Google, Paranoia or a Cause for Concern?
Copyright 2006 Sharon Housley Anti-Google sentiment is on the rise. Web pundits have tossed around monopoly theories and privacy advocates have warned of a day of reckoning. While Google has made friends on Wallstreet, it has disappointed the technical evangelists who were once its fiercest followers. Google has grown into a big scary company and web watchers are expressing their concerns about the information Google gleans from their various services. Google Analytics is free, no one can beat the price, but what is the real cost? The cost is your data. While not terribly important when analyzed alone, when aggregated with other information Google has access to, it could be damaging.
Data mining has made the collection of data meaningful. It has become easier to find patterns and trends in large volumes of data. While any of that information independent of other data, might be non-threatening or irrelevant to someone doing analysis, when combined with other data Google has access to, it can paint a very clear picture of how, not only individual companies are performing, but the aggregate data could possibly paint a picture of how entire business sectors or industries are performing. The big question is how will Google use this information? Will it affect search engine ranking? Will it influence keyword costs? Paranoia? Lauren Weinstein doesn't seem to think so, her blog post entitled "The Dark Side of Google" http://lauren.vortex.
com/archive/000108.html , paints a very clear picture of the danger of a single entity possessing all of the data. According to a recent USA Today article "In just seven years, Google has emerged as one off the most influential companies of the 21st century, a multinational whose recent forays into classified ads, book publishing, video, Wi-Fi and telecom make its data empire ever more powerful." The article goes on further to quote Jeff Chester, head of the digital Center for Digital Democracy saying "Google could easily become the poster child for a national public movement to regulate data collection". Lets take a look at Google's new analytics tool. As a reporting tool, Google Analytics offers good features and functionality. Google Analytics tells publishers who their website referrers are, what pages visitors are viewing, the length of the visitor stay, what items are purchased. Google Analytics data can be used to develop new technologies, and optimize pay per term influence ranking. Google wants to make money, and like it or not, data is a commodity. Google will likely use the data from their various ventures to develop new technologies and personalize content.
Conspiracy theorists believe that the Google's aggregate data will also be used to optimize the fees charged for pay-per-click, influence organic ranking or worse yet sold. Unbeknownst to many users, privacy advocates say that Google's technology give Google the ability to collect enormous amounts of data about interests and online habits of web surfers. That said, Google's growth will continue to motivate privacy advocates and those in the technology field behind the Attention Truste movement to work together, to improve how personal information and subscription information is used online. I expect we will see a lot of energy and effort in this arena. Lets face it, Google wants to make money; no, now that they are public they *need* to make money and like it or not, data is a commodity. Whether Google will use your data or not is still to be determined, but the fact remains they can if they choose to. Google's storage capacity, is as deep as its pockets, meaning that it is far ahead of competitors. All of this has motivated privacy advocates and eyes are on and will continue to be focused on Google and the type of data they are capable of collecting.
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