Google Voice, The Debute

If you haven’t heard about this new free service from Google, you might consider its use. On the surface, this new resource is pretty cool and very useful. My concern, as always, is the privacy of personal information.

A good question to ask is whether a free service is worth the potential threat to privacy. What kind of potential threat to privacy could this be, and how likely or much of a threat could it be?

This new service from Google is free, but Google is able to glean useful information from your phone use. Phone companies have gleaned all sorts of information from you over the years without you knowing it. As technology advances, companies are able to tell all sorts of information about you should the company desire to do so.

For example, by number crunching they would be able to tell when you use the phone the most, where you call from, who you call the most, whether you take calls from telemarketers or political groups (perhaps tell whether you’re active in a particular group, give money or time), how often you phone your doctor, whether you purchase anything over the phone, if you are gone regularly from your house or are on a temporary vacation, whether you use mobile phones or land lines and how often (or can afford cell phones).

So there is a ton of information to glean from your communication habits. I’m not accusing Google or any phone service provider of giving your personal information to third parties, although there is potential. I suspect Google of crunching the numbers so it can be used in other ways. By understanding the habits of society, one can anticipate its wants & needs, plus respond to events and reactions more effectively.

What does Google plan to do with the information that passes through its hands? Most likely, it will continue to look for ways to be useful to society, to develop new services and tools. It seems like Google, like Microsoft, continues to influence the way that society operates; it has a huge impact on they way that we run our day to day lives as professionals as well as individually.

There are, of course, laws that protect the information of individuals; the laws are there for a reason. I believe that Google “behaves itself” as much as possible and plays by the rules. So I would rate the potential to abuse this information as medium to high, but to give it a low rating for likelihood simply because of Google’s current good reputation and the laws it needs to follow.

In time, I expect to try the Google Voice service in time. It may influence the way I communicate with others (or not).  There is always the potential!

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About repplinger

John has served as a Reference Librarian at Willamette University since 2002. He is the liaison to the Science Departments, and is responsible for maintaining the collections related to the life & physical sciences. His research interests range over the entire spectrum of libraries and information sciences, but includes: - Google and its influence on information & society - The Internet's influence on information seeking & sharing behaviors - Trends of scholarly communication - Electronic learning environments - Traditional pedagogy - GIS use in academic libraries

Posted on June 25, 2010, in Ethics, Google, Privacy, Tech Toys, Technology and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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