Google’s overall goal is to have a record of every e-mail we have ever written, every contact whose details we have recorded, every file we have created, every picture we have taken and saved, every appointment we have made, every website we have visited, every search query we have typed into its home page, every ad we have clicked on, and everything we have bought online. It wants to know and record where we have been and, thanks to our search history of airlines, car-hire firms and MapQuest, where we are going in the future and when. John Arlidge Google. Who's looking at you? Times of London Online, October 21, 2007. (Thanks to Stephen's Lighthouse for this link.)
As do many Internet users, I take major advantage of Google products. The search engines (of course), the iGoogle startpage, gmail, and more recently, Google Docs. Our tech department has even been tossing around the idea of replacing our Exchange e-mail/calendaring/contacts server with an institutional version of Google Apps. The ease, effectiveness, and cost - or lack thereof - make Google's stuff very, very seductive.
But are we paying a hidden, very high price - our privacy - for Google's services? I agree with Stephen Abrams when he suggests that "[The above] article should be must reading in all information literacy education. Our users (and ourselves) should be making conscious choices."
I've written about the need for teaching students to be making informed choices about how much information they provide online "So Tell Us a Little About Yourself" that goes beyond simply protecting oneself from strangers. My recommendation in 2003 was:
“How much do you want others to know about you?” is a question we should be asking our students to ask themselves. It is a question that can only have a personal answer. But it should be an informed answer.
I'll stand by that. And suggest that the issue is more important now than ever.
Oh, for those of you who Twitter each stray thought, personal itch, and titch of gossip, do you ever wonder who might be collecting and analyzing these bits?