Google in the dog house?

An article in saturday’s Times (26/05/07) warns us about the Big Brother nature of Google:

David Rowan warns that Google holds a great deal of personal information about us, and yet this is only the beginning of its campaign to monitor our likes, dislikes and motivations. As soon as you sign up for any Google service, the data accumilation process begins. As Rowan suggested, I logged onto iGoogle (personalised Google web page) and looked at my web surfing history, which includes searches, sites and clicks. Curiously, top of the ‘movers’ which is described as ‘recent top queries related to your searches’ was ‘Crufts’. Seeing as my searches included conference venues, educational institutions and The National Archives, I found this a little surprising.

When Google started we all thought it was rather quirky and friendly and took us away from the global dominance attitude of Microsoft. Now it is becoming increasingly dominant in a way that may be rather more unhealthy. You may be happy for Google to build up a psychological profile of you, in order to make useful suggestions about what you might want to buy, to wear, to do, to think…Its not as if this approach isn’t something many of us take advantage of – I have bought items from Amazon following suggestions of ‘if you like that you might like this’. But it does seem to be important for us to be aware that this is happening and think about how confident we are that Google will guarantee to keep our information private.

It is also interesting to think about the nature of this personal data from the point of view of archiving. Google may be looking to ‘organise the world’s information’ rather than store it, but in the end it is still eagerly gathering personal information. How is this information held and what will happen to it in the future?