I’m a paranoid guy, always have been.
Last week’s report by Privacy International that slammed Google as “hostile to privacy” got me thinking about Amazon vs. Google, which knows more about me and how I feel about them. I happened to be downloading Smokin’ Aces (any good?) to my Tivo from Amazon Unbox, so I perused my purchase history to get an idea of what Amazon knows about me.
The answer is a lot. An uncomfortable amount. Holy crap, what would happen if they had a T.J. Maxx episode? Must find paper bag.
Amazon knows what books I read (or bought, anyway), what movies I like, what music I listen to, and the could tell where my extended family lives and what movies and music they like. They could tell when I got married, what my hobbies are, and now, they know I have two Tivos. It’s scary when you scan ten years of purchases, both from a why did I buy all this crap perspective and from a privacy one.
Along the same lines, Google has a mountain of data about me too, what I search for online and on my desktop, my personal email, my docs and spreadsheets, my calendar, the feeds I read, etc. I touched on this in my last post, and releases of Universal Search and Street View have only made the screams of privacy advocates louder.
So, what’s the difference? Both companies have enough data on me to do all kinds of bad things to me. Why do I willingly give Amazon information, but squirm when Google cookies me or catches my cat sunbathing in the window?
Ostensibly, I pay Amazon to protect my information. Amazon has a lot of nifty personalization features to make shopping stickier, but that’s OK for me because I pay them to keep all that information between us. My recommendations . . . mine. The page I made. It’s all about me because they know me pretty well.
I don’t pay Google a dime, and because they are rooted in search not e-commerce, their services should be free, as in Internet, as in beer. They shouldn’t know who I am, unless I say so. The fact of the matter is that to make their (free) services better, Google has to know about our online behavior. And even if it’s scary, it’s still free. Google’s saying the right things about privacy and being not evil, but at the end of the day, it’s still free.
And so are you. But free does not equal anonymous. If you don’t want them tracking you, block cookies; if you don’t want them serving you more relevant (creepy) results, opt-out and stay with vanilla Google, which ain’t bad.
So, who’s the bigger Big Brother? I’d have to say Amazon, based on what they know about me. Privacy International gave them a “notable lapses” mark, but I don’t care because I trust them. Am I naive? What do you think?