Your privacy in a Google world
From its search engine and Gmail to its Droid phone software, Google collects vast amounts of personal data.
The following is a partial transcript; for full story, listen to audio.
Google's corporate philosophy is "Don't be evil," but recently Google CEO Eric Schmidt said the company is being careful that it doesn't cross the "creepy line" in the amount of data it collects from people.
That could be tricky, considering the enormous amounts of information Google amasses from its search engine -- along with Gmail, digital documents, virtual books, blogging, photo storage -- and now, its smartphone software that powers Motorola's new Droid phone.
Media analyst and Boston University Professor John Carroll says Google knows just about anything about us that we let them know.
"You can manage what Google will keep about you, you can manage what Google will distribute about you. But it's a lot of work, and most people just check off the 'Terms of Service' box and never think about it again.
"So Google has all this information that they can give to third parties that they can use to target ads to you, which is what they mostly use it for. They read your Gmail ... they're attaching certain ads to certain keywords."
Users do have some control over how their information is used. Carroll says there's a place to go, online, to manage your privacy settings with Google.
"Google has a service called Google Dashboard, and you can go there and find out what Google is tracking, what they're doing; you can adjust privacy settings, you can do a lot of different things to be aware of the information that Google is gathering on you."
Gmail, digital documents, virtual books, blogging, photo storage -- all these free services from Google come with a price, according to Carroll.
"The whole appeal of Google is they offer these terrific services that all work together and they're free. And that's their business approach, is to offer people these irresistible services that make their life easier. And then Google makes their money off the fact that people use these services and make themselves available for advertising."
Google's foray into smartphones with Motorola's Droid means there's now another way for users to access Google's services.
For Google, says Carroll, the Droid is their opening into the mobile advertising business.
"Mobile is the next frontier and advertisers are trying to figure out, 'exactly how do we do this? How do we go in and make it appealing for people to allow us to deliver ads? Do we offer them free services? Do we offer them some kind of incentive?'
"What Google wants is to drive people to their search engine, number one; and number two, to get some kind of connection with people that will cement their relationship."
Google is further positioning itself to be a strong player in the mobile advertising business with its plan to buy AdMob -- a service that allows advertisers to reach consumers through their mobile phones -- for $750 million dollars.
Some have called the Droid a personal tracking device, and Carroll says this isn't too far off the mark.
"They're giving you free GPS, but what it gets Google is a sense of where you are at all times. And it's a cyberstalking device if they want it to be. So people are walking this fine line of taking the service, giving up their privacy and hoping that it doesn't blow up in their face."
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