Mother Jones magazine has a thought provoking (meaning frightening) story on Google and the information that they gathers on their users. It is disturbing to note that Google claims that they have never knowingly erased a single search query during their nine years of operation. Should we trust Google to manage that information responsibly?
I don’t tend to be the paranoid type, but I’m not all that comfortable with Google having large amounts of information on me, particularly given the fact that Google’s founders don’t want their own information on Google. The following section from the article is telling. (emphasis mine)
That obsession with privacy may explain Google’s puzzling reaction last year, when Elinor Mills, a reporter with the tech news service cnet, ran a search on Google ceo Eric Schmidt and published the results: Schmidt lived with his wife in Atherton, California, was worth about $1.5 billion, had dumped about $140 million in Google shares that year, was an amateur pilot, and had been to the Burning Man festival. Google threw a fit, claimed that the information was a security threat, and announced it was blacklisting cnet’s reporters for a year. (The company eventually backed down.) It was a peculiar response, especially given that the information Mills published was far less intimate than the details easily found online on every one of us. But then, this is something of a pattern with Google: When it comes to information, it knows what’s best.
If they consider their personal information a security threat, why shouldn’t we? The threat of identity theft is very real. And having large amounts of personal information available online only increases your risks. But Google makes its money by gathering personal data, and the more data they have the more profitably they can tailor their advertising. So I don’t see them scaling back their data gathering.