Google has every e-mail you ever sent or received on Gmail. It has every search you ever made, the contents of every chat you ever had over Google Talk. It holds a record of every telephone conversation you had using Google Voice, it knows every Google Alert you’ve set up. It has your Google Calendar with all content going back as far as you’ve used it, including everything you’ve done every day since then. It knows your contact list with all the information you may have included about yourself and the people you know. It has your Picasa pictures, your news page configuration, indicating what topics you’re most interested in.
If you ever used Google while logged in to your account to search for a person, a symptom, a medical side effect, a political idea; if you ever gossiped using one of Google’s services, all of this is on Google’s servers. And thanks to the magic of Google’s algorithms, it is easy to sift through the information because Google search works like a charm. Google can even track searches on your computer when you’re not logged in for up to six months.
To see your Web history, go to http://google.com/dashboard.
“Youtube should not turn into You track!” said Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA), co-chair of the Congressional Privacy Caucus. He’s especially worried about minors. “Googling is like oxygen to kids and teenagers.” Google says it won’t sell your private information to third parties. According to Google, they store everything they know about you in order to tailor your searches based on your interests. It’s for your good (!). Nevertheless, aggregating the information enables Google to target ads very specifically.
“Google is the world’s largest advertising company,” Ken Fisher of Ars Technica reminds us, and the most successful. “They’re in an arms race against Facebook, but against other advertisers as well. This is really about revenues generated from advertising.”
I don’t know about you, but I’m very uncomfortable with this new policy, because you can’t opt out. Congress must pass laws denying corporations the right to hoard private data. At the very least, we should have the option of deciding if or how much of it they can store. Suppose hackers break into the Google—and Facebook— servers. It’s only a matter of time before they do. Hackers have already broken into e-mail, bank and credit card accounts. Does anyone want her most sensitive and intimate details broadcast across the Web?