I want my Google Data Privacy

Gene at Fred’s House sounds like one of the multitude who are beginning to embrace the “Google lifestyle”:

I look around my desktop and I see Google Reader, Google Mail, Google Talk, Google Toolbar, Google Maps, Google Calendar, Google News, Google Analytics, Google Earth, and of course Google Google. Google WiFi was a pleasant surprise when I was in Mt View a few weeks ago, and last night I found pizza…using mobile Google on my phone. All of these things are becoming indispensable tools for me, and I really like using them because they work well and play well, and every few weeks they magically get better.

However, Gene is starting to worry:

I’m feeling increasingly uneasy about my dependence on Google services.

I think I need a new Google product to drop into beta. That would be, let’s see, Google Data Privacy. GDP would allow me to review all of the information that Google retains on me across all services, from all devices, and from all sources. GDP would allow me to determine the maximum data retention period for each of my services. GDP would allow me to selectively opt out of cross-service data mining & correlation, even if it reduced the quality of the services I receive. GDP would allow me to correct any inaccurate data in my profile. And GDP would log and alert me when my data was queried by other services.

I want my Google Data Privacy.

Google Data PrivacyGene is right – we need Google Data Privacy.

Now, some commenters at Lifehacker think this concern is silly. RickyF, for example, says:

We all use banks who have our financial information. Our doctors have our health records. Telephone companies know what numbers you called and called you. Our credit information is out there… So being paranoid about just Google is pointless.

RickyF is wrong.

Correcting this view is the goal of my dissertation. Yes, my bank knows some of my financial information, and my library knows some of the books I check out, and my grocer knows some of the products I buy, and the NYTimes.com knows some of the articles I read online, and so on. But within each of these contexts there are norms/laws that dictacte what information they can know about me, and to whom they can share it.

But if I start using Google’s tantalizing suite of products to engage in these various personal and intellectual activities, all such activities, and the information flows they entail, become centralized with one provider. One entity – Google – has access to all these disparate bits of data about my everyday activities. That is the concern. That is the problem. That is why Google should take a leadership role and give users the control of their data that Gene suggests.
A large part of my talk at the Web 2.0 conference at Aalborg last week summarizes this concern: The Panoptic Gaze of Web 2.0: How Web 2.0 Platforms Act as Infrastructures of Dataveillance” (PDF). Much more to come….

(fake logo via Lifehacker)


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