Google and Privacy: Usage Data Model

July 31, 2008

I’ve been sitting on the sidelines watching the Google privacy articles, posts, and arguments. The Smoking Gun’s essay here hooked my attention. I wanted to flag the comment that caught my attention:

Arguing that technology has ensured that “complete privacy does not exist,” Google contends that a Pennsylvania family has no legal grounds to sue the search giant for publishing photos of their home on its popular “Street View” mapping feature.

WebProNews’s David Utter also has a useful comment about the problem. His July 31, 2008, article “Company Responds to Street View Photo Lawsuit” here picks up the theme that the aggrieved party “as being out of touch with reality.” Mr. Utter reminded me of Scott McNealy’s comment “You already have zero privacy. Get over it.”

If you are interested in privacy, you may want to look up US20060224583, “Systems and Methods for Analyzing a User’s Web History.” I mention this invention in my KMWorld feature “Cloud Computing and the Issue of Privacy”, pp. 14 ff in the July/August issue.

Here’s the abstract for this invention by Andrew Fikes, Jeff Korn, Oren Zamir and Christine Irani:

A user’s prior searching and browsing activities are recorded for subsequent use. A user may examine the user’s prior searching and browsing activities in a number of different ways, including indications of the user’s prior activities related to advertisements. A set of search results may be modified in accordance with the user’s historical activities. The user’s activities may be examined to identify a set of preferred locations. The user’s set of activities may be shared with one or more other users. The set of preferred locations presented to the user may be enhanced to include the preferred locations of one or more other users. A user’s browsing activities may be monitored from one or more different client devices or client application. A user’s browsing volume may be graphically displayed.

If you have not made a connection among the geographical data, the usage data, and the information a user or cluster of users examines, you may want to read this document. Remember, I don’t want to imply that Google is using the technology disclosed in a patent document. I do think these documents provide a glimpse inside the engineering “factory” at Google.

Stephen Arnold, July 31, 2008

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