It seems as if companies now believe they have a right to store as much data about us as they choose to, and most of the time we unwittingly agree to let them do this, or we have to opt out of such data being stored. Most of the time those opt out messages are clouded in deceptive ways to make us feel that they are giving us something. Here are just a few examples.
I used to love Google. A scrappy young company that first provided good search (I still preferred AltaVista, but DEC, then Compaq, then I don’t remember who, then Yahoo didn’t keep up with its development) and then provided desktop search and other cool gizmos. I had become a lover of all things Google. But that love affair is most certainly over and now I spend more time thinking about how I protect myself from Google. I have heard horror stories about the kind of information that Google steals from people without them really knowing that they have given away their rights to privacy by using any of their products. They keep extending their reach into more area of my life irrespective of whether I want them there or not.
Apple, Microsoft and Google all collect information about where we are, or at least where our cellphones are and retain that information for various periods of time. Google also uses your home WiFi to enable them to get a fix on locations of people’s cell phones that rely on Google's Android software or other services. Apparently this first came to light in Europe, but now Google has decided to try and appease us. Google will permit owners of wireless networks to opt out of the company's tracking technology. The option will be available worldwide in the autumn. What?!? I have to opt out. It should be the other way around. I don’t want to have to opt out, I don’t want them assuming I want to opt in!
In the past Google has also been found guilty of download data from your computer through your WiFi connection while they are out taking pictures of your house. I sure hope all of you have your routers protected, and I know I would never buy a router or other wireless device using Google software because who knows if I have given them my permission to access my data whenever they feel like it. This is one reason why I will never own an Android powered phone.
Today I read another story about a system I was already suspicious of. GM’s OnStar. This one involves people who have bought a GM car and have not renewed their subscription to OnStar. However, OnStar continues to collect data about their location, and other information about the car. GM says “If a customer says he or she doesn't want to have data collected after service is ended, OnStar disconnects the tracking. And although OnStar reserves the right to share or sell data on customers' speed, location, use of seat belts and other practices, a spokesman says it hasn't done so and doesn't plan to.” That is a meaningless statement. It does not say that they will not use or sell the data; it just says that they currently have no plans to do so. Again the user has to opt out. GM tries to say it is for the customers benefit “keeping the two-communication active for former customers could someday allow for emergency messages to be sent even to ex-customers about severe weather or evacuations. The open line could also allow OnStar to alert drivers about warranty information or recalls”. They should be doing this anyways. To not use any and all means to inform people about emergencies is close to being criminal in my opinion, and this still does not give them the right to use data they collect from us.
Why do companies try to get away with unethical types of behaviors until they get caught? The list of companies that go onto my blacklist is increasing, and I will not give these companies my money. It is time they learn the importance of respect for individuals. Google’s message of do no evil is getting to be a joke I am afraid.
How many other cases are you aware of? I would love to hear your experiences and if you think I am over-reacting.
Brian Bailey – keeping you covered
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