When Sergey Brin and Larry Page met in the summer of 1995 they had no idea they were on the verge of creating the beginnings of an Internet Big Brother not even George Orwell could have imagined.
Originally called ‘Back Rub’ they worked on a project based on the idea that the links pointing to a document on the World Wide Web could be relevant to how important the document was.
They created an algorithm and called it PageRank after Larry Page. PageRank took into account the number of links pointing to a site and the number of links pointing to each of the linking sites.
This is of course a basic view of how events occurred, but eventually they had a system where more popular sites would rise to the top of their lists, and the less popular sites would drop to the bottom.
They named their new tool Google, after googol, which is the number equal to number 1 followed by 100 zeros. The first version of Google was revealed on the Stanford University website in August 1996 – just a year after they had first met.
Google has since become a HUGE private technology company employing over 20,000 employees located in Mountain View, California. Larry Page and Sergey Brin still act as key executives on the board of directors.
These days Google is way more than an effective tool to help you find a relevant page on the internet. As 2009 draws to a close, surfers are able to use the world’s biggest search engine in a bunch of different ways.
The company’s products for users include, but are not limited to:
Google Web, Image, Book or Blog Search, iGoogle and Personalized Search, Google Product Search, Google Custom Search, Google Chrome, Google Base, Google Webmaster Tools, Google Toolbar, Google Adsense, Google Adwords, Google Scholar, Google Finance, Google News, Google Video, Google Docs, Google Calendar, Gmail, Google Talk, Google Groups, Google Reader, Orkut, Blogger, YouTube, Google Pack, Picasa, Google Desktop for users, Google Display Advertising Program, Google GEO product line comprising Google Earth, Google Maps, and Google Sketchup, Google Checkout, Google Mobile Product Line, Google index, Google Maps and Satellite imagery; and Google Labs, a test-bed for engineers and Google users.
Google Wave is currently in Beta testing mode that will combine many of these services including e-mail, instant messaging, wikis, and social networking.
Most internet users will be familiar with at least half of these services, and a huge percentage of the global population are using them on a daily basis, giving Google the opportunity to know more about us than we probably consciously know about ourselves.
So What Exactly Does Google Know about YOU?
1. Have you ever had an embarrassing health problem that you preferred was not recorded on your medical history? Instead of going to visit your doctor you decided to google your symptoms and maybe even buy some medication online?
Perhaps this happened years ago and you had forgotten all about it?
2. Google Docs allows users to create and save documents in a variety of formats, to share or save to your computer. If you create a document that you later delete because it might contain sensitive information – beware.
Google has a back up.
3. Did you ever use Gmail to write a drunken email to your ex? Something you have tried to forget?
Google remembers – that one and all the other private emails you have sent are safely stored in Google’s databases.
Maybe you don’t have a Gmail account? Well that’s OK; Google still has copies of your private messages because your friends and business partners use Gmail.
4. Google knows what you family and friends look like, where you went on your holidays and if you have skinny legs and look like a dork on the beach. If you use Picasa, Google probably even knows how many pets you have.
5. If you have a thing for watching teenagers messing around playing air guitars in their bedrooms, don’t think it is your little secret.
Google knows and records your searches and preferences and which videos you have watched on YouTube and Google Video.
6. If you have ever used Google Earth, one of the first places you would have looked at will naturally be your own home.
Now Google has a picture of where you live, not that they didn’t know anyway – if you use Google Adsense, Adwords, or Google Checkout they have all your financial details which include your address.
7. Have you or somebody living in your house, ever done a search on how to grow your own marijuana? Have you ever been worried about an alcohol or other addiction within your family? Do you search online for solutions to your rising debt or marriage problems?
It’s all there – just between you and Google.
8. Do you use Google Desktop?
A very handy application that will organize all the files on your PC, also gives Google access to them.
9. Google Reader is an aggregator, capable of reading Atom and RSS feeds online or offline, which is a very practical tool for keeping up to date with your favorite bloggers.
It also lets Google know which blogs you follow regularly, therefore revealing even more of your personal interests and passions, not that they didn’t have enough information on you already!
10. Did you have a terrible time a few months ago when you found out your partner was having an affair and decide to chuck all of their belongings out on the street in a mindless rage?
Oh there they are! A nice constant reminder on Google Street Maps. Hopefully that Google Street Car will be along soon and update the picture of your house.
Should You Really Care?
Most of us probably don’t have much too much to hide… and luckily for those who do, there are enough privacy laws in place for the most part to keep it stored safely on Google’s servers.
Personally I don’t care that Google knows how big my house is or that I sleep in the buff – if it remains private between me an Google. And that’s a big IF. Who knows when your friendly neighborhood hacker or disgruntled Google employee could know more about you… then you?
What do you think? Does Google know too much about you