Google Oogles You

gdfmlSurprise, surprise: Google is “reading” Gmails.  Two federal judges have allowed one super-case to form and proceed.  Google will now be sued for going through people’s correspondence, in violation of privacy laws.  If you’re surprised by this, you haven’t been paying attention.  The suit claims, only somewhat facetiously:

Google uses Gmail as its own secret data-mining machine, which intercepts, warehouses, and uses, without consent, the private thoughts of millions of unsuspecting Americans who transmit e-mail messages through Gmail

This is similar to various actions that have been pressing in European courts for years.  Let that be a lesson to the “only governments oppress” wankers.  Why does Google do this?  One word: Money.  Surprise, surprise- Google’s no charity.  Ever wonder why Gmail is “free”… or Google search, or Facebook for that matter?  

Gmail and other services costs money.  The companies generate revenue by showing you ads; it’s broadcast television all over again.  And yet, it’s not: the internet goes both ways, and these companies (the service providers and the ad people) know it.  In particular, Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc. have survived the dot-com bubble and 2008 bubble because they know this well, and use it.  Well.

As you go through movie reviews and plumber listings and restaurant guides, these companies are accumulating a psychographic profile on you: your coarse location (obtained from your ISP’s routing), your tastes and habits (obtained from your clicks), and as much personal detail as possible: gender, age, socioeconomic status, health issues, relative geekiness level, whatever.  These might be found in your login or account, of course.  Or in marketable keywords in your correspondence, flagged by a computer algorithm.  Or parsed out of a subtler reading of your clicks, from your friends and acquaintances, and even what computer platform and browser you’re running.  Very smart people are paid very much money to suss out these details.

Money then comes quite readily, like TV on steroids.  Since the internet goes two ways, advertisers can pay for these profiles, and show you targeted ads.  Television, radio, and billboards would fall on the rich and poor alike, the hipsters and the squares, the yearners and the satisfieds.  Now the data revolution lets advertisers look for their particular yearners, and save campaign budgets from the squares.  That’s worth money, and apparently a lot of it.

Google is no more a search company than Facebook is a handy graffiti spot: these are advertising companies with interesting bait, and the fish are biting.  Don’t like it?  Pay for your communications and other services.  Or, at minimum, learn the details of your platform, block cookies and ‘wares as best you can, and mind what lucrative details you reveal in your usage.  This goes down to your individual clicks.  Don’t like that?  Then maybe you’re more of a TV person, a passive pair of eyeballs.

Welcome to the future, it requires learning, diligence, and agility.  Maybe not so welcoming for the passives.

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