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Google and Your Privacy

Google logoGoogle’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. At least that’s what it says when you click on About Google at the bottom of the Google page. As a corporation, Google is singular in having as it’s motto “Don’t be evil” — that’s actually what they said in the prospectus for their 2004  IPO, the Initial Public Offering of stock to the public.

And in Google’s 10-point philosophy, under the heading Our philosophy, point number 6 says: You can make money without doing evil. Google is a business. The revenue we generate is derived from offering search technology to companies and from the sale of advertising displayed on our site and on other sites across the web. (And blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. You can look up what Google has to say, but if we repeat it, you’ll get bored and move on, and we’re trying to make a point of our own, so please keep reading.)

Over the past several weeks, visitors to the Google search page have repeatedly been informed, “We’re changing our privacy policy and terms. This stuff matters.” Visitors are given a chance to click on Dismiss, or Learn more. If you click Learn more, Google will tell you, “We’re getting rid of over 60 different privacy policies across Google and replacing them with one that’s a lot shorter and easier to read. Our new policy covers multiple products and features, reflecting our desire to create one beautifully simple and intuitive experience across Google.”

Who could object to that, right? And if you read the entire policy, which Google put there so you could read it, you’ll learn more details. From Google’s business point of view, the policy is certainly good because Google will have all the information about you in one place.  But for people who use Google, it’s not so good.  Because when you gather small bits of information about a person from a lot of different sources, and  put them into one big heap of information in one place all about that person, you know a lot more about that person than when the information is scattered. Yes, bringing all the scattered bits together does make a difference. It’s a lot easier to put a jigsaw puzzle together if you have all the pieces in one place.

Look at it this way, US intelligence agencies had sufficient information in different places about terrorists, but the agencies failed in their mission because the information was scattered and they “didn’t connect the dots.” Google’s new privacy policy allows them connect the dots about you.

If you’d really like to Learn more about privacy and Google, you might look at Knowledge @ Wharton, the research and business analysis journal of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Google’s new privacy policy is scheduled to go into effect on March 1st, but on the other side of the Atlantic the European Union authorities have asked Google to give them more time to investigate the effects of such a change. That’s a Good Idea.

More Notes

The World Happiness Report, released by the United Nations, ranks countries on six key variables that support well-being: income, freedom, trust, healthy life expectancy, social support and generosity. This year, Finland is first, followed by Norway, Denmark, Iceland and Switzerland, followed by Netherlands, Canada,New Zealand, Sweden, Australia. The United States, which has never been in the top ten, silpped down four places from last year and is now 18th. President Trump may make American Great Again, but apparently not happier.