To Fear Or Not To Fear…

search-bg.jpg  If you’d asked me a week ago, “Should we be afraid of Google?” I would have said emphatically, “no way.”  I am a Google geek–love Google.  I have Gmail, Google Toolbar–and every relevant “button” on it.  I’m hooked.  With every Google “gadget” discovery, I find life gets easier and more efficient.  Gmail, Bookmarks, Notebooks, Buttons, Alerts, Reader, Earth, News, iGoogle, etc.–the tool options are growing exponentially (to the googol power, I suppose) and I keep adding them.  Life can only get better…right? 

I have long believed that Google levels the playing field–everyone has access to as much information as they wish to consume, and to as many goods & services as they can uncover.  I didn’t think too much past that until “The Search.”  It is stunning to think about how much Google knows about me and my habits.  Based on my searches, website visits, link throughs, mail retrievals (GMail), direction requests (Google Maps), RSS reads (Google Reader), alert notifications (Google Alerts), etc., Google has learned what my interests are, where I live, who my friends are, where I shop, what size I wear, when I travel, where I travel, where I bank.  Google knows my habits.  Google knows about my family.  Google knows my politics.  Google knows my faith.  Google likely knows when I go to sleep and when I wake up.  And, I’m guessing that this is just the tip of the iceberg.  They’re “grokking” my data.  Does that scare me?  Maybe.  Although, I don’t really think I have anything to hide.  Well…unless you count my bank account numbers, credit card numbers, social security number and driver’s license number (to name a few)–all my vital statistics.  Hmmm…

I’m still fairly comfortable with all of this–I’m pretty anonymous.  After all, there are so many searches conducted through Google.  “The Search” states that, “By mid-2000, searches per day swelled to 18 million, and the Google index surpassed 1 billion documents.”  And according to John Battelle’s blog, that number grew to 250 million searches per day as of two years ago.  Obviously, that number continues to grow–rapidly.  I’m just one of millions–no problem.  Beyond that, Google’s ethos is “Don’t be evil.”  My data must be safe…

However, Google didn’t “Dance” on me.  The Google Dance never crossed my mind.  I didn’t know what it was–and it never would have occurred to me if I had known.  I was unaware that a shift in Google’s algorithms could virtually wipe-out a small business that relies on Google’s search engine for traffic.  That really scares me.  I would not have believed that a long-tail business could go bankrupt (after firmly establishing itself in a niche market and investing in inventory based on past performance) due to a tweak in how data is translated. 

Reading about Ted Leonsis’ ingenious success in changing Google’s search results about him got me thinking.  I began to wonder…can anyone else do that?  Is searching an objective process?  Is the playing field level?  I read that Microsoft CEO Steve Balmer was quoted as saying about Google CEO Eric Schmidt, “I’m going to . . . bury that guy. I have done it before, and I will do it again.”  “I’m going to . . . kill Google.”  So I decided to put my questions to an objectivity test.  I did a Google search on Steve Ballmer.  Based on that search, one can infer that Steve Ballmer is a bit of a wild cardgot a better way to say it?  Then, I searched Eric Schmidt .  Take a look–do you notice anything at all?

Do I fear Google?  Personally, not yet–I’m still a Google geek.  But I’m staying on my toes; because in addition to Garrett’s two creeds to remember (“Markets are conversations” and “There are no rules”), I’ve got one of my own:  Nothing is private. 

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~ by eTechnorize on February 12, 2008.

2 Responses to “To Fear Or Not To Fear…”

  1. I added a link in the del.icio.us feed to a blog that talks about how marketers are using that info about us to market to us. It’s not quite as futuristic as John Battelle’s idea (Chapt. 6 or 7 I think), but it’s happening now. All those details they’re collecting about us are being used. …But I’m still with you. I love Google.

  2. Well said . . . I think a lot of us are on the same page. On one hand Google is so great, but on the other, it’s probably wise to be alert and in tune to what is actually going on with our “private” information.

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