[-empyre-] Search, privacy, data

Tero Karppi tjkarp at utu.fi
Tue Feb 28 00:19:41 EST 2012

Hi all,
I'll start with a theme that is loosely related to privatization of the web & related platforms. 

On March 1st, Google will implement its new, unified privacy policy. This policy will affect data Google has collected on you as well as data it collects on you in the future. Until now Google Web History has been isolated from its other services. However with the new privacy policy in action Google will begin to combine information across its products. According to Electronic Frontier Foundation Google search data is particularly sensitive since it can reveal "information about you, including facts about your location, interests, age, sexual orientation, religion, health concerns, and more." Hence they have urged people to remove their Google Search History before the policy takes effect. 

Google, however, sees the new privacy policy as an improvement of their search; "Our search box now gives you great answers not just from the web, but your personal stuff too. So if I search for restaurants in Munich, I might see Google+ posts or photos that people have shared with me, or that are in my albums." In addition, the search will be able to better predict what you 'really' are looking for and target ads more accurately. 

Now, what interests me here, at a more abstract level, is the change we are witnessing in relation to data mining. Until now, more or less, the data we share in various platforms (browser, search, social media, iOS/Android etc.) has been mined, combined into statistics and potentially sold onwards but we haven't really seen it in action except in some more or less accurately targeted ads. However, now we are witnessing a throwback of our own data; Google begins to make the search more personal, Facebook has the frictionless sharing to name a few examples.  

What are the implications of this change? Is the 'social' media becoming now more 'individual' and 'personal'? What should we think of these algorithms that predict what we want?  



Tero Karppi (MA)
Doctoral Student | Media Studies | University of Turku

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