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May 14, 2006

Do You Trust Google?

Google Blogoscoped quotes a German podcast that asks "why do we trust Google more than Microsoft?". I found some diggers' comments more interesting than the podcast, so I will quote two great opinions:


"People who think Google does anything with your e-mail that other webmail services don't do are the ones who don't have the facts. Gmail basically scans your e-mail for keywords so it knows what ads to fetch. The mechanics of it aren't really any different from a spam filter or spell checker, and the likelihood of abuse is absolutely no different. In fact, this wouldn't even be the most efficient way to abuse your privacy. If they wanted to do something nasty with your e-mails, it would be done behind the scenes without necessarily having any connection with an ad system or anything else. And in that respect, any public webmail system on the planet could be doing whatever they want with your e-mails and you would have no way of knowing. Yes, you have to trust that Google isn't abusing your rights, but it's no different than any other public webmail service.

The same argument goes for tracking browsing behavior. Anyone could be doing it (and in fact, I'd be willing to bet that every major search engine does) whether they use cookies or not. To an extent, I can track people visiting my website, seeing them move from page to page across multiple visits, without the use of cookies (although a cookie would help improve the tracking accuracy). Google's cookie is no different from any other search engine's preferences cookie, except they happened to be the first major search engine to use such a distant expiration date. The expiration date is basically the date at which your browser should automatically clear your cookie. If you want the cookie to expire right now, just clear your cookies manually.

Again, those who think Google is doing anything more privacy-invading than other search engines or webmail services are the ones who don't seem to have the facts here. From a technical point of view, all such services have as much ability to follow your behavior and report it to the government."


"I don't trust Google. The amount of tracking they do on everyone is worrying. It's not Google per se that worries me, as they have a pretty decent track record, but it's who will get access to this information in the end. What if Google is bought by another company some time in the future? Or if laws are passed that allow various governments access to our data?

Google knows pretty much everything about us, from our search queries, our surfing habits tracked by Google ads, they know where we live and where we go by our Google Maps queries and if you have a GMail account, they know a lot more about you personally. It's a gold mine."


  1. To trust or not to trust?
    I believe that any thinkable abuse of information could happen. But not only by Google, also by any other organisation or company in the world, which hold personal information. So I must say that I cannot worry that much about Google. Sure I do like that somebody out there is looking after them. But personally I think there is 100 other large companies your sould worry more about, and for that matter also 100 other governments... Google said they wouldn't be evil, so everyone is trying to catch them in being evil. Microsoft is wellknown as THE evil company where I live (Copenhagen, Denmark), why isn't people talking about more about how Microsoft handle personal information, china or whatever...

  2. I think something worth mentioning is that companies like Google and Yahoo are completely opt-in. All their services are totally optional, and their policies are very open to the public (every time they change their privay policy, the internet jumps on it). So, in essence, I have to trust them. However, whether I trust them or not isn't nearly as important, when compared to credit agencies that trade my SSN and other info without my knowlegde or consent. When those companies trade my data, it effects my life. Now THAT worries me. If any laws are to be passed that protect my privacy, it shouldn't be aimed at Google. It should be at the ones selling my info every time I apply for a loan.


  4. read this Law Review Article on Gmail Privacy:

  5. Wow, seems to me there are way too many people who fancy themselves important enough that someone is spying on them. Please, no one is going to waste a minute on you. You part of large pool of info that may be used to predict trends etc etc. Stop flattering yourself, nobody gives a $#!7 about you personally and you emails to grandma. The fact of the matter is if you have anything sensitive enough that you don't want anyone seeing it then you wouldn't be using Gmail anyway.

  6. i never really paid attention to googles dodgy actions til they criticised china. i really lost respect for them as a company after that because how can they talk about china when they are helping the nsa spy on people, and also reading peoples emails. google is obviously not concerned about human rights because it would pull out of the u.s. for the million iraqis theyve killed, and also the 4 million iraqis that are refugees. this whole human rights thing is a sham and really doesnt look right.

  7. Google just knows too much and just doesn't get enough of knowing more and wanting more. The more the better...

    Google for President is coming, just watch.

    It's inevitable and many will regret but will not be able to do anything about it, it will be too late when ALL OUR INFORMATION IS AVAILABLE TO EVERYONE. Think about it, look at it, browse over it, IT ALREADY IS. 10 years ago we would have freaked out about half the things we see and do today; searches, profiles, you name it. Anyway, I love some of Google's products and use them, but I DON'T and WOULDN'T TRUST GOOGLE for too much longer.