[Air-l] Google scares me again

jerichob at juno.com jerichob at juno.com
Tue Jul 10 18:07:30 PDT 2007

This strikes me also as being analogous to all-in-one ID cards (e.g. 
campus IDs or various proposals for national ID cards) - where once a 
person's records were held in discrete offices and therefore much more 
difficult to collate for profiling or investigative purposes, now 
there is handy access to the whole package through linked records.  
Who is it convenient for? 


-- Michael Zimmer <michael.zimmer at nyu.edu> wrote:
Hi Ellis -

Well, it is convenient when my grocer tracks my purchases through my  
frequent shopper card so I can count on certain items remaining in  
stock (assuming I'm not the only one buying them). And perhaps it is  
helpful for Google to provide an advertisement for digital cameras if  
I search for "Olympus Stylus". That's using particular bits of my  
activities in order to taylor a particular service to me.

But it's a difference in kind when my activities that were previously  
dispersed across various products, services, and locations can be  
tracked an aggregated into a single source. And it's also a  
difference in kind when that information is processed in order to  
create some kind of psychological profile of what kind of a person I  
am (not just what beer I buy or what I happen to be searching for  
that day). Who knows what kind of decisions might be made based on  
such an attempt to profile my psyche. (I'm thinking of issues raised  
in: Bowker & Star's "Sorting Things Out: Classification and its  
Consequences", Gandy's "The Panoptic Sort: A Political Economy of  
Personal Information," and Lyon's "Surveillance as Social Sorting:  
Privacy, Risk, and Digital Discrimination" )

And I have yet to see any documentation from companies such as Google  
outlining precisely what information about me they collect, how it  
might be aggregated across their products & services, and what kind  
of processing they perform with said data, and with whom it has been  
shared with. The typical "privacy policy" is purposefully vague on  
such details.


Michael Zimmer, PhD
Microsoft Fellow, Information Society Project, Yale Law School
e: michael.zimmer at nyu.edu
w: http://michaelzimmer.org

On Jul 10, 2007, at 3:00 PM, Ellis Godard wrote:

> Perhaps I'm new-fashioned, but I like targeted communications based  
> on mined
> data. There's always been tracking, capturing, aggregating, and  
> profiling -
> it's just getting better executed, and somewhat better documented,  
> each of
> which is arguably a boon.
> -e
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: air-l-bounces at listserv.aoir.org [mailto:air-l-
>> bounces at listserv.aoir.org] On Behalf Of Michael Zimmer
>> Sent: Monday, July 09, 2007 6:40 PM
>> To: air-l at listserv.aoir.org
>> Subject: Re: [Air-l] Google scares me again
>> Perhaps I'm old fashioned, but I think psychological profiling of
>> users based online habits is a tad more problematic than just
>> "somewhat" of an ethical minefield.
>> Microsoft recently announced their hopes to do something similar:
>> http://michaelzimmer.org/2007/05/23/msft-wants-to-identify-all-web-
>> surfers-based-on-surfing-habits/
>> One wonders if any part of one's earthly existence will remain
>> untouched by those wanting to track, capture, aggregate, and  
>> profile...
>> -mz
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