• Charles Chappell posted an update in the group Ethics, Privacy and Technology 5 years, 9 months ago

    How many of you read privacy policies on the web sites you use and visit? By read, I don’t mean skim, I mean really READ. Every sentence, every vowel, every consonant. Chances are, you don’t, and like most people, you’d be rather horrified at the quantity and quality of data being recorded.

    Google, for example, records every search, every click, and every visit to a site with google ads or google analytics. (FYI: this site uses google analytics too) This data is fairly detailed, including what links you clicked, how long you look at each page, what path you took to get to that page, and where you go next, even if it’s not within this site.

    For most people, this isn’t the invasive part, though tracking all of this behavior is tenement to a stalker or PI following you, and documenting where you go, who you talk to, and what you buy. What comes next is really what SHOULD urk most people, but surprisingly doesn’t: Serving up ad content based on where you go, and what you do. Google’s primary business is selling advertising space, and they’re very good at it. Billions of dollars good at it in fact. Trillions if you count the full transactions, not just Google’s cut.

    You see, Google’s role is that of a broker, matching the advertisers with the customers most likely to buy the products being advertised. They are top class at this in fact, and their primary resource is your personal information.

    Now, don’t think I’m bad mouthing Google. They’re a corporation who’s business is to make money, and frankly, a very skillful one at what they do. I have owned stock in Google in the past, and may do so again in the future. The thing is, this information is a treasure trove which can be used in many different ways, and frankly, I doubt you’d be pleased to know how Google is actually using the information they gleam from what emails land in your gmail account for example.

    On the other hand, free is hard to resist, and that long privacy policy most often goes unread. When it is read, most people forget the bad parts soon after, and focus on the good: free email/websites/social networking that are powered by this invasion of privacy.

    In many cases, we do ourselves the injustice of invading our own privacy by posting detailed information about our movements, habits, children’s latest developments, etc. Technology makes this invasion less personal, but as a recent NPR story pointed out, this same invasion of privacy, if done by another person, standing right in front of you, would feel, well, downright creepy.

    Maybe we really should think twice about what information we give up, whether it be to a small mom & pop web site, or a giant web service company. What are they doing to protect our data, and most important: what do they plan to do with it.