You have to commend the Wall Street Journal for assigning the resources and churning out the investigative pieces as part of the “What They Know” series. But I thought they missed a lot of things.
For example, didn’t they forget Google?
The series of articles goes on at length about cookies, with much detail about data aggregation firms such as BlueKai and [x+1], and the way advertisers target you through your browsing. But there wasn’t much in depth about the bigtime data machines like Google or Bing and where that will go in the future — such as location-based tracking and artifical intelligence.
Big deal, so cookies on the Web know what you like to do and even follow your transactions. Here’s a bigger deal: Google knows everything about you — and pretty soon will even be able to know what you will do ahead of time.
Google CEO Eric Schmidt knows this, of course. “If I look at enough of your messaging and your location, and use Artificial Intelligence, we can predict where you are going to go,” Schmidt said just this morning, according to ReadWriteWeb.
The WSJ articles focused on cookies and “beacons” in the Web browsers. It points out that the companies defend themselves with the “anonymity” defense:
“Google, Microsoft and Quantcast all said they don’t track individuals by name and offer Internet users a way to remove themselves from their tracking networks. Comcast, MSN and Dictionary.com said they disclose tracking practices in their privacy policies, and said their visitors aren’t identified by name.”
This is misleading, because of the focus on only one piece of technology. They actually know a lot more than this. What about the other applications they have integrated into the Web of your online activity — such as business transactions, email, search, and even banking.
Let’s say you are “Mr. Google.” In that case you have an integrated Google account and you use Gmail, Google Analytics, Google Search, AdWords, e.t.c.. In that case, here is precisely what Google knows about you: Pretty much everything you do all day. It knows what your email says. It knows what you buy and sell. It knows about your business. It knows what you have searched for. It knows how you think, really. And you think that is not “personally identifiable”? Hahahaha.
Ditto Bing and Microsoft’s online services, for the 4 people that use it.
Hmm, I wonder why the Wall Street Journal doesn’t mention the obvious — that Google is the most powerful data-mining company in history and knows more about you than your wife? Maybe that would have made their exposure of the fact that Capital One knows your income level to give you a credit card look somewhat lightweight.
That being said, I sill want to commend the WSJ for again, embarking on real journalism. The articles make for some good reading. And the graphics are killer. Their “exposure index.” is excellent.