Big brother is watching your every move on the internet. And, by “big brother,” some privacy experts mean Google, the internet search engine with a majority of all searches online. According to Yahoo News (click here for the story), Google has begun a new advertising campaign that uses where you have been to present advertisements to you from AdWords advertisers. So, for example, if you had previously visited my web site, http://www.faithatlaw.com, and were searching for legal services next month, you might see my Google ad show up in your Google search results, where another user that had never been to my site might not see the same ad. Read Google’s Blog here.
The controversy for privacy advocates is that people other than you have access to your web history, regardless of whether you wanted those other persons to have access or not. It is kind of like the FBI agent walking over to the public library and printing out a list of all the books you have taken out in the last year – most patrons of the library (way back in the good old days before the Patriot Act) just would not expect the government to be investigating what books they were reading. Of course, most of us also probably don’t get all that upset about it, unless the cops have a warrant and are banging down our door at home!
What’s different about this situation, however, is that Google is not a government agency (though Google, like other service providers do comply with warrants from government agencies, or the laws of other nations where they operate, including some of those dictatorships who shall not be named, but whose country’s name rhymes with Whina). And, Google’s advertisers are generally just other businesses looking for customers. I think that we have gotten over the commercialization of the internet. We’ve been living with stupid advertisements from stupider products now for some time. I imagine that Billy Mays is probably living in your subconcious, too, but it just makes me bound and determined to never buy any crap that guy is pushing on those TV commercials. I mean, how often do you have a torn US flag that you repair and want to fly in a wind tunnel (even sixty mile per hour winds will not drown out Billy!).
So, if you go to a web site selling that crap, and search for things like that crap on Google, that stupid web site’s ads will be more in your face than they might otherwise be. Personally, I think you deserve to be tortured with endless pop up ads for visiting that web site and contemplating supporting Billy Mays’ personal quest to yell at everyone on the planet. And don’t get me started about ShamWow. But I digress.
The issue for us users of the internet is how much we are willing to put up with others knowing about us. I’d be willing to bet most readers of this blog treat the internet as a parking lot under surveillance, and just don’t pay much attention to the cameras. Our expectations of our privacy on the internet continue to be lowered as social networking and other web sites allow us to live more publicly than ever before. Google is part of this trend, as is your television, newspaper, trade magazine, your neighbor’s pets, your government – pretty much everybody. That’s because we need to buy more stuff. Ask Whina – they are ready to sell you a new flat screen TV that you can hook your internet-enabled new WiFi Macbook Air to while you are reading an advertising-sponsored blog, searching through internet ads on Google for the best deal on the next cool thing.
Coming next month: free clothing sponsored by Google ads that are updated regularly to reflect your geographic location, courtesy of Google Maps! (Oh John, just been shopping at The Apple Store in Towson, I see…)