Thursday, November 20, 2014

it knows if you've been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake!


WaPo |  According to Google, I am a woman between the ages of 25 and 34 who speaks English as her primary language and has accumulated an unwieldy 74,486 e-mails in her life. I like cooking, dictionaries and Washington, D.C. I own a Mac computer that I last accessed at 10:04 p.m. last night, at which time I had 46 open Chrome tabs. And of the thousands and thousands of YouTube videos I have watched in my lifetime, a truly embarrassing number of them concern (a) funny pets or (b) Taylor Swift.

I didn’t tell Google any of these things intentionally, of course — I didn’t fill out a profile or enter a form. But even as you search Google, it turns out, Google is also searching you.

This isn’t exactly new news. Google has, since 2009, published a transparency tool called Dashboard, which lets users see exactly what kind of data the Internet giant has on them and from which services. But the issue of data collection has provoked renewed anxiety of late, perhaps spurred by recent investigations into personal data and search engines in Europe and Asia — as well as the high-profile hacking of celebrities’ personal data and the shadow of last year’s National Security Agency revelations.

According to a recent survey by the consumer research firm Survata, people care more about Google accessing their personal electronic data than they do the NSA, their boss, their parents, or their spouse. Which is unfortunate, given that your parents and boss will probably never see everything you search, e-mail and click — while Google logs that material more or less all the time.

“Google knows quite a lot,” said Ondrej Prostrednik, the author of a recent Medium post about Google data collection that has begun making the Reddit rounds. “People outside of Google can only guess. But it is important to realize that we are the ones giving it all the data they know.”