Saturday, February 2, 2008

So what can the 'Google-bots' tell about you?

Whilst Microsoft has been setting its sights on Yahoo! I've been more concerned about Google!

My concern with Google started a few nights ago during some email communications with
Stephanie. Stephanie is one of Clay Burell's PLN Students, who is doing a project on designing a 'dream restaurant', and she tweeted:

Mr.Burell's PLN Class-Send me photos of your favorite restaurants/bars in your town ( It'd be very helpful for my project
So I promptly 'Googled' the URL of my husband and I's favourite restaurant, the Taj Tandoor in Adelaide, and Gmail'ed it to Stephanie, along with some comments about why this was our favourite restaurant.

Whilst reading Stephanie's replied 'Thank You', it was much to my amazement that I noticed on the right hand side of the screen that the 'Sponsored Links' were all directly related to the email communications which Stephanie and I were entered into.

What? Gmail is 'monitoring' my emails? Is this right? Should the Google-bots be allowed to scroll my private communications for the sole purpose of selling me something?

Well I obviously didn't read the 'Terms & Conditions' when signing up to my Gmail account too well (which I've had for less than a month).

This all feels a little "Big Google Brotherish".

I know Google and their 'Sponsors' need to make a living - and I'm quite happy for these links to be attached to my publicly open searchs in Google Search engine - but hey, I'm NOT happy about having Google 'monitoring' my email communications.

I've always considered email to be a fairly 'private' arena - just me and the people I'm emailing to. A place where I feel I can write something which is only for a directed audience.

This has made me more 'conscious' about what I use my Gmail account for. How do I know that the data
Google is gathering through their 'keyword searches' is only being analysed and used to 'sell' to advertisers?

In all of its faults, at least Twitter does not have 'Sponsored Advertising' - at least I don't feel like my privacy is being 'invaded'.

recently went public - and for one day only had 'Ads by Google' appear. So why did they decide to no longer run these ads after only a very short period of time?

Facebook has attracted a lot of media attention about the potential 'privacy' infringements of its 'Beacon' application

This led me to think about:

Who 'owns' the data in my Gmail emails?

What political and social gains are there to be had from Google having access to all of this data about us?

How do we raise people's awareness of the motivation behind Google's ever watching eye over our activities whilst using their applications?

Don't take everything at face value - Question - Question everything!

I wonder how the 'Google-bots' will use this blog posting to sell me something?


NickLothian said...

There's been a fair bit of commentary on the Gmail scanning you email thing. This is probably the best thing I've read even if it is a bit old.

I'd be less concerned about Google than other providers. Google have a history of protecting their users interests, unlike most other search engines.

Twitter might not show advertisements (at the moment), but all the search engines are spidering it, so they know what you say there (anyway - it's public communication, right?).

theother66 (formally MadMiller) said...

Thanks Nick

I'm in a dilemma on this topic. I love the functionality of the suite of Google tools, and how they can interact so well.

But I'm not too happy about them being inside my email communications.

I would also like people to talk about this topic so that it will raise their awareness, so they'll question what's going on around them.

Thanks also for the Google Web History link: which shows my Web activity.

However, is it possible to view the data Google gathers on me for their own means and purpose?