Knowledge vs. Privacy, the Google dilemma

Knowledge vs. Privacy, the Google dilemma

Google – you either love ’em or hate ’em it would seem, reading the article from yesterday’s Sunday Times. Google are saying they need more information about us, and their competitors are saying they already have too much. The trigger for this latest pouring of outrage is – apparently – Google’s announcement that they  had invested almost $4m in 23andme, a fledgling biotechnology company co-founded by Anne Wojcicki (Sergey Brinn’s significant other half), that is interested in the human genome.  Interestingly, ordinary users (and I count myself in that category) are saying very little. I find that the Search engine does what is says on the tin; Google Reader is the best RSS  reader, and I make the most of all the other freebies (Notebook, Calendar, Documents, Spreadsheets, desktop  toolbar , screen saver, personalised search etc.)  that they make available via their web site. Their argument that by getting to know more about me and my search habits will improve the relevance of their search results sounds believable – to me anyway.

However, one interesting quote attributed to Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central,  with reference to Google’s pending (?) purchase of Feedburner (a company that tracks subscribers to all kinds of on-line content providers):

"Have people really thought about the ramifications of this? Google will not only know what you search for, what ads you click on, but they will also know exactly what you are subscribed to at a very intimate level…..they are going to know more about some people than their own family members may".

Perhaps it’s the fact that I come from a country that has more CCTV cameras per head of population than any other county in Western Europe (or the world), or my naive belief in the Google motto ‘Don’t do evil‘, but I believe that Google’s ultimate objective is to stay ahead of the game in providing a  search service that everyone wants to use because it finds what they are looking for!

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