Super Bowl XLIV wasn't only a first for the New Orleans Saints, it was also a landmark for Internet giant, Google. The company actually bought an ad, one that ironically reveals exactly the privacy issues raised by the company that consumers should worry about.
Google, which has a long established history of avoiding traditional advertising in favor of clever word-of-mouth campaigns and efforts that create Internet buzz, jumped into the Super Bowl ad frenzy with a 60-second spot in the third quarter.
Dubbed "Parisian Love" it shows how a consumer can use Google's search to travel to Paris, learn French, meet a woman, get married and ultimately raise a family. If you were in the kitchen when the ad aired, or one of the few who had better things to do than tune in, here's the YouTube version of the video:
Heart warming, eh? Well, not exactly. We know what was going through the searcher's mind, based on the data he entered. The problem is that all that information is stored, tied to the consumer's computer IP address, on Google's worldwide server network. It is, as just demonstrated, tremendously revealing about the individual's life.
Suppose the search wasn't a heart-warming tale of intercontinental love, but rather depicted a battered woman, suffering from cancer, who had an alcoholic spouse. You can easily see how such a profile could be constructed based on search queries and violate the woman's privacy.
Google uses the information it gleans from searches to sell ads. It's Google's $20-billion-a-year advertising gold mine. These data dossiers can be the subject of cyber attacks or sought by government spy and law enforcement agencies.
Our friends at the Electronic Frontier Foundation say Google, like Microsoft's Bing search engine, should delete the full IP address from server logs after six months. I say under no circumstances should it linger on Google's servers at the Internet giant's whim. Consumers need the right to delete the data accumulated about them and control whether it's even gathered at all.