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Should You Be Concerned With Google?

March 17, 2010

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“If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place… If you really need that kind of privacy, the reality is that search engines – including Google – do retain this information for some time and it’s important, for example, that we are all subject in the United States to the Patriot Act and it is possible that all that information could be made available to the authorities.” – Google CEO Eric Schmidt

As the massive global cloud of Google continues to accumulate, the issue of online privacy is also escalating.  Numerous activities conducted by Google have generated an onslaught of criticism around the world.

The recent introduction of Google Buzz, a social media service, angered many of its initial users.  The application mined Gmail contact lists and automatically added contacts to their Buzz accounts without initial consent.  The default settings resulted in users sharing updates, photos, and videos with unwanted people.  Responding to the complaints, Google installed an opt-out disclaimer that disables the feature.

Street View, a technology that provides panoramic images of streets around the world, has received a public backlash from the U.K. and Germany.  The major concern is that citizens are being photographed, and their images posted to the Internet without consent.

Privacy issues may continue to increase as smartphones gain popularity.  Google is currently devoting much of its resources into developing mobile applications.  Chief executive Eric Schmidt predicts smartphones will soon replace desktop PC’s as the optimal Internet connection device.  This strategy is a result of the migration of advertising from traditional media, to the Internet, and now to mobile phones.

“Mobile advertising should ultimately be much better [than PC advertising],” Schmidt said. “With a mobile device we know where you are so we can offer much more enhanced localized opportunities.”

The threat of online privacy invasion – now and in the future – is certainly debatable.  The idea that Google may have participated in deceptive or immoral tactics should be a major concern.

Let’s not rush to judgment just yet though.  There are left and right wing responses to the issue of privacy, and both deserve attention.

From top to bottom(top) An Australian news company delivers eye-opening propaganda;  (middle) Google CEO Eric Schmidt responds to the growing concerns and criticism of privacy; (bottom) a few tips on how to remove Google from your Internet activities.

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If those solutions aren’t enough to curtail your privacy concerns, there are always alternative measures.  Even serious issues, such as privacy invasion, require a sense of humor:

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