Open Thinkering


Google: excellence and diversity?

Quentin Hardy, Forbes:

Your day begins with a wake-up call from your Google Android phone. As you run to the shower, you hit Google News and check headlines, then Gmail. Your first appointment of the day has been moved to a new location; Google Maps will direct you there. Quickly update your expense report–including the printout of that sales presentation using, say, Google Template–and shoot them to the back office in India (in Hindi, if you prefer, with Google Translate). Your boss wants to discuss your group’s contributions to some marketing documents? Lean on Google Groups. You’re not even out the door yet. You have the rest of the day to search for work-critical information on the Web while you’re at the office–to say nothing of snatching a few moments to download a game, check stock prices, organize your medical records, share photos and pick a restaurant and movie for the evening. How convenient.

I love Apple stuff. I love Google stuff even more because it’s free, is often the best solution, and most of the time promotes collaboration and sharing. However, I’m a bit concerned that they could know a little too much about me. Here’s the Google stuff I use currently:

  • Google Chrome web browser
  • Google Apps (personal)
  • Google Apps Education Edition (at work)
  • Google Picasa
  • Google Product Search
  • Google FastFlip
  • Google Maps
  • Google Dictionary

I wasn’t very far away last month from purchasing AlertMe Energy for our house. This uses Google PowerMeter to show how much energy you are using at home. It’s better than the LCD display we’ve got currently, but I was a bit uneasy about it – for the same reasons that I would be about using Google Health.

It’s all very well using the best stuff, but at what cost? All it would take is a government requisition of the data from one company and, if I used Google PowerMeter and Health in addition to the products I already use, they could know:

  1. What I’ve been looking at online.
  2. The names of my family and friends.
  3. Where I’ve been recently.
  4. Who I’ve been communicating with and what about.
  5. What I look like, as well as what my friends and family look like.
  6. My political bias.
  7. How much energy I’ve been using at home.
  8. My health record.

I think that’s too much information to put into the hands of one company, even if there mantra is Don’t be evil.

So I won’t be buying an Android phone. I won’t be buying AlertMe Energy (or any other service that uses Google PowerMeter) or using Google Health either.

I have to say that it’s a potential problem, not an actual one at the moment… I’ll keep you updated.

Further reading:

2 thoughts on “Google: excellence and diversity?

  1. I’m in 2 minds. Part of me agrees with you, but part of my thinks that this information is already available; all Google does is collate it and allow you to manage. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have access to the information about me and be able to make sure it’s correct and manage it rather than allowing whoever is trying to get my data to make wild assumptions about me based on information that I haven’t verified.

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