Tag Archives: Privacy

Google & Privacy. Worried? You shouldn’t be.

Vaidhyanathan criticizes Google for having a “lack of privacy” and  for being an invasive “smokescreen”. While Google does have a history of exposing private information, their mission, overall, is not to expose our private lives. Indeed, there are times where it seems Google is absorbing every bit of information like a sponge. What we must remember is that the purpose of this information vacuum is for our benefit. Google’s purpose is not to blackmail us. Vaidhyanathan is concerned about the amount of data Google holds but he might as well be just as concerned with the government. We send in tax forms and fill out censuses with just as much information regarding our lives. David Carr, writer for the New York Times, argues that although Google’s motives have been called into question, it is overall an extremely useful tool. In his article “How good (or Not Evil) is Google?” he points out that Google financed more than $4 billion dollars towards pure research and applications to make it more powerful in order to please us, the users. Both authors point out the 2007 incident where Google scanned millions of books without permission. Vaidhyanathan argues this as evidence that Google is invasive however Carr makes a good point: no one else put effort into scanning these books page by page. Google’s goal here wasn’t to rip off all of the authors, it was to share the information in the books with the world and to preserve text that could otherwise be lost. Marie Curie’s books, for example, are too radioactive to touch and can be used by very few select scientists with expensive suits. This is a specific reason why we would need a company like Google to put the information online for all to see and use. By extending access to billions of people, Google is expediting the advancement of society. Yes, Google’s massive absorption rate and capacity of data is frightening but it is not being used for evil. It is only benefiting us and making our lives easier for the moment so even though Vaidhyanathan is critical, we shouldn’t be too worried.

Overt Over Covert

Googlization is simply a fancier term for tactics that have been taking place for centuries- the collection of information about us. Vaidhyanathan argues in The Googlization of Us that the amount of information Google collects on each of us should be unsettling. We should have little worries about googlization , however, because the world is becoming more public each day, and googlization is close to necessary if you want the most out of your experience with Google. As Emily Nussbaum pointed out, “people who behave as if privacy doesn’t exist are actually the sane people, not the insane ones” (Googlization, p. 92).

The Truth of Fact, The Truth of Feeling revolved around the idea that advancements in technology might not be a good thing for civilization. In both side stories of the actual story, the protagonists realized that it wasn’t the technology that was dangerous but the way in which people used it. Imagine a world where Google didn’t promise to protect any of the information that we provided them with. That would be a scary reality to live in, and that would make this topic completely different. However, Google isn’t that kind of company, so we should have little to worry about. Just as you have to use Remem in TFTF religiously, by sacrificing some of your privacy, to receive the best outcome, you must use the settings that give you the most convenience with Google. There is no perfect world where you can have a secret life and receive the best that technology has to offer; as Mayer described, “it’s a trade-off, where you will give up some of your privacy in order to gain some functionality” (p. 87).

It’s obvious the direction that the world is heading, and we need to be pioneers instead of settlers. Google is not the enemy, and our information isn’t nearly as private as you might think, so there is no risk associated with googlization. There is no need for us to chop ourselves off at the knees by trying to maintain a “secretive” life. The policies that are in place today aren’t any need for concern since Google is a trustworthy company. If you refuse to allow googlization to enhance your life, then enjoy getting left behind society the next decade as the advancements will give us more opportunities than we can imagine.

The Advantages of Big Data

“So in 2013 the amount of stored information in the world is estimated to be around 1,200 exabytes, of which less than two percent is non-digital.”
Mayer-Schönberger, Viktor, and Kenneth Cukier. Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013. 9. Print.

Some people believe that the world gets too involved in our private lives by gathering our personal information, but where would we be without these types of services? It frightens some to know that they are being tracked on the internet, and they don’t like the feeling of knowing that “Big Brother” is always watching. These people are worried by the fact that their information is at there for most anyone to see. However, this collection of data is vital since it helps our society as a whole by helping people get the best experience out of their lives.

Big Data gives an example from just a few years ago of how the collection of information enhanced our well-being. The H1N1 virus was a global epidemic, and the CDC was doing a pretty good job, at that time, on tracking the virus’s location. The CDC’s process was tedious and lengthy, though, and Google saw a way that they could enhance the process. When Google unveiled their formula to track where H1N1 was located, it worked just as well, if not better, and allowed the data to be analyzed in real time rather than after 10 days or so.  That wouldn’t be possible if Google wasn’t able to track searches.

We can find almost anything we need on the internet in today’s society. There are few things, compared to the amount of information out there, that you’ll be able to find in a book that you can’t find on the web. The internet’s interface becoming easier over the years has led to increase in its use. Thanks to innovators like Etzioni, the creator of Bing, the internet can help us with all sorts of decisions. It can give us options of fast food based on past searches, or it can give us stats on our favorite player’s previous game just from searching that player. One day, we might even be able receive a weekly weather report every Monday because your device recognizing a pattern of you looking at the weather for a week every sing Monday morning

The ability to have these services is a huge asset for our lives. It has already greatly improved them whether you want to recognize that or not. The world as we know it wouldn’t be the same without big data undergoing the change that it has over the past quarter of a century, and there are still greater changes to come. With nearly all of the data in the world being digital, it’s important that we accept the enhancements from big data taking place around us because they’re just making life easier for humanity. Cukier and Mayer-Schönberger understand this; they give us the example that “in the future- and sooner than we might think- many aspects of our world will be augmented or replaced by computer systems that today are the sole purview of human judgment” (12), which is a fascinating thought that has to constantly be tugging at the back of many of our minds.