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When the Business Model Ignores Your Privacy

As Americans read daily about the stagnant U.S. economy, they not only have to worry about their family’s savings and retirement plans -- which are vanishing right before their eyes -- they have to worry about new types of con artists and scammers exploiting their worries.

Whether it’s scams that exploit seniors, identity theft schemes, phony IRS agents or other scams, the world-wide web has proven itself to be a perfect tool during the economic downturn for con artists looking to exploit a vulnerable mark.

News coverage of these frauds may cause a sense of hyper-vigilance and even a desire to limit online activity to familiar places and sites generally to minimize risk.  However, that’s not necessarily the way to avoid exploitation in the digital world.

Unfortunately, one of the most insidious opportunities of all time to deceive individuals is one being put forward by digital heavyweight Google.  In this case it appears to be part of the company’s business model, challenging the well-accepted notion that name brand products and services are likely to be more trustworthy and safe.

From tracking and collecting your favorite restaurants, movies, and even your dating status, Google’s business model appears to rely on collecting and collating personal information about online users in a way that even the best private investigators can’t.  Their algorithms are so sophisticated that they can determine not only how many individuals access the internet in a given home, they even can capture their birthdates, gender etc., all so they can determine how to market products and services.  They do this whether you knowingly give permission or not.

If this seems useful, just imagine that the info marketed to you by Google may not be the same as that which is seen by your son or daughter when they log on.

Officials as far afield as Texas and the European Commission have initiated investigations into Google’s actions that exploit online users.  In Washington, both the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission are reviewing Google’s practices.  Nevertheless, the complaints don’t stop there.  From alleged misuse and manipulation of search results to censorship of content and purported intellectual property rights abuses, Google’s practices are beginning to attract attention in the public arena.