Google and privacy

Yesterday I wrote a post about privacy. Today I realized that a very much related discussion – about Google data collection and privacy issues – has been held on the web recently, and I totally missed it because of .. well, my changing feed reading habits.

Here is a link to “Google and privacy” post written by Matt Cutts, one of the Google employees. Here is a link to “Google and Privacy” post written by Tim O’Reilly, someone who doesn’t need any introductions. And there are more views, as usual, in Google’s own search results for “google privacy“.

If nothing else, you can pick more examples of your data collected without you knowing it or most people caring about. Bonus cards in supermarkets track your shopping history. Telephone companies have all access to your phone calls, both incoming and outgoing. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have much more information about your Internet usage than any web site can dream of. And the worst part of it (from the privacy point of view at least) is that all that data is not anonymous. Most of those collectors know your name, age, passport number, credit card number, and other sensitive information. And the absolutely worst part of it all, is that they often sell this information to marketing agencies.

How is that for a little privacy shock? Me on the other hand, I don’t care about all that…

On privacy

Yesterday I watched an interesting program on the Discovery about the future of information technology. It was interesting not because I’ve learned a lot of new stuff – I didn’t. It was interesting to see what and how mass media in general and very trustworthy channel like Discovery in particular bring down onto unsuspecting public.

The program was pretty good. It touched on the history of IT, current technologies and trends, and things that await us in the near future. It covered both the technological points (in simple terms) and sociological points (how information technology affects our lives).

One particular piece caught my attention. It was about privacy, with all those mobile phones with built-in camera, CCTV cameras in public places, rapid advances in face recognition technologies, and governments pushing the limits of trust with anti-terrorism programs. One of the interviewed guys said something along the lines of (quoting from memory):”

Basically, there are two extremes when it comes to privacy. People on one side say “forget privacy. It does not exist in The New Age”. People on the other side believe that privacy is the only ultimate thing that we must protect at all costs.

Spot on! I can’t think of the way to present it better.

The question of privacy is up to each individual person. Each one of us has to ask himself or herself how much they care about their own privacy and what are they prepared to do protect it. I thought it about it sometime ago, and I am sometimes re-evaluating my position on this. But so far I haven’t changed it at all.

I am not standing on the extreme of “there is no such thing as privacy in The New Age”, but it’s much closer to me than the other position. Of course, there are some things which aren’t meant for the public eye (or ear for that matter). Personal things. Intimate things. Not everything should be an open broadcast. But, one shouldn’t spend too much time protecting these things.

If someone really wants to find out where you live, when you go on vacation, what is your bank account or passport number, what was the name of your first teacher, or what’s your worst nightmare, there are many ways to do so. And no matter what you do, no matter how hard you try to keep that to yourself, there are always ways to find out.

Why? Because we live in a society. People interact. People know things about people. People think about people. People follow people. People rumor.

You don’t want a bad guy to know where you live? Well, too bad. Because you can hardly control that. Have any of your friends been to your apartment? Do your parents know where you live? Have you bought or rented that place with any sort of paperwork? Do you go outside of your apartment where people can meet you and follow you? Do you… You get the point.

Your bank account and passport numbers are even easier. Because they are harder to change than a rented studio. And because too many people who simply don’t care about your privacy have access to that data.

Your nightmares? Oh well, most of them come from childhood anyway. So chances are at least your parents or siblings know about them. Cause they were with you way before you started caring about your privacy and moved out to live alone in the middle of nowhere. Have you ever heard them telling stories about you to others? I think you did…

Now, you’ll lose plenty of valuable resources (such as your time) working to protect that data. And you still won’t be able to do it to a full degree. And that is not the worse thing yet. The worst thing is that you’ll miss out on so much good that it’s hard to describe it in this already way too long of a post.

Yes, believe it or not (well, I do believe it), but people around you want to do good to you. And the more they know about you, the better are their chances to do that sort of good that you care about, and to delivery that good to you.

For me that solves out the privacy issue. The more ways I have to let people know things about me, the better. If there is a new web service that builds more social interaction based on my passport number, I’ll use it. If there are more CCTV cameras in the streets that solve the traffic problem – I say install them. If I will see more pictures and videos from my friends and family because of the new wave of mobile devices – I say bring it on.

What’s your stand on privacy?

Feed reading habits update

My feed reading habits seem to be changing once again. I have much less free time now to follow things and that is reflected in my subscription numbers.

I still use two feed readers – Google Reader for news reading, famous bloggers, and Flickr images; and Akregator for feeds of my friends and people I know personally.

The number of feeds that I have in Google Reader went down from almost 400 to 96, and I’m still dropping them at a rate of three per week or something like that. My Akregator feeds increased from about 70 to 102. That’s a result of both me getting to know more people and people using more feed enabled services (Flickr,, Twitter, LiveJournal, WordPress, etc).

Overall, the number of feeds that I am subscribed to has decreased dramatically. And the feeds got more personal too.

Another thing that changed is that I started to use GMail for taking notes and bookmarking things that I think I’ll need later. I’ll tell you more about how I do it later on. I’m still experimenting with these stuff.


This spring is richer than any other in birthdays of my friends. I don’t know how it happens, but practically half of the people I know were born between the middle of February and middle of June. There is some extra concentration of birthdays in March and early April. I can’t take it anymore. Stop it guys, seriously!

Birthday Paradox could be used as an explanation for only so long… But not anymore.

And it’s not even mid-April yet…

With my birthday coming this Sunday, I’m not so sure I’ll be celebrating it. Yeah. That’ll be different. How about that?