Google plays Big Brother with Web History

The reality TV format has been popular throughout the world, the Big Brother franchise has been successful one and has raked in millions if not billions for its owners.

However, the reality TV has also caused much debate about privacy, morals, ethics and culture. Call it whatever you like, shows like this are based on voyeurism. Which is bad in this mostly conservative Christian society. You may concede to it, the players or subjects may legally ascend to it, but thanks to reality TV, privacy in all its purity has flown out the window.

Despite all the negative feedbacks and criticisms, reality TV has proven its resilience, its entertaining and informative potential and most of all, its commercial value. Truth of the matter, reality TV is here to stay and we either tune in or not.

Apparently, search giant Google has decided to play ‘Big Brother’ up a notch with launching a new service called Web History.

Think of it like your browser’s web history function only in Google’s scale and instead of being stored in a file in your firewall, anti-virus, anti-spyware-protected PC, this file – a record of you’ve been doing in the internet – will be stored in Google’s servers.

Oh there it is again, privacy flying out the window.

Google has caught some flak from this kind of service when they launched Gmail, at the price of having any of your messages just a few search queries away, Google has access to the content of those messages. Sure it makes their search engine more powerful and effective for users, sure it makes targeting ads more efficient but at the price of one’s privacy?

The same logic or rationale has been applied by Google in launching Web History. I’m not crying foul over this new service, which by the way has also been launched as a rival to StumbleUpon.

Google explains:

With Web History, you’ll be able to:

View and manage your web activity.

  • You know that great web site you saw online and now can’t find? From now on, you can. With Web History, you can view and search across the full text of the pages you’ve visited, including Google searches, web pages, images, videos and news stories. You can also manage your web activity and remove items from your web history at any time.

Get the search results most relevant to you.

  • Web History helps deliver more personalized search results based on what you’ve searched for on Google and which sites you’ve visited. You might not notice a big impact on your search results early on, but they should steadily improve over time as you use Web History.

Follow interesting trends in your web activity.

  • Which sites do you visit frequently? How many searches did you do between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.? Web History can tell you about these and other interesting trends on your web activity.

Web-History_2

Google says more in the FAQ section for Web History:

What information do you collect when I use Web History?

In order to provide the service, Web History saves information about your web activity, including pages you visit and searches on Google. Over time, the service may use additional information about your activity on Google or other information you provide us in order to deliver a better search experience.

How do you use the information you collect when I use Web History?

Web History uses the information from your web history or other information you provide us to improve your Google search experience, such as improving the quality of your search results and providing recommendations. In addition to enabling the Web History functionality, the information we collect when you use Web History may be shared among all of our services in order to provide you with a seamless experience and to improve the quality of our services. We will not disclose this information to other companies or individuals, except in the limited circumstances described in our main Google Privacy Policy, or with your consent.

I wonder if this will kill the social bookmarking sites like del.ico.us or StumbleUpon because in essence this is bookmarking, a comprehensive one, but for the lazy browser. Throw away those buttons and widgets you’ve so meticulously added in your browser, all you need is to throw the dice. Well, that dice is the button that you add to your Google Toolbar, just throw…err click on it and you’ll be taken to your web browsing history snooped upon, I mean carefully logged by Google.

For the button mashers though, Google also offers a bookmark button in which, just like in StumbleUpon allows you to bookmark a website which would be included in your web history records.

What will make it truly a social bookmarking service? Public access, tagging or in Google’s language labeling, and of course RSS feeds. The service is quite young and Google still has lots in the works to add to it.

Remember, it will just be between you and Google.

It even becomes your own personal Google Zeigeist, showing metrics about your browsing habit and activities. Now you’ll be able to know which site you really spend more time browsing or searching for, blogs? Videos? Porn? The list can go on and on. Remember though, you’re sharing this list with Google – for now.

Of course you can choose not to use the service at all or limit it to keep a log of only your web searches. Just like wiretaps, I mean other recording or logging devices, you can pause the service any time you want. You can for those who still highly value their privacy removes items in your Web History. You could probably disable the same function in your browser and instead rely on Google’s service instead. This way, no one at home or anyone who borrows your laptop or PC will know what you’ve been looking at in the web. (Porn addicts would love this.) Remember, it will just be between you and Google.

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