A Human Movement
Monday, April 25, 2005
  state of the union
I recently logged into the new Google "search history" thing, which seeks to personalize the search interface by letting it collect users' google searches overtime. Since April 22, I've logged 79 searches with at least a third of them yielding "no clicked results."

I immediately wished that the Google "search history" had a RSS function that I could use to syndicate all my manic, search-state searching onto your A.H.M.

Through the ibiblio.org blog, I found that some computer guy, John Resig, from Rochester Institute of Technology, had developed a tool which does, in fact, turn one's Google "search history" into an RSS feed. I don't have the PERL skills, or the care to really figure out how to use it (I'm sure Google will make it easier for a "blogger" like me in the future.) However, this ibiblio blog also pointed me down the road to some internet chatter about the privacy concerns with Google storing people's "search history" on their sunny mountain top servers. These were the same concerns people voiced about Google's Gmail plans to search users e-mail for keywords and tailor advertisement placement to user-specific data. There is a great example of the trend toward demonizing google at Wired here: Why Google is Like Wal-Mart

I am concerned with privacy as much as the next person, however, I find this concern at odds with my love of information openness. I suppose I'll have to risk my idealism while moving forward with a certain amount of naivete. But with that same idealism, I ask you: Why not share 'search histories'? Personally, I want everyone to share the joys of seeing some of my search poetry:

Here is a nice example of what I mean by search poetry (It's poetry for the 21st century folks! It's all about the yieldingness of language, the double nature of knowledge emerging out from the moment of inquiry and the choices made as result, perhaps it deserves a post of its own___??)

I also am interested in search history from the perspective of searching library catalogs, in the effort of building learned vocabulary association for searches, (such that if you search for the keyword 'flag,' the catalog might also assign the word 'flag-pole' or 'half-staffed' to your search, or any other word that was successful in yielding clicked results from other people who searched for the keyword 'flags.') I suppose in this way I am interested in the crossroads of technology, where the concerns of privacy and ethical practice are at odds with anti-individualist sentiment of hive-mind type application philosophy, but more importantly, I have one big question that I wish could be answered, it is*: If google nowhere requires any real information from its users (not address, not real name, not soc. sec. #, not credit cards) what is the big deal about the company knowing about its users like's and dislikes? Who is the fake persona that google thinks I am? What is the most a company can take from a person's created identity? (This reminds me of filling out credit card applications on college campus back in 1996 in order to get the free t-shirts.) But seriously, can someone, anyone please help me along in thinking this through? How could Google take the next step to actually finding out who a person is, if the person has subscribed to Google's services using anonymous data?

*For background to this suggestion please see:"I suppose my mission is" post from June 22, 2003
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