Ed Team

Big Google is Watching

Filed By Ed Team | June 30, 2005 2:04 PM | comments

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"Is Your Car Gay Friendly?" the Google ad on my new blog site asks. Well, I don't know. It hasn't locked anyone out that I know of.

First, confession time: the only reason I put those Google ads on the site was to make it look more blog-y. I hand code most everything I do (except for some of the dynamic PHP stuff), and my geek stubbornness just wouldn't allow me to use one of those blogger sites that most people use.

Don't get me wrong, I'll take the fifty bucks from Google, which based on my hit statistics I expect to receive somewhere around my 118th birthday, give or take a dozen years or so. But basically all I was looking for was something official-looking to fill that space under the picture. So now you know.

I had not even put my first post on the site when Google immediately started serving GLBT-themed ads along with some ads related to PHP web programming. How in the hell did Google know what I was going to write about? And how did it know I am (sort-of) learning PHP?

They claim it is complex algorithms plus some sort of "personal attention" that allows these things to be customized (I'll buy the algorithms, but personal attention? Puhleeze!)

I can't help but think that thousands of Google robots are stealthily trolling the web like a cancer, sucking up information and email addresses and processing it all through massive artificial intelligence supercomputers; slicing, dicing, sorting, and categorizing, and then storing it on gazillion gigabyte hard drives in some secret Google dungeon while an evil-looking bug-eyed (Google eyed?) character rubs his hands and cackles with glee.

If you've ever been on the web, Google knows you, and Mr. Bug-eyes can't wait to get a hold of everything about you, including your most intimate secrets that you thought were between you and your hard drive.

All kidding aside, I am not a conspiracy theorist, but the collecting, and more importantly the processing, of this sort of information from the web is really getting to be big business. Let's face it, Google's stock price is not soaring because they are delivering you free search results. A byproduct of learning how to sort and categorize hundreds of millions of web pages and spit out immediate results is that they have learned how to do the same thing with information about YOU, and Google has discovered they can make wild sums of money with this knowledge.

It seems relatively harmless, at least at the moment. Most of us have been bombarded by advertising our whole lives, and we manage to make it part of the background along with traffic noise and humming air conditioners. And if I'm visiting a blog that has anti-war content, then I'd just as soon look at an ad with a headline "Bush is in Idiot" than one telling me how I can pretty up my bikini line.

But the larger trends can be a bit troubling. How much do you really want corporate America to know about you? It won't be long before it will be a whole lot more than you are comfortable with.


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