Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Googled to Death

I lovingly use a half-dozen Google products every day (like the one I'm using right now), but this interview with Siva Vaidhyanathan is kind of a buzzkill. Vaidhyanathan is writing an online book, The Googlization of Everything, to analyze the pervasiveness and power of Google, "the most interesting institution in the world right now." He claims that Google

is working its way into our consciousness and daily lives at a remarkable rate that is unmatched by any company in human history. And it is doing so in a fairly novel way through the aggregation of our choices. We are choosing to use Google every day. We are not forced or seduced into using it. It actually means Google is laying out a new model for advertising and communication.
That's interesting, and a bit scary. Wholly scary, and just as interesting, is this:
We can't expect a company to be as transparent as the government is. That doesn't mean we shouldn't push at it to be more responsive to our concerns, especially about user confidentiality and privacy. That is the hot-button issue. Most of us are not Google's customers. We are its content. It sells our attention and our user data to its customers and they are all the businesses that advertise with Google. Google is not necessarily more secretive than Coca-Cola, but the difference is Google knows everything about us.