How much information about yourself would you give Google so it can make your life easier? (Photo : REUTERS/Krishnendu Halder )
Google recently paid the heaviest fine every levied by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission against a company for having exploited a loophole in Apple's Safari browser. As internet security becomes more and more relevant due to cloud computing and the amount of data collected on each user, is Google going too far?
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Take Google Now, for instance. A virtual assistant, Google Now attempts to collect data about you through any means possible. Tied into your Google account, it will guess where you live based off Google Map searches, will synchronize search results across Google platforms, and in general, try and read your mind. A useful tool, but there is a slight air of creepiness at the level of information a piece of software can extract about your life.
Not only that, Google recently unveiled an effort to mine people's Gmail accounts for search results. The idea here is to allow for more personalized and specialized search results. Typing in something like "my flight" in Google's search should pull up relevant flight details and information from emails in your account.
And let's not forget that Google has been secretly planting cookies in Apple's Safari browser - a move that cost them $22.5 million. Google stated that they were merely trying to give Google account users all the functionality they have come to know and love, such as the "+1" button. But to do so, they mindfully took advantage of a loophole in Apple's Safari browser. Safari's default settings make it so that all third-party cookies are blocked. Google found a way around that, and decided to use it. Only four advertising companies in the unscrupulous online advertising market were found to be doing this.
Google's modus operandi is promoting a cloud-based, Google-centric interface through which users can gain helpful insights and services. This sounds great, but to create such a personalized service, Google will need to collect and sift through vast amounts of personal data. There's no denying that having Google Now look at your appointments calendar and reminding you when you need to leave based on the distance to the appointment is incredibly useful. But there's also no denying that your digital self will be even more accessible and readable (by whom, is another question) in the years to come.