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Giving Away Our Privacy – For Free

Posted by Charlie Barth On January - 30 - 2012

It’s getting easier and easier to throw stones at big companies these days (not to mention our government). We’re still sore from the recent financial collapse and now Google and Facebook have to start making moves that threaten what some would call our innate rights to personal privacy.

Excuse me if I’m sounding cynical or militant, but I woke up to a couple pieces of news that set me off this morning.

First was the announcement by Market Samurai that they had lost the functionality of some key features of their service because of recent changes made by Google. Market Samurai provides keyword and search based data for internet marketing purposes, and they are not alone. Many other companies also do the same thing, and have also been impacted by the recent changes. In fact, the business of gathering, sorting, filtering and providing search data culled from the likes of Google, Yahoo!, Bing, et al, represents a rather large industry. And I can’t help think that while Google is fully aware of this, they are also a bit upset that someone else has figured out a way to monetize their services in a way that they don’t make a dime from.

Again, sorry for sounding cynical, but now get this…

The second thing that hit me this morning was the following article on the Washington Post Blog…
Google’s no-opt-out privacy changes and the end of the anonymous Internet

If you don’t feel like clicking off to read another article before you finish reading this one, here’s a short quote…

Google announced Tuesday its plans to integrate data from all its services with your profile for logged-in Google+ users. As usual, they sounded chipper about it: “We can provide reminders that you’re going to be late for a meeting based on your location, your calendar and an understanding of what the traffic is like that day.”

In other words, they are going to start tracking, predicting and attempting to influence as many of your daily activities as they possibly can – whether you like it or not. Call me a prude, but I find that to be just a little bit invasive, not to mention presumptuous.

And let’s not forget about Facebook’s recent IPA announcement. Now that they’ve captured more than 800 million active users (securing their place as the third largest nation in the world, between India and the United States) along with all the demographic information those users have freely shared about themselves, Facebook has now decided to get serious about making money. They’ve sucked us in with their cute and free offerings of group sharing, picture galleries, status updates and now they are after our cash!

Okay, okay, I hear you thinking, “This guy’s nuts!” But the point to be made here is about our personal privacy. I don’t think anyone who has created a profile, joined a group or posted a video ever consciously thought to themselves, “I would really like this huge company to know a lot more about me.” But we’ve got these two massive companies who now have the power to not only track, but also predict our behavior with fairly reasonable accuracy. And, the fact is that we freely gave them that power.

Now, I’m not saying any of this is good or bad. But is it what we really wanted or intended?

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