Skip to main content

Google - doing evil?

So, I confess my dirty librarian secret: I really like Google. I know I'm meant to be an expert online, using the most appropriate search engine for whatever information I'm looking for (I keep meaning to try to use Sputtr for that too, even though the name sounds like it's an asthmatic with a cold, but never quite remember), but... Google works so WELL!
And it allows you to personalise it with iGoogle, and narrow searches to UK only, and that's lovely!

But, I do worry about what they do with my data. After all, to personalise to iGoogle, you must be logged in. Which means every search you do is logged against your user name / ID, and whatever other information about yourself you've given them. Even if you've not said where you live, your searches are likely to do that. Been on holiday recently? Researched that on Google when logged in? That data's been recorded too. Looked for recipes? Childcare tips? Been looking for a new job? Snap. Although it may be anonymised, that data can still identify you individually, as AOL found out to their cost when they released some 'anonymised' data a while back, and subsequently some users were identified from that data, prompting the usual threats of lawsuits.

Currently, Google log search query details, the IP address of the searcher, and install a cookie (on the machines of those that don't block them) with a validity of 30 years to recognise returning visitors. And they're currently debating with Europe about the time length they hold that data for. I don't like that sort of information being held for any longer than is absolutely necessary. Previously, Goggle held it as long as they saw necessary. Now, they're pledging to anonymise it after 18-24 months. But why so long? Honestly, just how much use is information on a web search after 2 years? I'm very protective of my data online: if forced to register to use a site, I like to play around - initial letters only if asked for a first and last name, make up an age, and sometimes I change gender. After all, I never signed a usage agreement with the Magical Interweb saying I'd always be truthful about my personal details, did I? What information I give up, and to who, is my choice, usually after a check of their data protection and retention policy.

Now, it's true, I could opt not to not to use Google if I'm searching, but surely that defeats the purpose of selecting and using the best tool for the job. I'm not going to use a brushpan and shovel to clean my carpets when I have a Dyson, and nor am I going to use a lesser search engine when Google is constantly tweaking its already very successful algorithms to improve their product every day. I know their recent black ranking by Privacy International is a result of their many products, and the sharing of data between them. They're probably not deliberately doing evil, but they're perhaps beginning to allow a little bit of badness to seep in at the edges...

You know what's even more fun?
Google's now got a log of all the searches I just did for this blog post...

Comments

daniel said…
Hi Jennie

Interesting take on Google. I think the backlash is gathering momentum now.

I am writing on behalf of http://www.192.com

I am researching if legal librarians use 192.com to find people or companies, for example. I would be interested in your feedback on the site and how you use it? Please let me know if you have a moment. Cheers Daniel

Popular posts from this blog

A ladyfellowing

Well, in January this year, I submitted my Fellowship portfolio, and heard in April that it had been successful, making me now officially a Ladyfellow and able to add FCLIP after my name, yay!

Me registration fees were paid in September 2015, so technically it took less than 18 months from registration to submission. However, that doesn’t include the good few months before that, preparing my thoughts, talking to my mentor, and plotting out just how I would Get This Damn Thing Done, so realistically, it was more like a 2 year process.

So, how big a task was it? In a “dear god, what have I done” moment, I totalled up the word count of all items in the portfolio, and it came to approximately 30,000 words. That’s easily the largest piece of work I’ve ever produced (I’m a rubbish student, so I’ve never had to produce an academic dissertation). So yes, it turns out that reviewing your career and achievements to date, and reflecting on what you’ve learned from all of your experiences is quite …

Do you read with your eyes, or your ears?

This article discusses the decline in ebook sales, and explains some of the potential future challenges, once of which is that the main growth area seems to be audiobooks. Publishers are now seeing audiobooks as their best area for growth rather than ebooks.
This does not make me happy! I am not an old fashioned person who expects a book to be a physical object - I have both a well-stuffed Kindle and a rapidly read-and-returned collection of charity shop purchased books at home. Physical books are merely containers for the exciting contents, and the contents work as well digitally as they do physically. What I don’t have in my home however is any audiobooks. Because I hate the damn things.
I just cannot get on with them. For a while a few years ago I commuted by driving for about 30 minutes each way in often-semi-static traffic. So I thought I’d put some audiobooks on in the car so the time was a little bit more productive. Nope: it didn’t work for me. I was focused on the driving/traff…