Thursday, April 20, 2006

DIGILIFE | Another challenge to ePrivacy

There’s been a lot of talk recently about the dangers that our increasingly online-lives pose to our privacy.

At the center of this debate is- who else- Google, of course!

Google has your search engine history, and may accordingly know your interests and whether you’re looking for or planning some ‘illegal’ activities.

Gmail, Google’s free email service, uses an engine that studies the content of your email messages, and delivers sponsored links (text advertising) to you based on keywords in your sent and received emails. So, again, Google has access to your emails.

Froogle, a Google shopping service, registers what you shop for.

And now, the latest product will enable Google to know what your schedule is. Imagine that!

It’s called Google Calendar, and it’s a free Web-based calendar application.

Google Calendar allows users to build online calendars that make it possible for specific individuals or groups of people to access all or some of the events listed. The logged-in users can then easily search for and add events to their calendars from within the program or directly off Web sites that are either publishing events using open calendaring standards or which have added a Google Calendar button to their site.

The open standards of Google Calendar enable it to access or share events with a friend's calendar- if you allow it- and import events and schedules from Microsoft Outlook.

That’s not all. Friends or colleagues who have access to this calendar can be notified by email, or even SMS, whenever there’s an update.So, Google are crossing the concepts of social networking- like Friendster- with organizing!

Google’s main challenger in the ‘calendaring’ market is, a company Yahoo acquired last year. But, if Google puts it’s force behind something, don’t count against it.

So why is Google doing this? For the same reasons it gives you free search and email services: To get your attention, deliver advertising to you (which you may click on, thereby generating revenue for Google), and as a channel to deliver sponsored content and promotions in the future. All of the ads and content you receive are targeted to your interests, and delivered in a subtle way. It’s Google’s recipe for success.

Still, it’s an invasion of privacy, but users allow it to benefit from these services.

Most users will say they’re pleased, but few stop to consider the implications of, for example, a government agency gaining access to a user’s ‘Google records’; whether searches or emails or schedules. They could then be used to mount a case against that user. Isn’t that a worrying notion?

It should be. Watch out what you reveal, and realize that there truly is a catch attached to anything that is free on the Internet.


At 2:33 AM , Blogger Rambling Hal said...

Hi Zeid, just wanted to stop by and tell you I enjoy your column in The Star. I also write for the paper, so I pretty much read your column every week - and now I discovered you have a blog too! Tres cool... :)

The thing is, for someone who is not that much into IT and gadgets and etc, I think it's great that you can get any reader interested in what you have to say, regardless of where their interests lie. So yup, that's it, wanted to be nice and let ya know, maybe it will be a cheerful addition to your day, from a columnist to a columnist. Take care!


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