February 12, 2003
Google Shapes What We Know, Especially About Each Other

The Boston Globe Mag looks at Google and the way it has changed our expectations about finding information, especially about each other (my bIPlog activities come up first in searching my name...). As things become more transparent (go to anybirthday.com where any hopes of lying about your age end there), people face themselves in arenas they weren't expecting, where having been Googled, they are confronted by their past, or worse, totally dismissed. In person, we consider more easily how people grow or change over time and are human and fallible, especially in youth. But the Internet and Google remove us from each other, altering what sociologist Erving Goffman calls, the "right and duty of partial display" in social situations. The other side is the Googler admitting they found information on the web about a person they know. And who wants to seem like a paranoid snoop, so the result is silence. And the social and privacy contract is altered in a very strange way.

And the question comes to mind, is your digital identity your personal intellectual property? Is your Google identity yours or someone else's? And by extension, is your clickstream a personal expression (carefully chosen and shaped by you)?

There is the tension between privacy, and the fact that we have such piecemeal protections in the US, and the idea of getting used to a certain amount of transparency. "In time, we will adjust. 'People get used to invasions of privacy,' Jonathan Zittrain says." But since we don't have comprehensive privacy protection like Europe does, people in the US are at somewhat of a disadvantage, where we must be the gatekeeper of our information, and think about where the information will go, beyond where we release it. Being technically savvy is a minimum requirement for this, and that leaves a lot of people out.

Google isn't as visually interesting as namebase.org where if you end up in the database, it will reveal all sorts of interesting associations, like this.

Posted by Mary Hodder at February 12, 2003 06:56 AM

I have been shown this in the past, and it's been over a year since I've seen it, and it makes me wonder, how often is it updated?!

Posted by: John Battelle on February 13, 2003 02:00 PM
Post a comment

Email Address:



Remember info?