You Say Big Brother, I Say Friendly Neighborhood Peeping Tom Bearing Gifts
Today Google proved to me they know who I am! Let me explain. I’m new to the search game and the past few months I’ve soaked up the SEO theory like a slug in a bowl of beer. [Ew. --Susan] I’ve found one of the most fascinating aspects of the search industry to be the evolution, or should I say revolution, of blended, behavioral, and personalized search.
One recent evening I even jumped on the opportunity to riff on search developments with a programmer friend of mine. As others watched on, less than intrigued, I realized my nerd was showing. Still, you’re allowed to let your job infiltrate your personal life, and doing so willingly is a good sign that you enjoy your job. Right?
Well, this morning I was surprised to see that my personal life and my job melded in a new and unexpected way. Upon opening my Google Reader I was greeted with two Syracuse-related feeds as top recommendations. I attended Syracuse University last year and regularly check up on our basketball team (don’t laugh) and news in the city paper. Because I only read these things at home I was a confused about why my work computer knew of my little habit.
Drawing on what I’ve learned about the search giant so far, it didn’t take me long to realize what happened. I must have been signed into my feed reader as I looked at Syracuse stuff. Yes, I gave Google the ability to spy on my online world, and you know what? I think I like it. Not because a company may come to know more about me than my own mother – to the contrary, I can understand why people might turn off their Web history to avoid being plugged into the matrix.
It’s simply that I can see flying cars and teletransporters and the set of Back to the Future 2 materializing in front of me! Artificial intelligence and retina scan security systems are around the corner, and it all starts with my Web searches delivering me exactly the results I’m looking for based on my taste and preferences.
Of course privacy concerns play a big role in this conversation. I’m not a fan of recent proposals for a national ID system and 1984 is practically a fate worse than death. But it’s not the federal government taking notes of my likes and dislikes, backed by the power to jail or torture me if I’m caught doing wrong. It’s a private company who would rather make money than tell me what to do. As I see it, Google will passively take my information until they can offer me the sweet Stella McCartney slingbacks I dreamed about last night. At which point I can either order them and hold my breath until they arrive at my door or (more likely) say “I wish” and ogle the beauty before closing the browser window. Either way, I see a win-win situation.
Like I said, I’m new to the game, so if someone can tell me why it’s better to hide my browsing behavior from watchful eyes, please leave a comment. Until I have reason to believe that I’m not the one benefiting from Google’s awesome power at least as much as they are, I’ll let big brother search get to know me for a while longer. [They're so cute when they're young and naive, aren't they? Be nice, guys. --Susan]