It’s the little things that make Google dangerous
I noticed yesterday that Google has begun including profile, correspondence and even geographical information to the right side of e-mails (see: image above). At the moment the data appears to be mostly limited to what one consciously inputs into the profile. However, I’ve noticed that e-mails from colleagues in human rights and journalistic organizatons have all their information displayed, right down to their home or office addresses.
Okay, so, bad guys probably already know where you work and live, but in principle this is just stupid of Google. I’m increasingly bothered by the way in which Google seems hellbent to everything and everyone regardless of the subtleties. How much longer before they start including your individual computer information, or automatically cross-link to your Facebook or LinkedIn account, and so on? (Don’t get me started on the privacy disaster that is Google Buzz.)
I’m sure that Google would allow you to regulate this, but that’s not the problem. In the journalistic and human rights worlds, where pseudonyms can be all that stands between life and brutal torture or even death, all it takes is one slip-up — a tiny piece of data to suggest or even confirm your true identity. And in some of the shoddier secret police agencies or intelligence-gathering wings of mafias in the developing world, Google could even be accidentally serving the role as consultant: Hey, did you ever bother just to check so-and-so’s profile?
I admit that it’s a complex dance between Google and we the Googlers, but I don’t like how increasingly I feel like I’m in some kind of cat and mouse game with a company whose espoused philosophy is “You can make money without doing evil” (a.k.a., “Don’t be evil”). It’s the little things the company does or overlooks that make it sometimes so dangerous.