Sunday, June 10, 2007


Average citizens often think of Google as a search engine rather than also consider it as a data aggregator in which a number of the company's enterprises collect extremely personal information about those who use its e-mail, blogging, video file-sharing, e-commerce, and search applications. This point has been made by conspiracy videos such as "Google's Master Plan," which is known to appear alongside 9-11 conspiracy videos and the new ironically titled "Trusted Computing" video on YouTube. But those who are paranoid are not necessarily wrong when it comes to corporate monopolies with proprietary software.

Five months ago I was pointing out possible privacy concerns about's Yellow Pages and BlockView, which are now receiving widespread media attention in connection with Google Street View. Who knows how many people have installed the new Flash player only to see "10 Bizarre Sights in Google Street View"? As Ann Bartow points out, sales of curtains and bathrobes should certainly benefit.

Last week, London-based Privacy International posted its Open Letter to Google on the Web. Not only did Google receive low marks on their organization's "A Race to the Bottom: Privacy Ranking of Internet Service Companies," but afterwards the Director of Privacy Internationl alleges that "Two European journalists have independently told us that Google representatives have contacted them with the claim that Privacy International has a conflict of interest regarding Microsoft." Although Microsoft received a better ranking than Google in this particular case, Privacy International points out that it has also been a vigorous critic of Microsoft and that it has no financial ties to the Redmond-based company.

(As someone signed into a gmail dashboard as I write this entry, I'm keenly aware of how these multiple functions are integrated as I write and how the anonymity of bloggers who use the Blogger interface is compromised. By the way, as a stickler for sentence-level correctness, I think there is an important distinction to be made between "anonymous" blogging and "pseudonymous" blogging that isn't often being observed in the recent debate about pseudonymous academic blogging. See "The Ethics of Anonymity in the Academic Blogosphere" by Leslie Masden Brooks, "Serious Bloggers" in Inside Higher Education, and -- for a light-hearted meme -- The Pseudonymous Meme for more.)

Labels: , , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home