In Google We (Don’t?) Trust

04 Dic In Google We (Don’t?) Trust

eWeek, NY, By Clint Boulton, December 2, 2008
Several things jumped out at me from Jeffrey Rosen’s piece in The New York Times magazine this past Saturday. Here’s the online version, in all its seven-page glory. First, there is a mindboggling number of countries that can’t figure out if YouTube should stay or go, and Google has a trinity of lawyers to help argue the company’s position. After reading the feature, I’m convinced that these people’s jobs suck more than anything has sucked before. Not to insult other people’s professions (whoops, is it too late?), but playing gatekeeper, traffic cop or anything else that deals with trying to play the garbage in, garbage out game doesn’t seem appealing. Necessary, yes, fun, no. Okay, so that cuts out the bulk of the article. The best part of the piece for me was this comment from Tim Wu, aColumbia law professor and a former scholar in residence at Google: To love Google, you have to be a little bit of a monarchist, you have to have faith in the way people traditionally felt about the king. One reason they’re good at the moment is they live and die on trust, and as soon as you lose trust in Google, it’s over for them.
Google haters will no doubt strike through “monarchist” and insert “masochist” in that quote, but Wu’s comment wonderfully sums up why I trust Google implicitly. That Google lives and dies on trust is why I trust the search engine with my data. Here’s why. I happily use Gmail and Google Reader, not to mention Google search. I harbor no illusions about what data Google can collect on me and I freely grant it that right. It doesn’t bother me a lick that Google may collect the data and use it to forge more targeted ads on my behalf. When I was planning a wedding last year, I saw some wedding-oriented ads pop up not only in Gmail but in pretty much every Google search thereafter, as can be expected. I accepted that. OK, no big deal, right? We all accept this degree of input/output when it comes to search advertising. We do searches, Google feeds us ads based on those searches. No big mystery. But, privacy paranoiacs will say, if Google begins to collect all of our Internet identity in its vast data center repositories, some hacker could break in, steal that data and use it. First, that hasn’t happened to disastrous effect in Google’s 10 years of life. Second, we’ve got banks (name them) and retailers (T.J. Maxx) all over the world losing storage tapes with our data on them, or suffering breaches from wireless network drive-bys, not to mention lost laptops. None of these have been associated with Google. I’m sorry, but the security concerns won’t wash. People still bank online, and people still search for Google online. Security concerns really aren’t a concern in my book where Google is concerned. Google hosts its customers’ data and uses information it gathers based on our searches and Internet activity to make a very nice profit. We need information, Google gives it to us at a small price, a bit of information on us that might normally go unused. It’s a symbiotic relationship.