Last modified: 7:58 AM Saturday, 14 January 2017

“We are rapidly entering the age of no privacy, where everyone is open to
surveillance at all times; where there are no secrets from government.”

—U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O.Douglas

Identity for sale?

Why Google is not your friend

How many Google searches do you conduct in an average week? If you’re like most people, you haven’t kept track, but would have to admit: plenty. Like most of us, too, you do so under the assumption that the search engine will live up to the terms of its own privacy policy and terms of service, not to mention the relevant state and federal laws applying to the privacy expectations of search-engine users.

What's in a cookie?

What’s in a cookie? Only every secret you thought you had.

But it would appear that this is a naive expectation. Finding that it can add to its revenues by including information about you and your search in headings that can be parsed by any knowledgeable webmaster or SEO specialist, Google has permitted this practice to go on. The company did experiment with modifications that would have protected our privacy, but rejected them for general application on finding that to use them would have denied to site operators the referrer information that they consult for marketing purposes.

Consequently, alleges a lawsuit filed in October, users’ personal identifying information (PII) has been routinely made available, assisting marketing efforts by both the sites you visit and Google itself. As a side-effect, the suit notes, it is possible for unscrupulous site operators to use the information Google provides to glean such information as your name, address, telephone number, email address(es) and bank account numbers, among other data.

Think before you search. Otherwise, Google may learn more about you than you learn from it, and information you provide could become food for criminal thought.

UPDATE: Since this report, Google has enormously expanded its data collection, reaching farther than ever into the “private” lives of its users, as humorously but unnervingly reported here.

A small thing, but one whose implications are cause for cerebration: Have you seen Google’s location-dependent “broken image” icons? The terrain that appears in those little 16x16-pixel sprites reflects Google’s knowledge of where you live. Further, Google soon expects to add versions of them that also reflect what time it is in your time zone.

This almost strikes one as flaunting the company’s omniscience. How much longer before you look at such an icon, and notice it’s a tiny animation ... of what you’re doing right now?

Originally published as a review of a theregister.co.uk article on Google and privacy.

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