Every step you take, Google will be watching you
Every step you take, every search you make, we’ll be watching you…
Google already knows more about our habits, interests, physical symptoms, loves, affairs, locations and intentions than our closest relatives and friends may know. The lyrics to the 1983 Police song Every Breath You Take seem prescient:
Every breath you take and every move you make
Every bond you break, every step you take, I’ll be watching you
Every single day and every word you say
Every game you play, every night you stay, I’ll be watching you
Why is all this necessary for a “free” internet service? It’s not. But it will allow Google to be even better at selling ads online.
I say “better” because they are already good - they made just shy of US$38 billion dollars in 2011. Ninety-six per cent of that from selling ads targeted… well… at us. Imagine the money they will make when they convince their advertisers how much more personalised and localised their ads are. Honed by every search we make and every step we take.
It is pleasing to see that the Australian Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim has been briefed by Google on the changes. And he makes good sense suggesting he would like to see companies collecting less - not more - information about us online. But given the history of that office, we shouldn’t expect any direct action.
When the Germans forced Google to come clean in May 2010 and admit their Streetview vehicles were sucking down and storing personal wi-fi communications as well as zig-zagging our streets taking photos of our front doors, people were shocked. In Europe, Asia and America, governments were stirred into action. But here in Australia, we got over it pretty quickly.
The then Australian Privacy Commissioner, Karen Curtis, threw in the towel early. After a brief investigation her office concluded:
On the information available I am satisfied that any collection of personal information would have breached the Australian Privacy Act…. Collecting personal information in these circumstances is a very serious matter.
Google made several seemingly far reaching undertakings, including to consult with the Privacy Commissioner about changes to personal data collection. Curtis concluded:
These steps will ensure Google’s future products have privacy protections built in rather than bolted on. Google’s undertakings will last for three years. These undertakings will be reviewed following any reforms to the Privacy Act.
Seems like Google learned their lesson - hardly! But thankfully other countries are starting to ask the tough questions, again.
The European Union have asked Google to delay the change, as have the Koreans. US congressmen have asked for extensive clarifications. And the Electronic Privacy Information Center is suing the US Federal Trade Commission in an attempt to spur it into enforcing an agreement it had in place with Google after the bungled launch of Buzz.
Let’s hope governments from abroad once again help defend our interests, because recent form suggests we can’t rely on our own. And we need to ask ourselves the personal cost of using “free” services online. “Free” is costing us our privacy.
Read all about it
Up to the minute Twitter chatter
@Drag0nista Can't see it bring re l 'ship Cos lots of Ruddites don't back gay marriage (Joel, Bowen) and lot of Gillardians do.
KRudd gives marriage equality folk hope, but odds still against it passing on June 6. http://t.co/QmQffMkSvH
The latest and greatest
Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…
I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…
In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…