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



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