Feeds

Google wants to really get to know you

Which database would you like to be stored on?

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Google wants to know what you are thinking. Erik Schmidt has, after a couple of quiet years, started talking again about his ambitions for the firm to be able to answer questions like "What shall I do tomorrow?", or "What job shall I take?"

Since most people don't know what they are thinking from moment to moment, we have to admire the scale of the company's ambition. But it makes us nervous, not least because it sounds an awful lot like "Where do you want to go today?" and we all know who was doing the asking then, right?

More seriously, Schmidt's stated ambition to collect as much personal data as possible on its users does prompt questions. Not just about the scale of the technical challenge the firm is undertaking, and the implications for the privacy of everyone on the net, if it works out how to achieve its aims.

According to the Financial Times, Schmidt said: "We are very early in the total information we have within Google. The algorithms will get better and we will get better at personalisation...We cannot even answer the most basic questions because we don't know enough about you. That is the most important aspect of Google's expansion."

From a business perspective, the quality of the recommendations it makes must be high enough that users are willing to sign up to allow their data to be mined and used to generate the adverts. Otherwise, people will opt out in droves.

From a privacy perspective, the fact that all the major search engines are competing to find out exactly who we all are, what we are thinking, and when we will be thinking it, is at the very least worth mentioning. Even if you don't find it outright troubling when the company's various ad-serving acquisitions are added to the mix.

Yes, there are already laws to restrict how our personal data is used, and yes, many of the services we are talking about will be opt in, rather than forced upon us.

But existing laws were not designed to deal with such large scale commercial information collection, and so the restrictions that are in place may not be adequate to protect an individual's privacy in either the online or offline world. And we can only really opt in to something if we know exactly what it is we are signing up for: how many people can say, honestly, that they read the Ts&Cs before ticking "I accept"?

Writing for the FT, Thomas Hazlett, professor of law and economics at George Mason University, says: "The rude awakening for many is that they supposed that [Google] was a different kind of company and that the markets it opened were upside down from others. They are finding that privacy, like other goods, has trade-offs, and that even the purest of souls must make hard choices." ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
NO MORE ALL CAPS and other pleasures of Visual Studio 14
Unpicking a packed preview that breaks down ASP.NET
KDE releases ice-cream coloured Plasma 5 just in time for summer
Melty but refreshing - popular rival to Mint's Cinnamon's still a work in progress
Leaked Windows Phone 8.1 Update specs tease details of Nokia's next mobes
New screen sizes, dual SIMs, voice over LTE, and more
Another day, another Firefox: Version 31 is upon us ALREADY
Web devs, Mozilla really wants you to like this one
Put down that Oracle database patch: It could cost $23,000 per CPU
On-by-default INMEMORY tech a boon for developers ... as long as they can afford it
Mozilla keeps its Beard, hopes anti-gay marriage troubles are now over
Plenty on new CEO's todo list – starting with Firefox's slipping grasp
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.