[qi:004] Google is good. Not necessarily as in “the opposite of evil,” but “smooth.” The company — facing some privacy backlash here and in Europe — said today that it would allow users to select the type of ads they see in web sites and provide an opt-out for folks who don’t want Google to track their web surfing via a cookie.
Google even provides a downloadable opt-out option that will keep you opted out of Google tracking, even if you clear out your cookies. Nice. All of this is a beautiful step forward with regards to some of Google’s least invasive information tracking. Like a boyfriend bringing you a dozen roses after cheating on you, it’s a lovely gesture — but don’t let those flowers blind you to his faults. Google stands to gain quite a bit from people self-selecting their targeted interests, as advertisers might pay even more for delivering the most relevant ads to people ( I would totally participate in this if I never had to see another acai berry or belly fat ad again). Sure, some might opt out, but few people get upset about ads delivered based on information provided by cookies.
It’s Google’s other activities — such as keeping search data stored for so long and sharing some of that information with public officials — that make me cautious. The roving Street View trucks, snapping photos of people’s homes and topless sunbathers, and its plans to get into medical records storage give me pause. So yes, Google is offering consumers a choice about how it tracks your data, but behind those roses it still wants to be the repository of the world’s information and sell that out to the highest bidder.