Google is watching you

01 Dic Google is watching you

Bangkok Post, Thailand, By Christopher Wolf, November 29, 2008
As companies start to look at ways of tapping the vast potential available in the cyber world – and governments on the other hand look at ways to keep a tab on them – there are products being developed by some global internet giants that could be seen as a threat for the privacy of an individual. Not long ago the governments of Thailand and others in the region were talking about ways to tame the information flow on the various websites across the region for having content that they view as being not appropriate for their populations. But despite their best efforts they were only able to control parts of the content but that can be seen as just the start of things to come in the future, because, despite the tremendous benefit that the cyber world brings, the drawbacks of uncontrolled databases of information could lead to problems in the future. It was seen last year when Google’s YouTube video website was blocked for breaking Thai law that prohibits insulting the monarchy. Google agreed to work with the Thai government to address its concerns. But there are new questions over whether Google has the same kind of attitude for the privacy of users of its various online services in Thailand and globally. There is no doubt that the internet search giant has helped people around the world access useful information. But what if Google’s technology was used to keep track of you – your whereabouts and your activities and records were kept of where you have been? That would be a little worrisome to say the least. And yet that may well be happening. The trouble is the company is not been entirely forthcoming about what exactly is going on. Google has developed a “geolocation” application for mobile and wireless devices that serves as a complement to its other technologies such as internet search and maps. According to the company, the technology “obtains a user’s current position, watches the user’s position as it changes over time, and allows website operators to quickly and cheaply obtain the user’s last known position”. The application is designed to let restaurants, salons, malls and other businesses and interested parties advertise to you while you are on the move. If it sounds like someone is watching you, that’s because that may be the case. This raises a host of concerns about privacy and safeguarding personal information. Google says that it will not directly use the application itself to associate a user’s location with personal identifiable information. Despite this promise, it also acknowledges that a website using the geolocation application could collect, store and, later on, use geographically specific information about you for its own purposes.