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How Far Do You Trust Google With Your Data?

September 24, 2010

By Steve Gold, freelance business and IT journalist for over 25 years

Once you begin to think about it, that’s a VERY interesting question. Not many people know truly what Google does through all its divisions, but after a lot of searching I found what I needed in – ironically enough – the search giant’s Wikipedia entry.

Google is a multinational public cloud computing, Internet search, and advertising technologies corporation… and runs over one million servers in data centres around the world, and processes over one billion search requests and twenty petabytes of user-generated data every day.”

20,000 terabytes? That’s an astonishing volume of data that Google processes, so it’s no small wonder that German officials have given the data giant until the 7th of December to set acceptable privacy standards for the Street View service.

Reports are also coming in that other firms, including Apple, are getting together in Germany to develop a voluntary data privacy charter for geographical services, with the threat of legislation hanging over them.

Google is worried. So worried, in fact, that it is allowing German citizens to remove their homes from its yet-to-launch Street View database, and newswire reports say that citizens into six figures have applied.

This isn’t the first time that Google has hit privacy problems in Germany. Earlier this year, a German media onslaught forced the search giant to admit that its Street View camera cars had intercepted WiFi data from many different countries.

Chances are good that it caught your own home or office wireless router’s data as the camera car sailed past.

And as IT security researcher Moxie Marlinspike’s wpacracker.com site will confirm, it is still possible to crack your router’s WiFi password in less than 20 minutes.

Ah yes, you say, but governments have had that capability for some time. But do you trust the British government?  I think it is reasonable to do so, as there are a large number of checks and balances in place to stop a government agency from really overstepping its mark for any period of time.

But here’s the rub. Google is so big and powerful that you could argue that it has the strength and power of a sovereign state.

There is an excellent analysis of Google’s strength written by Gabor Cselle, a mobile email specialist, who said in 2006 that by 2010 Google would be more powerful than Microsoft.

The irony, of course, is that Cselle’s firm was acquired by the Big G in February of this year. Which makes the fact that his analysis is still available online all the more surprising.

But wait, as they say on the teleshopping channel, there’s more: privacy researchers Ozan Halici and Jurgen Mayer have posted a revealing mini-video about what Google is and what it does – and what it can do – on YouTube.

The video was made in 2007.

I’m pretty easygoing and I actually trust our government and police – but I don’t trust Google.

Should you?

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