, Yahoo, Bing, et al have any interest in generating more income? Please.

This is valuable stuff we're talking about here. What's lacking is transparency into how this data is being stored, shared, and protected. 

So watch the ad, and marvel. Then kiss your privacy goodbye, because it's going away, and it's never coming back.

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