Although I have recently switched to Bing (I have found this new Microsoft search engine to be better than Google-check it out), most still use Google as their primary search engine. With that in mind, I thought you would find the following article (reprinted from FoxNews, “What Google Knows About You”) informative.
FoxNews: July 31, 2009 - 11:52 AM | by: Dan Springer
What started out as a search engine has morphed into a company that wants to know as much about you as you do. Google tracks and stores not only the search words people use on its site, but follows users around the web compiling a database for each IP address. If you use Google's G-mail, your emails are being read, or at least scanned, by Google. If you signed up for Google health, the company has all your medical records, you could also entrust Google with all your business documents and schedule.
And then there's Google Maps and perhaps it's most controversial feature "Street View". Google Maps works as a GPS allowing users to map out directions and then be led to any location. Google stores all the locations you seek and can track exactly where you are through the cell towers you're using. Street View lets users see a location or an entire neighborhood as if they were driving down the road. Cameras mounted on Google vans take running pictures and those images are put on the web. It can be used by people who are house shopping to see what is in the immediate area.
The technology can get fairly invasive because it allows users to zoom in on images, such as people who may be in their yard or in their home's front room behind a window. So many people complained that Google agreed to blur faces and license plates, but the company still keeps the unedited versions of the video in its internal servers.
We spoke with a man who knows his g-mail was read because one day after he wrote someone in Europe about doing work in Macedonia, he logged back onto his g-mail account and had a pop up ad pushing cheap flights to Macedonia. He was creeped out, but has continued his g-mail account.
Google says gathering all this information on users is aimed at providing better services to their customers. If they know a person's interest's they can feed them ads and information tailored for them. Some people like it. We spoke with a woman who appreciates the great travel deals to Mexico which Google learned about through her frequent searches. But Congress may not be as enthusiastic. Hearings were held in June aimed at learning what Google, Yahoo, Amazon and others collect and why. It's expected that regulatory legislation will be introduced later this year.
Privacy experts say at the minimum people should be able to opt in if they want to be tracked around the web. Some are calling for Google to be broken up into several smaller companies. Currently it controls 65 percent of the search engine business. Microsoft and Yahoo have a combined 28 percent share.