Google is going to implement a new privacy policy. It’s pretty easy to read, which is nice. ACLU Lens wrote about the new policy, highlighting the most important point it raises: Google can, and will, “combine the personal data you share with any one of its products or sites across almost all of its products and sites (everything but Google Chrome, Google Books, and Google Wallet) in order to obtain a more comprehensive picture of you. And there’s no opting out.”

ACLU Lens, more or less, addresses what I think of as the Horse Porn Conundrum.

Once upon a time, we were having an exciting night in when an offhanded comment lead to AG taking my laptop and googling “horse porn.”

And while it’s easy to see some of the benefits of the new policy, it’s important to keep in mind the other implications of the changes. For example, have you ever Googled something you didn’t want to tell your parents/spouse/friends/doctor about? [Like “horse porn”] Have you ever had a personal conversation over e-mail that you didn’t want broadcast to the world? [Like “Remember that time we watched that horse porn? That was a bad idea.] With this new integration, your e-mail content won’t influence only what ads you see in Gmail, and your search terms won’t influence just what ads you see when you’re searching.

I decided to walk home from work. I emailed SGM, housemate, iron blogger, and researcher in a lab near my office, asking if she wanted to “walk home with me.” Our e-mail exchange was short, but brought up advertising relating to walks and homes, none of which was relevant for me. However, other google pages do not reflect this.

A screen shot of the adverts from a gmail page.

As of March 1, your e-mail content and search terms could influence ads you see on any Google site. So, imagine watching a YouTube video with friends or family and suddenly having an ad based on what you assumed was a private e-mail conversation or a personal Google search appear.

What’s more, this data aggregation is not just about what ads you see, but as ACLU of Massachusetts describes, it creates an even larger treasure chest of personal information ripe for government picking.

And what about anonymity? Google is planning to “replace past names associated with your Google Account so that you are represented consistently across all our services.” But, what if you deliberately keep different names on your various accounts? What if, for instance, you want your e-mail address associated with your legal name, but would prefer for your YouTube account not to tie directly to you? Unfortunately, Google’s new integration policy will make it very difficult, if not impossible, to do so.

I guess some sort of secret-computer magic will allow Google to connect various google accounts.

In theory, in the spirit of privacy is important. In practice it is too. I dislike Google’s new privacy policy on many principals. I mean, I don’t want everyone to know about the horse porn incident.

And yet!

In 2010, after I returned from Korea and was laid up on my parents’ couch with a destroyed left ankle, I found solace in Caprica. In the first episode, we learn that through clever manipulation of interet magic, including signal traces of their activities (as I recall!), a sentient, virtual version of Zoe is brought into existance. Tamara is also given such a second chance at virtual-life.

I look at what Google is doing and wonder if this will somehow lead to the immortality of my mind.


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