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Google: Friend or Foe?

Don’t get me wrong, almost all of us love Google to death. It has single-handedly changed the direction of this entire industry to something that is accessible for everyone. However, while Google is the darling poster child of Wall Street and the general public, there lurks a danger of abuse. We will cover this in a bit, but first let’s look at a few years ago when the World Wide Web was still a novel concept. We had a handful of methods of finding information. They were so-called search engines.

Their names were Yahoo, Excite, Lycos, and of course Alta Vista. If someone wanted to find a piece of information on this “World Wide Web”, they would enter their keywords into one of the above named search engines and would then begin the long arduous process of sorting through a lot of garbage before finding what they were looking for. Somewhere along the way, each of these companies got it into their corporate heads that what people wanted was even more fluff thrown at them. This is when they became portals instead of search engines. Instead of offering just search results for what we were looking for, we now had stock quotes, weather reports, movie reviews, news reports, health tips, beauty tips, sports scores, horoscopes, dating tips, entertainment gossip, shopping links, financial hints, games, and lastly ads.

Lots of ads. In the late nineties, enter Google, which had a very simple vision and unique philosophy. While every portal was busy trying to deliver us critical information about when to kiss our date and how to shave our pet, Google was refining its search algorithms to make it so it would yield our searched keywords in a more efficient fashion without us having to endure that arduous process of sifting through garbage data. This coupled with the unique philosophy of do-no-evil, garnered them much deserved attention and fame. Their approach to a lot of the services they now do to this day is very well executed. Some would argue that they’ve become what they said they wouldn’t become in the beginning, which is a portal. However, if you really think about it, they did this in such an elegant and well thought out system. The entire portal features are completely optional, those that do not wish to utilize them, are not forced to look at it or participate in it. However, as good as the methods and intentions of Google may be, there is indeed a danger to our continued dependency on them. If you use Google regularly, then you more than likely have a Google Account with them and utilize one of their specialized services.

One of the automatic ones is that they hold your search history for you by default. Every time you run a Google query, it is recorded and stored by Google for your convenience at a later date. It even records what sites you jump to from the Google search list. As our dependency on Google increases, we are putting all of our eggs in one basket per se. We trust Google with a lot of information about our personal lives. After all, why should we think twice about a company who has a philosophy of Do-No-Evil and actively shows its good intentions to the technology community? Perhaps we should be thinking twice about it though. It may not be Google that we have to worry about, but rather, the governments of the world. If they are able to tap into Google via legal means to garner information about its own citizens, then this is a serious breach of privacy and security. A current example of this is still ongoing in the United States of America. Robert Petrick, an American citizen, is being held on trial for the murder of his wife.

A terrible act that should go punished, yes. However, the interesting portion is how their prime evidence against him was obtained via Google, in which it was found that he searched for terms such as neck and snap days before the murder took place. I’m not here defending his acts, I along with mostly everyone else believe that murder is not an act to be taken lightly and the man, if guilty, should be prosecuted and sentenced to the fullest extent of the law. But my point is here that it is possible for the government to tap into Google to research about their own citizens. The possibilities of abuse here are paramount. Google is unable to really defend our privacy in this regard, as they must comply with the law and divulge our information. Next time you are Googling, remember the fact that they record it. After all, searches can be quite telling of the person and their current intentions.


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