Giving It Up To Google

Most of the time it seems that having some level of uniqueness is a good thing–unless you’re one of those people who thrive on blending in with the crowd. But, what if your uniqueness is exactly what undermines your privacy? Where would you draw the line?

I just found out, for instance, that my browser configuration is unique amongst the 607,000 browsers tested by the EFF’s Panopticlick site.

A recent article in ComputerWorld showed how easy it isĀ  to determine a unique fingerprint for your digital identity, even without any cookies being on your computer. I was, frankly, surprised at just how much my browser gives up, without any approval or knowledge on my part (until Panopticlick told me).

This brings me to thinking about the vast quantity of data that Google collects and…well…just how anonymous is this? I know what they say, that everything is anonymized and that they don’t collect any “personal information.” But, how true can this be, really?

If a simple examination of the AOL searches led one group to pin down one woman’s identity just from her search pattern, then how difficult would it be for anyone at Google (or any third party who happened to gain access to that data, legitimately or otherwise) to examine their data and pin it directly on me?

Especially when you add the sheer volume of emails, Google docs, and messaging that goes through our giant who promises to “do no evil.” And, oh yes, let’s add Nexus One to that; so now they’ll have location-based information that can be matched to all the rest of it.

Even if one does trust in the benevolence of the company, are we all really comfortable with such a concentration of information (which equals power in this day and age) in one single entity?