Saturday, November 20, 2010

Week 7 EOC: The Scary Internet

The internet can be a scary thing at times. Aside from the more obvious things like downloading viruses and protecting your children from online predators, there are other dangers out there that are far greater. The internet is watching you. These days, most everything you do on the internet can be recorded and stored somewhere other than your own personal computer. You are not safe by simply deleting your browsing history or cookies. The websites you know and trust are collecting information and personal data from you every day. Google is one of the leading companies in tricking its users to give up their personal information. They were one of the first companies to realize that information is power on the internet. Google's search engine is the biggest and most popular on the web. They have the ability to track every search on a personal level in order to figure out exactly what you are searching for, what times of day you are searching, and for how long. All of this data can tell the company a lot about you. They can figure out what time of day you are using your computer the most, even what time of day you are home altogether. They can figure out whether you are male or female, and even pinpoint your age. They can figure out what interests you have, what field of work you are in, whether you are married, have kids, etc. Aside from Google's search, there are a ton of other applications made by Google that we use daily to give Google even more information. Gmail is one of the most widely used email services on the internet. Both sent and received mail is parsed and analyzed by Google. Google Earth posts information about every single person's home address. When a person uses Google Earth they track their searches and collect data about the places they go, where they live, the times they travel, the times they search, etc. Google also has access to all tweets that pass through twitter. They can see exactly who is tweeting about what, when, where, and why. Google uses a ton of other applications and methods to collect data such as Web crawling, Website analytics, Ad serving, Google Public Profiles, YouTube, Feedburner, Google Reader, Google Translate, Google Public DNS. All of these collect your data and build personal profiles for each individual person.

The big question is, Why do companies like Google do this? There are many answers. Luckily Google is a pretty well trusted corporation and they are not looking to cause any harm to its users. That doesn't mean they don't have a questionable reason for doing all of this. Google's main reason for collecting data from its users is to make billions of dollars in advertising. The information they collect from their users is priceless when it comes to companies that want to reach these users and sell them their product. Because Google is able to collect so much invaluable information about their users, companies pay top dollar to be able to reach out to the right crowds at the right places at the right times. So technically Google has been exploiting our personal information For their own gain since the company began. The biggest question of all is whether this is ethical and legal. Does Google have the right to collect our information and sell it to the highest bidder? Their argument is "If you don't want people to know your personal business on the web, then don't use it" or more specifically, don't use their products.

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