Google privacy: Spies in the back of my head

I’m feeling very Googled these days, and I don’t mean in a positive sense.  I don’t flatter myself by imagining millions of people out there are interested in my activities.  Heaven knows I’m not that important.  What I mean is that, like a character in an old Peter Lorre movie, I feel as if I am constantly being followed by spies in the shadows, tracking my thoughts and movements.  
 
Now, before you think I’m about to wrap my head in tinfoil and start living under a bridge, consider the headlines from this past week. Internet giant, Google, sent privacy advocates screaming into the streets by changing the way it combines and uses all that information one billion users give to the company; the people you know, the notes you write, the maps you request, the videos you watch, the TV you like, the food you crave, the music you dance to, the sites you surf.  Google calls it streamlining the online process.  European authorities call it a possible violation of their laws.
 
Apple apps made headlines too with new revelations about how readily they can snatch and use photos that you may think are safely tucked away on your phone or computer.  I’ve always been careful about my pics, but this should be a serious worry to some of the rest of you.  “Mr. Carlton, I’d love to give you the job, but first can you explain what you were doing in Zurich wearing a rubber suit in a room full of chimps?”
 
And on it goes: Facebook, Target, banks, mobile phone providers; more and more companies are coming under suspicion over the degree to which they are tracking every minute of our lives.  Almost all of them offer some version of the Google defense: “We’re doing it so you will have a better experience!”  Maybe that’s part of their plan, but plenty of new media analysts believe the core motive is to triangulate our wallets, and hot wire our spending to other big companies who’ll pay big for that connection.
 
To paraphrase tech and media commentator Douglas Rushkoff, “People who use Facebook think they are the customers. They’re not.  They’re the product.  The customers are the big companies buying all that information we’re giving away about ourselves.”
 
Now, quick, look behind your phone; didn’t you just see a shadow lurking there?

– CNN’s Tom Foreman is a regular on “AC360°”/www.ac360.com and “T


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Body of 9-year-old boy found atop scaffolding around…

Police found the body of a 9-year-old boy atop scaffolding at his high-rise apartment building in the Bronx late Wednesday.

Local

Winners of the 2014 #NYCPoetweet contest

Every year, Metro partners with the mayor's office to promote Poem in your Pocket Day with a Twitter contest. Here are the winning entries.

Local

Where to celebrate Poem in Your Pocket Day…

Here are some ways you can get poetic today and for the rest of April, National Poetry Month.

International

'Barack Obama cheats on Michelle' claims Japanese politician…

A senior Japanese politician has marred Barack Obama's official visit to Tokyo with bizarre claims that the President cheats on his wife Michelle. Kazuyuki Hamada,…

Television

Jodie Foster married girlfriend Alexandra Hedison this weekend

No need to rely on cryptic Golden Globe speeches for your movie star sexual orientation questions anymore: Jodie Foster is married to a lady. Foster…

Television

‘Survivor: Cagayan’ recap: Episode 9

It was only an hour-long episode, but there's a lot to cover this week. The drama of Survivor strikes again as the identity of the…

Television

TV watch list, Wednesday, April 23: 'Suburgatory,' 'Modern…

'Suburgatory' The men of "Suburgatory" go camping and Tessa mentors a social outcast in a Miss Chatswin contest, which brings her, once again, into conflict…

The Word

The best lines from Oprah's ex-stepmother's Daily Mail…

Oprah’s ex-stepmother, Barbara Winfrey, is out for revenge.

MLB

Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda ejected for using pine…

Pineda was thrown out of the game against the Red Sox Wednesday for having pine tar on his neck -- for all the world to see.

NFL

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April 24…

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April 24 version

NFL

Giants 2014 regular season schedule

The Giants will play five prime-time games — against the Lions, Redskins, Eagles, Colts and Cowboys.

MLB

Jets 2014 regular season schedule

The Jets will play three prime-time games — against the Bears, Patriots and Dolphins — as well as a CBS national game in Week 2 at Green Bay.

Style

Pippa Middleton's Etsy pick: Golden Thread Jewelry

Get a look at the jewelry Pippa Middleton loves and find out how you can buy it too.

Parenting

What every parent needs to know to get…

Mom and author of "Small Talk," Tracey Blake, shares her five practical tips to help you develop your children's language skills.

Sex

Subway crush: Meet your soulmate on your commute

Read about a couple who has been 40 years after meeting on the train.

Tech

Happy birthday, Game Boy! The handheld console turns…

Nintendo's Game Boy turns 25 this week. To commemorate, we look at some of its better games, like "Tetris" and "The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening."