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Google super-brain to harvest human behaviour

functionpix | May 28, 2007 
Alec Simpson

Internet search giant Google is planning to build the world's most powerful human database computer that will one day not only be able to log but also it will predict our every move.

The worlds most powerful search database has announced plans to build the database with full backing from the US government. It is the biggest Orwellian style threat to civil liberty and a threat to human privacy ever conceived and many are saying that this sort of system should not be allowed.

Google argue that it is purely a marketing and general life assistant type of application that will be able to predict what it is we might need without us actually realising it. It says that by organising the world's information and collating every piece of data that it can hold about it's users it can guess what people will look for.

Ultimately, it plans to make Google so personal that it will be able to target specific people who it knows are interested in certain genres an subjects. It says it will collate this data from all of it's search engine information and that it already knows a great deal about what we look for, when we look for it and why.

Google say that it will be so advanced that it will be able to predict market trends, fashions and fluctuating moods and human behaviour. It is almost digitizing the human psyche. Others say that it will use the information to direct and influence our trends and instead of forecasting what we will need, it will be suggesting what we need according to their own influences.

The internet search giant argue that in theory there should be no problem. In fact, the new database could make life easier - perhaps even better. For example if you want to buy a particular book from a certain site, Google could locate other sites selling the same book at a cheaper price or it could recommend other books by the same author.

The same could also work if you want to buy a television or a holiday and the search engine could bring up the best buy on the net.

In setting up this database Google says it is giving customers what they want and that any information collated will be volunteered. Users will only be identified by name if they sign up to one of the log-on services such as G-mail or Froogle.

However, critics fear the database is the next step towards an Orwellian Big Brother state and that once Google has been allowed or even endorsed to ‘harvest' all our most intimate daily habits, then we are dangerously close to the next step of total computer dependency.

While we already are living in a closely monitored society, we are almost becoming too used to seeing powerful cameras on every street corner and using store cards that log our every move and we are even willing to use websites such as Bebo, Myspace or friends reunited where even more personal data is stored, farmed and in some cases sold.

Protestors see the declaration for such a system as an infringement of civil liberties by stealth by a company that wants to turn the personal database into a lucrative marketing tool.

Like all businesses Google is driven to make money which it does through multi-million pound advertising sponsorship.This means consumers have no idea whether or not the information being given is impartial or whether something is being recommended of a big money deal.

In truth, people would not tolerate being followed around the shops day by day by some stranger taking notes of everything they buy, writing about the reasons behind their purchase and trying to steer them towards certain shops. So why should we put up with it in the virtual world?

Privacy protection campaigners fear that in certain circumstances law enforcement agents could force internet search engines to surrender personal information and already in it's short existence, Google hold the largest compilation of personal information ever stored.

Google has bought the targeted advertising company Doubleclick which further monitors users on a wide range of websites, and deploys "cookies" - small software programs that embed themselves into people's computers to keep track of what they are looking at.

And it has also invested £2m in genetics company 23andMe - a move which sceptics of the database are calling ‘very worrying'.

Surely the best advice is, as in real life, if you are concerned about privacy, don't give out and personal information unless you know exactly who will be reading it. But in most cases, it proves impossible to use the internet without disclosing such information – as most sites insist that they have such data before you can access the site.

Also under the Data Protection Act information must only be used for the purposes it was given and Google has said it plans to impose a limit on the period it keeps personal information.

Google has been around for many years now and is a very much respected resource. It has proved itself to be the best of its kind. Although it has in the past resisted US government court applications to hand over personal information it holds on some users – it could also resist future demands to part with other information. But in this age of the super information technology, knowledge is super-power.

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