Recents in Beach

Who Wants to See Your Google Fact File?

We can probably only guess at the amount of information that Google has stored about us.  If you remember a few years back the Search Engine Giant collected over 600GB of personal data from unsecured wireless connections during it's data collection for Streetview.  To be fair the company did insist that the collection was accidental, although it's quite an achievement to gather that much data from 30 countries by mistake.

Anyway the incident caused the company great embarrassment and an agreement was signed in November 2010 that all the data should be forensically destroyed.  In December 2010 the company stated that all the data had been destroyed.   Unfortunately it hadn't and much of the data is still in existence the company has now announced.

It's now August 2012, so the data allegedly destroyed about 2 1/2 years ago still exists.  It appears that this is mainly due to incompetency rather than any deliberate misconduct.  However given the huge amount of personal data Google holds this is hardly going to be reassuring to it's many users.

Of course this is the main problem - it's not just whether this was unintentional blundering or something more sinister - the fact is that companies like Facebook, Google et al just possess enormous amounts of profiling information about each and every one of us.

Have a look at the Google Dashboard to get an idea of what information the Search Engine Giant says it's holding about you.   If you have a Google account (most do I'd warrant) and have been online for any length of time then it will probably be like a walk down memory lane.  Those half remembered chat conversations, the Google Docs you've opened, the YouTube activity, the thousands of emails and possibly worst of all the slightly disturbing web history.

Just have a look at the information and imagine if it portrays an accurate picture of you and your interests.  In most cases it is great profiling information but of course it's often missing background context.  A Middle East War reporter is quite possibly going to look like a terrorist or fundamentalist is you just look at the web history.

Who is Looking at Your Web History ?

Well there's again little way to tell, even using European data protection and privacy laws it would be difficult to find out.  Google though does attempt some transparency by publishing the requests for accessing this data by Governments and Federal Organisations -   here's the top of the table for the last 6 months of 2011.

United States leads the way with over 6300 requests regarding 12, 243 individuals Google Data.  Then India, Brazil and the biggest European countries not far behind.   An interesting statistic is the percentage of requests complied with - presumably those which have some legal or moral justification?

If you check out the chart you'll find although Turkey, Hungary and Russia made relatively small number of requests - none were successful.

In any case, you can see there is a substantial interest in the personal data held by companies like Google.   These numbers are very likely only the very tip of the iceberg, although what the true extent is we are unlikely to find out under present legislation.

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