Tech dilettante in full effect here. Be forewarned that this is my interpretation of the goings-on below, and that I’m just a Google account holder who is trying to navigate this particular minefield as I go. That being said…

 Privacy International recently unrolled its “Privacy Ranking of Internet Service Companies,” and Google was the only one to receive their worst rating, “Comprehensive customer surveillance and entrenched hostility to privacy.”

This has generated a bunch of talk/chatter in the general blogosphere (see this snapshot of Techmeme at 4PM yesterday) and the biblioblogosphere (Library Stuff, Librarian in Black).

Google has responded to many of the concerns voiced in the (according to Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land, not-well-thought-out) report. They’ve indicated that they will:

  • Anonymize their server log data (this doesn’t include the information of  those of us who have voluntarily signed up for a personalized Google service) 
  • Consider cookie expiration (which, even though I have an idea of what that actually means…still sounds like rotten baked goods to me).

I had a mini-debate about this with one of my library school buddies about this, and he and Google have a similar argument: retaining and tracking information (in this particular case, server logs) about users adds value by allowing Google to refine their search quality. I don’t dispute this. What concerns me is that Google is that, beyond server logs, they are storing data and building intricate, individualized profiles without an easy way for the customer to find and have control over the data that has been stored about him/her.

To this end, Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land brings up a John Battelle suggestion from 2006 that seems to be an excellent potential solution to all this hoo-ha: a Privacy Control Panel/Dashboard, so that users could see what data has been stored, where, and for how long.

As someone who was entranced by the potential shiny, happy utility of the services that Google offers and who likely didn’t read the EULA as carefully as I should have, this would defnitely ease some of my concerns.

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