One of my favorite technology writers is Salon.com’s Andrew Leonard. In his most recent article, Leonard talks about about finding himself as an unwitting participant in what’s being called the most important battle in tech. Interestingly, it’s the very same battle in which I find myself at the moment.
I’m speaking, of course, of the battle for eyeballs between Google and Apple. As a self declared “Goodict,” I am a fairly heavy user of Google’s applications. But I’ve been an Apple user and supporter for many more years than Google has even been around. Most days, I touch an iPad, an iPhone, and at least one Macintosh. I also run a minimum of six Google apps: mail, chat, tasks, drive, word processing, calendar, and of course search. Many days, other Google apps get my attention as well.
Leonard worries about the degree to which Google gets to know too much about him in the course of his using their software. It’s an understandable concern, but one that I’ve long since dealt with. Everyone who works online makes continuing trade-off decisions between convenience and privacy. The more an application knows about you, the more likely it will be able to help you accomplish a task or solve a problem. On the other hand, that knowledge can also be put to what may be considered undesirable ends.
When most people talk about their privacy concerns with respect to Google, it seems her focus is on targeted advertising. I’ve never understood that concern. In fact, I welcome targeted advertising. To the extent that I’m even aware of and ad’s presence on the page, I’d much rather see a message that I might potentially be interested in than, say, one aimed at a much younger female.
It’s certainly true that the more information we give people like Google, and the more people like Google we work with, the more potential evil we open ourselves up to. But if we are reasonably judicious, and if we at least a think about the question of whether information were about to divulge could be used nefariously, we can stay about us private as is remotely possible on the Internet. The fact is, that not only on the Internet but in broader society, privacy has become a common casualty of our collective living and wisdom.
And, so far at least, I’m OK with that.