Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Do no evil?

The Economist examines the public's trust of Google:

And, despite Big Brotherish talk about knowing what choices people will be making tomorrow, Google has not betrayed the trust of its users over their privacy. If anything, it has been better than its rivals in standing up to prying governments in both America and China.

That said, conflicts of interest will become inevitable—especially with privacy. Google in effect controls a dial that, as it sells ever more services to you, could move in two directions. Set to one side, Google could voluntarily destroy very quickly any user data that it collects. That would assure privacy, but it would limit Google's profits from selling to advertisers information about what you are doing, and make those services less useful. If the dial is set to the other side and Google hangs on to the information, the services will be more useful, but some dreadful intrusions into privacy could occur.

The article is justified in its wariness over Google's data retention, but though the company may not have actively invaded its users' privacy, that's not to say privacy concerns over cookies, Street View, and behavioral marketing considerations are unwarranted and limited to the tin-foil hat-wearing crowd.

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