Data and Privacy

Since AOL shared all of its users search data, there’s been a lot of discussion about privacy and what we can do at the legal level to protect it.  Laws to protect are privacy are very important.  However, of more immediate concern are the decisions we make everyday that affect our privacy.  I use Google search engine and Google desktop everyday.  Not only is that data saved, but I count on it being saved because I like going back to searches I made earlier.  However, I wouldn’t want it shared!

I use as a bookmarking tool.  It’s more commonly used as a social bookmarking tool where people share the cool sites they’ve found and tagged.  Being the first to find a cool new site has a certain social coolness associated with it.  There are tools to share your bookmarks on your blog or with your friends.  However, if I shared mine, you’d have known I was pregnant before anybody but Frank.  Just from reading my blog.  And you’d have known every concern I had.  And every parenting problem I’ve thought about with Jacob.  And every competitor to my employer that I’ve researched.  And the answers to all sorts of interesting, and very personal, data.  Lots can be gleaned from someone’s searches and bookmarks.

Yet the power of many of these tools are the fact that you can share them.  I rate books on Amazon because then it recommends other books that I might like rated by other users.  The privacy question comes in when I decide what user login to use on Amazon and Amazon decides how much of my data to share along with the rating.

Privacy is an issue that shows up not only in our courts and legislature but in product design and everytime a user signs up for a new service.