Welcome to Google Data Armageddon
Taken altogether, those eggs could paint a fairly thorough portrait of you, your interests and activities, all tied to your Google identity (ie, your Gmail address).
That makes some people nervous. Others are just using it as an excuse to bash Google for their own purposes. G Day doesn’t actually change the amount or type of information Google gathers, it just puts it all neatly in one place. But it does raise troubling questions about what else your Google Profile data could be used for besides targeting ads.
Employer background searches? Qualifying for loans? Obtaining health insurance? Police searches? All much more convenient under the new all-inclusive Google policy, and none of which is off the table at this point, despite any protestations of innocence from Google. We have all heard those before, followed shortly thereafter by an “Oops, we accidentally hoovered data off your WiFi router/ignored your browser’s do-not-track settings. Our bad.” ‘Don’t be evil’ jumped the shark a long time ago.
In a cunningly timed announcement, Abine – makers of the Do Not Track Plus browser utility – just revealed it has purchased Firefox add-in GoogleSharing and renamed it Protected Search. GoogleSharing anonymizes your searches by stripping personally identifiable information like IP addresses and cookie IDs before delivering your search results.
(FYI, GoogleSharing was developed by security wonk Moxie Marlinspike, who contrary to what you might expect is not a supervillain on the Power Puff Girls TV show.)
What is the difference between using Protected Search and a privacy friendly search engine like Ixquick or DuckDuckGo? Nothing, says Abine marketing director Kristrina Kennedy. It just lets you continue to use Google as you normally would, because it’s more convenient that way.
And there’s the problem in a nutshell. Google is damned convenient. And good, and free, and so permanently embedded in most of our lives that extracting it would be like pulling a molar, sans anesthetic.
Still some of us will diligently scour our Google profiles to remove our dark secrets. Some of us will install Protected Search or other privacy enhancing tools and try to surf the Web a bit more circumspectly. But the vast majority of us will continue to roll the dice and hope we “feel lucky.”
And if our online choices prove unlucky? You know who’s to blame, and it’s not Google.
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