Monday, August 4, 2008

Look Whose Watching youuuuuu

Internet Surfing has been revolutionized in this new era and a major contribution is from Google and it’s myriad tools and services. The main reason for it’s wide spread domain is because of the ‘free‘ tag. Most of it’s services like orkut, gmail, gearth basic and gtalk are available free of cost. So, were does google find its profits? It’s advertising services is the answer to that. Google’s powerful bots don’t just crawl the net to get you the best search results, they can even crawl your mails to display relevant ads on your mail page.

So how private is your life?

Let me look at the google services I use. iGoogle, Gmail, Orkut, Gtalk, GReader, GEarth, Google Blog Search, Picasa, YouTube, GVideos, GGroups, GBooks, GAnalytics. That’s a good long list, would have cost me a fortune if these weren’t free.

My online life is so much dependent on Google. No doubt there will many others like me. Now lets look at how gOOgle’s eyes follow you.

iGoogle - Customisable Search Page. It knows what you search for, what you want from the internet, and hence your fields of interests. I remember using Google search to know about my ailment during illness. So based on the search history, anyone who has access to it can know of my physical and even mental status. With such information, the lifestyle of any individual can be constructed.

Gmail and GTalk - Google’s mail and chat services. Again your interests, contacts, friends are there in your mail box. I know of an incident when we gained access to our friends gmail account by keylogging. From his chat history, we gained so much of personal information, like his new crush, reasons for observable changes in his behavior etc.

Orkut - For Indians, social networking got a new meaning through orkut. Your profile represents your online self. And you tend to make your profile as unique as possible, ending up giving more of personal info, sometimes info that shouldn’t be that public, like home address and personal phone number. You can closely follow a profile and get to know so much about the person in real life.

GEarth and WikiMap - You will be thrilled to find your place of residence on them and mark them as say “My House”, but it also permits strangers to know of your physical location. Well, I guess that’s dangerous.

Youtube and GVideos - These service changed the way we watch videos on the internet. Again it logs your video interests, letting people know more about you.

These are just instances, few examples I realised out of my Googling experiences. I myself know people who get information about others just based on online data, sometimes just from Orkut. The only hindrance they faced is the new privacy settings. Hence, it may be difficult for unauthorized people to cross your life, yet people with authority and permission to access Google data can construct the complete life of any individual simply from online data even without having any contact with the individual. He will never know his life is being watched upon.

It might be scary to realize that there could be someone watching every step of yours, knowing your little secrets and understanding your weakness more than the best of your best friends. But we can pacify ourselves :

“We are just one in a billion Google users. Who is jobless to trace our tracks? “