Did you receive the email pictured below from Google regarding privacy? These emails from Google have always struck me with a slight feeling I’ve been transported into an alternate universe. Google, for better or worse, knows more about us than anyone else. They know which street addresses we’ve looked up (and visited if you have an Android phone), the content of emails we’ve received, the topics we’ve searched for, the websites we’ve visited (including banking, retirement, and other sensitive websites), the IP addresses we’ve been connected to, which ex-boyfriends/girlfriends we’ve looked up, which videos we’ve watched, which photos we’ve uploaded, which news stories we’ve shared… the list goes on forever. This is done in the name of providing us with the most personalized experience possible, to deliver us a product that is tailored to our distinct tastes, wants and needs.
But by checking that checkbox in Google’s Terms of Service, you give Google permission to collect your every online move. And they store that information online. Which means if hackers ever break into the Great Google Garage storing your personal information, that information could be leaked for the world to see. According to Edward Snowden, the NSA learned how to tap into that information. If his story can be corroborated it means it was possible for other hackers around the world to do the same. These revelations have caused Google and now Yahoo to encrypt internal traffic.
It’s all very sobering when you take a moment out of your busy day to think about all this. Can we trust that these big data giants are doing everything possible to protect our personal information? That they are staying ahead of the technology curve and staying two steps ahead of the hacking community (and foreign governments)? That they weren’t complicit in sharing data willy-nilly (unconstitutionally) to our government? Are the measures they are now taking just paying lip service with a wink and a nod to the US government? Unfortunately we don’t know.
Will all this cause me to delete my Google account? Not yet. Mostly because I’m so darned dependent on the products and services Google offers. It’s not like I can move somewhere else, because all of them capture and store my data. My only option would be to go back to the days when I organized my life with a Day Planner and used street maps to find my way around. Truthfully I just don’t see that as an option given the massive amounts of information I have to consume each day, the emails I have to respond to, the tight schedules I keep.
So I’m thrust into the reality of making a decision: do I go old-school and kill my productivity in the name of privacy, or do I roll the dice that my information will be safe and use the technology at my fingertips which so eloquently structures my life?
“We know where you are. We know where you’ve been. We can more or less know what you’re thinking about.”
– Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google