I found it sort of funny that the other big news in search engines recently was Google’s announcement that it was launching an updated version of Google Trends called Google Insights for Search. While one search engine bragged about its lack of data collection, the other was showing it off.
The two news items together highlight the problem at the heart of our ongoing search for more privacy online. Despite all the handwringing over online data collection, especially by big search engines, people love seeing the data that gets collected, even when they’re not advertisers. We want to see how often we’re mentioned in Twitter, or what parts of the world are searching for topics we blog about. It’s not hard to imagine more serious research and analysis being applied to this data and real social good coming out of it.
I’ve never found very compelling the National Rifle Association’s argument, “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.” But I find myself wanting to say something similar about data collection: “Data collection doesn’t violate privacy; irresponsible people and laws violate privacy.” Shutting down data collection altogether can’t be the answer.