I, for one, am waiting for the backlash. Cybergeeks around the world consider Google’s personalized search that tracks your search history so that Google can dish out results it thinks you want is oh, so cool. They are also salivating over the Google Street View service, which allows you to zoom in to street level and see images of actual people and, recently, even a cat sitting in a window in Oakland. The cat owner was not too thrilled to find that Google could zoom in so close to her personal life.
Frankly, neither am I. Google is getting a little too 1984 for me and I work in the search engine marketing business. Maybe it is because of my age (51) but I am just not that happy about Google (or anyone) knowing so much about me, despite their assurances that privacy is important to them.
It all started out so simple and innocent – install that neat, free Google Toolbar and do lots of fun things. It has morphed into a completely different animal now – one that stalks you.
Here is the deal. If Google is really concerned about my privacy, their services should be completely opt-in, not opt-out-if-you-can-figure-out-how as they are now. With Street View, specially equipped vehicles can snap your image whether you like it or not. With personalized search, you are automatically opted in if you sign up for any Google service like Gmail. Sign in and they are going to dish out what they think you want to see.
People do not like their photo taken without permission. Google should ask, pure and simple.
With personalized search and search history, Google should make the ability to opt out front and clear. As it is now, the ability to opt out of Google search history is practically invisible.
Another suggestion with personalized search – make it obvious that what is being seen IS personalized search. It is so easy to miss that little login status at the top right of the page. Maybe I DO NOT want to see results based on my search history (and, I really do not). Maybe I want to see what everyone else is seeing. Google could make the page a different color or something so that I know what I’m seeing. It’s so simple.
Do not get me wrong. I really like Google, but I would prefer the Big G provide me with a privacy option that did not require removing or disabling my Google Toolbar and never logging into my Google account again.
Anyway, I believe that Google is pushing the envelope a bit too hard on all of this personalization and it is going to tear and all of the contents spill out at some point. We just do not want Big Brother watching us – online or off.