Written by

Andrew Millar


January 16, 2009

It might come as a bit of a shock to learn that every search you make on Google is tracked, recorded and analysed. This fact is not talked about much for obvious reasons, but believe me Google is watching you.

But before you get too freaked by this they do it to rank sites etc. And there have been some positive outcomes to instant analysis of everyone’s search requests. Apparently the WHO -… the World Health Organisation, not the remains of the British rock band who are touring here in March and I have tickets to see,… track flu outbreaks by looking for concentrations of Google searches on the word ‘flu’ around the world and are able to allocate vaccines stocks accordingly. The second interesting use of search analysis was during the recent earthquake in China. The western world knew the lethal epicentre before the Chinese by looking at where the number of Google searches had stopped. It’s hard to Google when you’re covered in rubble….

But the other great use of search analysis is of course tracking illegal activity, which in a way hammers a nail in the coffin of Senator Conroy’s efforts to censor the web. You can’t stop it. Illegal activities like trading child pornography will just go deeper and deeper into the net. For my mind, the money he’s wasted on this ’tilting at windmills’ exercise should have been given to the police to fund investigations into the trafficking they know about already. They just don’t have the funding to act on all their information.

But of course Google searches are not the only way information is being collected. Every time you modify or personalise anything on line you are embodying yourself on the internet. Personalisation requires transparency. And we all need to ask how transparent we want our lives to be. Just what information are we prepared to give away?

Think about it for a moment. If someone found your mobile phone and was able to access everything in it… – all data…, all comments…, the calls you’ve made, to whom and from where… photos and all SMS messages went (and remember because you’ve deleted them, they have not gone. It’s only the address of where they are filed on your phone’s memory that has been made invisible.) Would you be happy that all that information was public?

Then think about this:… As an employer I am being advised to check the Facebook or MySpace pages of any potential employee. The photos and comments they contain give people a more accurate image to compare to how you present at an interview. So if you go out and get absolutely hammered one night and take a sly sickie to recover, don’t make it public….

For your own sake, suffer in private.