A significant part of your life revolves around Google. You use Gmail for work as well as personal emails. You use Google+ for virtual bonding and sharing content. You use Picassa to store photos, andYouTube for your fix of video clips.
This can be useful. But also troublesome. Suppose User X watched a little too much of belly dancing video clips on YouTube. When he and his kids are using his account and are on Picassa, browsing family photos, an advertisement for a service tagged to his YouTube habits may appear. Embarrassing? Would you like more privacy? Google thinks the service will be incredibly empowering.
Google Getting Personal
“In a world where we are ever connected to the internet, the possibilities are limitless. For example, imagine you have to buy a cricket bat. Now, your smartphone knows this because it is in your to-do list. Your smartphone also knows where the cricket bats are available because it uses Google’s map and listing services,” said Singhal.
“Imagine that you are in a market where there is a shop selling cricket bats. Your smartphone, using information from a GPS receiver, can not only ping you to remind you but can also show the shop on a map.”
This is just an example of the kind of services Google wants to enable for its users. More personal. More relevant. Beyond ordinary search. This has to do partly with Google taking the competition to Facebook andTwitter.
You can probably get a better recommendation for a restaurant in Mumbai from your Mumbai-based friends on Facebook than via ‘googling’. But Google can attempt to do that if it can connect all the dots of your web life and offer an integrated service.
It’s no coincidence that Mark Zuckerberg had said in 2010 that privacy has ceased to be a social norm. On Facebook, users share content that just some years ago would have been unthinkable. So, norms have changed. And so have your needs, argues Google.
What Google Says
Announcing the policy, Alma Whitten, director of privacy at Google, said: “There’s so much more that Google can do to help you by sharing more of your information with…well, you. We can make search better, figuring out what you really mean…We can provide more relevant ads too…Or ensure that our spelling suggestions, even for your friends’ names, are accurate because you’ve typed them before. People still have to do way too much heavy lifting, and we want to do a better job of helping them out.”
Why You Should Worry
Sunil Abraham, director, Centre for Internet and Society, cites the example of how he conducts himself in real life. “I don’t want my bakery shop owner to know what kind of medicines I buy from the nearby medical store. Similarly, I don’t want to see advertisements based on what I had watched on YouTube on my Google+ page because I use both services for different purposes,” says Abraham.
Then, there is also the case of data security. Google maintains that it doesn’t share the personal data with any third-party. Abraham is not convinced. “Ideally, Google should not store data for longer than what the law requires. Mostly it’s six months to one year. Storing and hoarding data is going to attract not only government attention but also create possibilities of misuse,” he says.
Welcome to the Privacy Debate 2.0. It’s just begun.