DoubleClick is one of the ad serving networks that knows essentially everything we do and everywhere we go on the web. The way they get away with this is by claiming that the surveillance they conduct is not personal -- in other words, they attach the information about us to our IP address, but they don't know our names, addresses, or phone numbers.
In 2007, Google bought DoubleClick. This raised a nuclear red flag among privacy experts. The reason is simple -- Google has all our personal
information. For example, they have the contents of every piece of gmail we have ever sent or received, every porn site we've ever visited (by "we" I mean "you") every disease we've ever searched, every nasty comment we've ever written about our bosses, and god knows what else.
Taking DoubleClick's knowledge of what we do and marrying it to Google's knowledge of who we are and you have a totalitarian dream come true. Think this is alarmist? Read
The acquisition created a firestorm of criticism. In response, Google founder Sergey Brin said privacy would be the “number one priority when we contemplate new kinds of advertising products.” Yeah, right.
"We will not combine DoubleClick cookie information with personally identifiable information unless we have your opt-in consent."
As anyone who pays attention to these things knows, integrity in the online ad industry is about as widespread as modesty among strippers. To say that the industry is full of sneaky duplicitous creeps is about as controversial as saying that birds have wings.
Here's what happened.
This past summer, Google encouraged its users to opt-in to some new features. According to
ProPublica, a Pulitzer Prize-winning non-profit that works in the public interest, these features
"...received little scrutiny at the time. Wired wrote that it 'gives you more granular control over how ads work across devices'...the New York Times also described the change as 'new controls for the types of advertisements you see around the web.' ”
These suckers fell hook, line and sinker for Google's game.
According to Paul Ohm, faculty director of the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown
Law, keeping personally identifiable information out of the hands of marketers is "a border wall between being watched everywhere and maintaining a tiny semblance of privacy...that wall has just fallen.”
According to ProPublica this means that "Google could now, if it wished to, build a complete portrait of a user by name, based on everything they write in email, every website they visit and the searches they conduct."
Here's the pathetic rationale for this devious mischief from a Google spokesmoron,
“We updated our ads system, and the associated user controls, to match the way people use Google today...”
This would be just more mealy-mouthed PR horseshit if it didn't so obviously contradict the spirit of the statement that Brin made in 2007.
Google claims they are currently not connecting the anonymous information they gather about us to the personally identifiable information. Count me as officially skeptical. Here's why:
- Everything the online marketing industry has ever told us about security or privacy has ultimately turned out to be bullshit.
- They have developed a unique ability to use words in ways that mean one thing to them and another to us.
- There is an irresistible gravity that continually pulls them toward more invasive and obnoxious forms of surveillance.
So the question is, when are people going to wake up and realize what these creeps are up to?
And the answer is, not until it's too late.