The majority of us use Google almost by default. It’s fast and highly relevant info are usually displayed first. But googling for personal info is slightly different – most of the time it’s a hit and miss affair. More miss than hit, to be precise.
If the person that you’ve googled about is someone in the news or is an avid blogger who openly displays their full name and details then you may find some information. If not, then most of it is junk. I mean think about it: your name is not that unique in the world that you are the only one out of 5 billion other ppl on the planet that have it.
For example, I just googled my name and I see a lot of links about ppl called by the same name but not one that’s specifically about me. This is after going through 10 pages of results. Even if I managed to find something specific like when I googled one primary-school friend from KL it’s highly obscure stuff – she is a PhD and had a paper published.
On the other hand, if you googled for “Mooiness” you’d find a few pages of worthwhile stuff which is not surprising. It’s in the URL of this blog, the blog is called that, and I leave comments on other blogs with that name.
Which leads me to the Cnet article which talked about privacy concerns on the Web and Google in particular. The writer used Google CEO Eric Schmidt as it’s Googling example who, unlike you and I, is a highly visible person in the tech world. So of course, even if I don’t know Mr. Schmidt personally, I can still “know” him because of the abundance of info out there. The article also talked about the personal information that Google collects as part of its services. Whether intentional or not, I think Cnet may have exaggerated the concerns and unfairly singled out Google for scrutiny. Google got so pissed that it is now not talking to Cnet staffers for at least a year.
To throw a bit of balance into the arguments, most Web companies collect personal information – think Hotmail, Yahoo, eBay, Amazon … and the list goes on. It is not unlike information collected by other commerical entities – think the phonebook (which has your address and phone number), think your mechanic (who knows what you drive and your license plate), your cleaning lady (who knows where you live and has keys to your house), your TV cable/satellite company (who knows what you are watching) etc. The fact is: we already surrender a lot of information about ourselves but these information are not always readily or easily obtainable. Of course Google can be hacked and it may have rotten employees but it is not the only one facing these problems.
What can be searched about us on the web is also controllable to a certain extent: it’s your decision as to how much to reveal about yourself online. However that’s not to say that someone that you know might not write or post something private about you.
Paranoid? Then disengage from the world – don’t have friends or family, don’t work, don’t have a bank account, don’t pay taxes, don’t own anything and don’t go to the hospital. But the rest of us still have to live here – we just have to be smart and rational and be less “chicken little” about it.
Google can and should do more about protecting the information that it collects but that goes for all companies out there, online or not. Determined thieves and hackers will steal and hack regardless, but it doesn’t mean we have to make it easy for them.