Google knows my friends and family, cool or creepy?

In writing a comment for Mr Gonzalez’s post about his plans to use iPads in Science, I did a little google search on iPad’s wifi issues because, to be honest, I don’t trust iPad’s network connection enough yet to use it in a classroom.

I was surprised to see, at the bottom of the first search page a link written by someone from my professional learning community – Chris Parsons.

Google Social Circle and Chris

At first I thought, Cool! Look, it’s Chris! Then I noticed the fine print by the article title:

Beta – My Social Circle – My Social Content.
connected via

Has anyone else noticed this in their google searches?

I’m going back and forth from this is cool, to this is creepy.

On the same note, Google street view has a view of the front of my parents’ house, with my mom in it. She’s standing in their garage. Again, cool? creepy?


  • David Duez says:

    I’m very cool with all of it. I can’t tell you how many times my Droid phone (with Google Maps and Navigation) has saved me from hours of driving around trying to find something. As a visual person, it really helps me to see the buildings.

    Now, if you think it’s creepy… I get that viewpoint. But, they aren’t breaking any privacy laws. If it was a live view and you could see inside your parent’s home (by the way, it is a lovely home) — well, that would be going to far. I also think it’s super funny how many people think it is a live view. :)

    GPS technology is getting incredibly accurate. It will be accurate to just a few FEET in the next year. They are adding positioning satellites. So that means a plane can land itself. Yep. The GPS will be so accurate that the plane would be able to land on auto pilot. That’s cool and pretty useful. Anyway, you can tell I get geeked out by such things! Sorry.

    • Tracy says:

      @David Duez, I’m caught in between the cool and the creepy. It’s definitely cool that my mom is somehow catalogued in Google’s mapping database – ironically cool in that she so doesn’t get technology!

      The creepy factor doesn’t have to do with the breaking of laws, just the skin crawly creepiness of programs, not people, but programs that seemingly ‘know’ me and my circle of friends.

      At the same time, participating in the online world is so not private, anyone who comes to my blog or follows my twitter feed can tell that Chris (example from the original post) and I share our thoughts on many subjects. It was somehow unsettling to see Google mining my personal (though not personal, what a hall of illusions these Internets are!) data to create personalized search results based on the fact that we share ideas or, rather, that we are ‘friends’ or ‘contacts’ or ‘followers’ in some online social network somewhere.

  • I guess what makes it creepy/cool is dependent on whether you know that you opted in for the service (assuming that you did) and the ease of opting out of the personalization service (should you choose to). Opting someone into something, often by offering new services and carrying over old preferences to opt you into those new services, can be problematic when done inelegantly.

    I firmly maintain that services you sign up to should, by default, require their customers to opt-in to new services OR provide very obvious, upfront, opt-out prior to the service beginning. Such opt-outs should NOT be hidden away on a corporate website but should be delivered to the email account/social media account that you’ve used to sign up for the initial version of the service.

    No idea if you intentionally opted into this or not; I haven’t seen it, suggesting that I didn’t opt in or it hasn’t been deployed in my area yet.

    • Tracy says:

      @Christopher Parsons, Nope, did not opt in. From what I can tell, if you have a google profile and have any social links tied to it (twitter, facebook, etc…) it happens automatically.

      You’re right, ‘twould have been decent to have an opt in option. If it really bugs me, I guess my option is to cancel that google profile.

      What about google’s satellites and street view though? My mom was definitely not consulted on that one, the luddite that she is :)

  • LaurenceB says:

    Honestly, I think the problem is that it’s cool AND creepy… it’s a freedom/information exchange, you have to choose the amount of freedom you let go for the amount of info you get. Difficult choice I think

    • Tracy says:

      @LaurenceB, is it even about letting go of freedom or is letting go of the notion of an online privacy? We are all open out here!

      A few years ago I chose to go open – changing my online user name from Harmonica Goldfish to Tracy Rosen, my real name. The more I wrote about things that were important to me, the more I felt like a fraud behind the pseudonym.

      I am all for openness online. Still get a bit of a chill when I see my own data being manipulated by programs though!

1 Trackback or Pingback

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *