There always seems to be tension between preserving our privacy and getting the services we want and have come to expect in the information age. What do we have to give up to get what we want? We also want services to be free if possible. We have come to expect a certain amount of free stuff on the Internet, but somewhere in the back of our minds we suspect it’s not completely free; maybe we have to accept a little advertising to make it happen.
This week’s question is about the new privacy policies that Google just put into place on all its various platforms. This space is too small to list all the things that Google owns, but start with their search engine, add Chrome, Picasa, Google Docs, YouTube, Gmail, Google calendar, Picasa, Android for Mobile, and the list goes on. Prior to now, each of the services that you used from Google kept its own profile on you and had its own disclosure agreement with you (yes you probably didn’t read it, but it was offered). The big change is that now all of your Google gadgets and services will come under one set of policies and one user profile.
What’s this whole thing really about? Targeted advertising is the short answer! Is targeted advertising evil? How about annoying? Think about it in the old days. I went to the local grocery store which had its own meat market and a real butcher behind the counter. I’m pushing my cart past the meat counter and the butcher yells out:”hey I just got in some fresh lamb and I know you like a nice rack of lamb for Easter”. That’s targeted advertising on a personal and small scale. Fast forward to the info age and as I am shopping on the web (or just surfing) I stop and look at a pair of Brand X running shoes, size 13. All that information is captured and can be shared in a number of ways, not just locally, but globally. My info data base never goes away, it only gets bigger. Next thing I know, I’m getting ads from running shoe vendors, large size shoe vendors , running apparel makers, energy bar makers and anything else that relates to the original item I showed interest in. If I’m not careful my email inbox will fill up with stuff and overwhelm my real mail.
Can I use Google’s free services and not give up my personal info? I don’t think so! But I need to manage how much stuff they have and how they use it …as well as I can. My advice to you is first pick the Google services that you really use, eliminate the others and try to defend your turf on the ones you keep. For me, I have to have Gmail, iGoogle and Google Calendar and there are some services I can get along without.
Next go to your Google accounts Dashboard and take time to look through each category and manage it as well as they allow . Easy way to get to the Dashboard is to just” Google” it and sign in with your Google password. See how ubiquitous Google is; the word has come to mean “search for”.
Be aware of your privacy exposure , try to control it as best you can; and till next week, send your questions to: