Saturday, March 14, 2009

Privacy and Google Ads, Voice, Docs

Yesterday morning I was reading about Google's change to "interest-based advertising" when I received a message from a friend at WinVistaClub directing me to a Preston Gralla article at ComputerWorld about Google Voice. Then I came across an article at TechCrunch about "inadvertent" sharing of documents. Individually, these three topics are worth being concerned about. Taken in combination, one followiong the other, I find it quite disturbing.

Google Ads

Google has given in to their advertisers and announced "interest-based advertising". What is the difference between "interest-based advertising" and the ads you see now? With the current format of serving ads, if you are on a website reading about computer keyboard shortcuts, the ads presented will be targeted toward the key words on that page -- i.e., keyboards, mice or other computer-related products.

With interest-based advertising, the ads will be based on the types of sites you visit and the pages you view. For example, if you spend a lot of time on sports-related websites, you are likely to see ads for running shoes when investigating the purchase of a new refrigerator. In other words, the ads will be based on your browsing history.

As Google admits:
This kind of tailored advertising does raise questions about user choice and privacy — questions the whole online ad industry has a responsibility to answer.
As a result, in the Google Privacy Center, Advertising and Privacy, there is an Opt out option:

Edit Note: It appears that my security settings were such that I was unable to access the Opt Out links. Thanks to the comment posted by Microsoft MVP Donna Buenaventura and the information she provided at Calendar of Updates, I followed Donna's lead and as a result have accordingly edited this posting.

Only one minor problem. When I clicked the Opt out link, this is what happened each time I tried:

[Image Removed]

It didn't matter which browser I used.

[Image Removed]

There is also supposed to be the ability to edit the preferences that are associated with the cookie at the Ads Preferences Manager. That link does not work either.

Based on the inability of those opt-out options to work, do I really want to trust installing the browser plugin to permanently opt-out of the Double Click cookie?

Google Voice

Google Voice unifies your phone numbers, transcribes your voice mail, blocks telemarketers and allows you to archive and search all of the SMS text messages you send and receive and more. (Features: Google Voice).

As Marc Rotenberg indicated, with those features come other concerns.
"The service would allow Google, which already collects vast amounts of data about the behavior of Internet users, to gather information on their calling habits.

“It raises two distinct problems,” said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. “In the privacy world, it is increased profiling and tracking of users without safeguards. But the other problem is the growing consolidation of Internet-based services around one dominant company.”"

Google Docs

As reported at TechCrunch, Google sent a notice to a number of users of its Document and Spreadsheets products informing them that it may have inadvertently shared some of their documents with contacts who were never granted access to them. Reportedly the sharing was limited to people “with whom you, or a collaborator with sharing rights, had previously shared a document”.

TechCrunch reported that they were informed by Google that the error affected less than .05% of all documents. Is that .05% of one hundred documents or multiple millions of documents? Consider carefully what you share and who you share documents with.


Remember - "A day without laughter is a day wasted."

May the wind sing to you and the sun rise in your heart...


Donna Buenaventura said...

Corrine, do you have hosts file and other protection tools that is maybe blocking the connection? I just test it and it's working:

Corrine said...

That explains it. You had to undo a lot of "protection" to opt-out. I'll have to give that a try. I also have NoScript and AdBlock Plus. Either of those could be contributing as well. Thanks.

From Donna's CoU post:

"I enabled cookie placements in browsers, I disabled HOSTS file, Backup and Removed Restricted Sites using ZonedOut, Web Control and IP Blocklist by Outpost Firewall), I got the normal cookies"