Posted by: zyxo | February 14, 2011

Google CEO Naked ?

What would you think about a company that  uses a whole lot of personal info of you to sell you their stuff :

– you entire buying experience

– your way of living

– where you go on vacation

– details of your family

– how much you earn

– which car you drive, which car your wife drives

– where you went to school

– where you work

– your profession

– where you shop for groceries

– where you buy your clothes

– which sportsclubs or social clubs you are part of

– in which house you live, if it is your property or if you rent it

– how much you pay for rent

Sounds horrible ! No ?

What about if this company is  the local grocery store, the owner of which is your friend, went to basic school with you, lives in your street, and from time to time  proposes you his new products when he thinks they will interest you ?

Aha, that’s an entirely different story ? Isn’t it ?

WHY whould that be?

On first sight it is exactly the same : he posesses personal info of you, just like your bank, or you telco company, and uses it to make some customized offers.  So what’s the big deal ?

I’ll tell you : Balance versus imbalance.

You know your grocer as well as he knows you.  You know his wife and children, which car he drives, etc…That’s hardly the case of the CEO and the other members of the board of directors of your bank.  Do you even know their names ? 

And that is why it seems so unfair : they know all sorts of personal stuff about you, and use it to make profits, while you know nothing of them.  Nada, zip.

So when they have some papparazzi at their backs all the time, it is only to restore a little bit of that balance.

I would even think a bit  further, (just as a mental exercise) :

As an example : Someone like Mr. Eric Schmidt, until now CEO of Google, is sometimes seen as one of the biggest privacy (ab-?) users of our planet.  It is impossible to create a balance in such a case.  The nearest thing of a balance would be to take away ALL of his privacy, and give it to all of us, which means that camera’s would be following him 7 days per week, 24 hours per day, 60 minutes per hour and 60 seconds per minutes.  Always, everywhere, from any angle.  And of course broadcasting in realtime on the internet.  And likewise for each and every one of his higher managers.

And in order to discriminate nobody : shouldn’t be the case for every company that uses data mining for targeted direct marketing?


  1. Interesting perspective. I would add that it’s more than a balance (or lack thereof) of knowledge, it’s also a balance of power.

    For instance, if the grocer violates my privacy by telling everyone that I buy N bottles of vodka per week (thus implying that I am an alcoholic), I can try to have him boycotted by my circle of friends and myself, thus harming him financially. As the grocer depends in the community around him, he has very little incentive to abuse his customers. If he engages in bad behavior, he will probably be punished.

    By contrast, Google’s users are not its customers. Google makes money by selling ads, so the users are, in fact, the “product”. The fact that Google dominates web search means that it can get away with a lot more than a mere grocer. The fact that internet privacy is a recent problem that is poorly understood by the masses means that the users may not even realize that their privacy is being abused. Moreover, Google has a perfect scapegoat: “sorry lads, we didn’t want to be evil, but the U.S. government did subpoena us and we really had no choice but comply”. Last but not least, most Google users are still in the “honeymoon” phase and will tolerate enormous amounts of abuse before they get angry enough to matter.

    PS: Not to be pedantic, but it’s papparazzo (plural: papparazzi), NOT papperazzi.

  2. Rod,
    Excellent additional insight, thanks ! And for the typo correction 🙂

  3. Don’t you think that Facebook is much worse than Google ever was? Google always tried to help users. It is indispensable for scientists, researchers and developers. “Don’t be evil” is not just a motto, it is one of their principles. On the contrary, Facebook is pure evil.

    • Frankly I do not know much about what google and facebook exactly do with their data. So who am I to compare them? I just took google as one of the biggest internet-data-enterprises as an example. Facebook or Yahoo! would have served as well for my purpose.
      Sorry if I upset you.

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