Sunday, April 22, 2007

Big Brother Is Keeping Tabs

Just in case you thought I was over-reacting in my rant on Friday morning about privacy rights, here's a practical example.

Google announced the launch of its new Web History feature on Thursday. After you sign in with your Google account, you can view every search YOU have done under that account. All you need to do is click here.

Sign in on the right-hand side of the page, and they'll offer you a new toolbar or just a look at your searches. I opted to look at my searches.

After clicking through a few pages, you can easily see how Google or DoubleClick or some other advertiser could customize the ads they offer you. My searches are mostly confined to subject matter related to this blog, research for my current novel, mapquest searches (I hate getting lost), and online shopping forays. The thing that surprised me the most was how often I check Google for the spelling of a word. I had no idea I was that poor a speller!

There's something creepy about knowing that a mega-conglom-
erate now knows that I'm a crummy speller, that I love Cuban food but can't find a restaurant without a map, and that I recently checked out a sex device for dogs (see here).

Can't you almost hear Homeland Security drooling? And what about local law enforcement? What about angry spouses and their divorce lawyers?

NOW do you understand why I think we need to elevate the discussion on privacy rights?

Reuters had a story on Friday morning that said:

Consumer privacy groups on Friday sought to derail Google Inc.'s $3.1 billion deal to buy online ad supplier DoubleClick Inc., filing a complaint with U.S. regulators to block the merger on privacy grounds.

Groups led by the Electronic Privacy Information Center have filed the complaint with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission arguing the merger would violate agreed limits on how much data advertisers collect on consumers and seeking an injunction.

Stay tuned . . . This is a two-post day. Read on.


David Roth said...

I may have missed this scanning through your post this morning, Maya, but you can turn that search information gathering feature off in both Google and Yahoo, although it's a lot easier with Google. At least then it's linked to your log-in name. With yahoo, not only do you really have to look long and hard to find where the opt-out link is hidden, but you have to do it for every computer you use.

B.E. Sanderson said...

Anyone looking through my search data is going to be 1) very busy and 2) confused. Being a writer and a homeschooler, I've done searches on everything from Anatomy to heavy machinery and from weapons and poisons to algebraic formulas and reading comprehension. I look like a psycho. They'll really love the in-depth search I did of Washington, D.C. so I could accurately describe a setting.

I expect the guys from Homeland Security to stop by soon. Ack.

Maya Reynolds said...

David: You're right. I forgot to include that information. Thanks for bringing it up!!!

Maya Reynolds said...

B.E. I'll bring you a file in a cake.

Marie Tuhart said...

I'm with BE, they'll be after me soon. Not only because of the research I do for books, but also for any vacations I'm planning. And like you, Maya, I use Mapquest constantly and I too can not spell with a darn. I also do a lot of research for books by using key words. I hate to think of what's on my work computer since I do a lot of searches for equipment and how something works with certain telephone switches and equipment.