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10 Oct 2007 / Julie

Google as Big Brother?

Since library school, I’ve been hearing about “Big Brother Google” who knows too much about us, and wants to do too much that *clearly* will destroy us (the “us” changing depending on who was speaking at the time).

Today though while reading my feeds I ran across this Slate article by Michael Agger, “Does Google know too much about us?”. Recently contemplating where I exist online, in my various forms, screen names, and persona and where the line of “too much” is drawn, this article makes me a little more cautious and hits home more than perhaps it would have back in library school.

My main concern was with Gmail- an email option I have grown to adore and one i can’t workflow straight without (damned Outlook at work). But gmail, in order to do the ad thing that it does- must at some level “read” your email. I’m always amazed at the ads that will show up based on different emails; even today a cute “Pink Ant” forward (which I usually hate) with some words on Breast Cancer awareness brought up ads for Cashmere and coffee.

My assumption with email is that no matter what I do, someone, somewhere will be able to read it. While this does disturb me, perhaps now more than it would have years ago when most of my communication with people was still in person or via written notes (yay letters!), I don’t worry about Google any more than I do with my work email, or my other non-gmail email accounts. But should I be more worried?

What is it about Google’s all-inclusive, ever-expansive information gathering that I should be worried about? When should I have started to worry? And perhaps most importantly, what can we do now?

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