Google + Twitter = End of privacy

Think Google knows too much about you already? If the company buys Twitter, you can kiss your privacy good-bye.

As fellow blogger David Coursey writes, a Google-Twitter deal "would allow a company that already knows too much about us to find out even more." As he notes, Twitter is already searchable via search.twitter.com, and combining that information with what Google knows can make your privacy disappear.

It's even worse than that, though. Researchers have found that when anonymous data is aggregated from multiple social networking sites, people's true identities and their activities can be reconstructed, even when the data has been scrubbed of personally identifying information.

The BBC reports that researchers at the University of Texas at Austin were able to take completely anonymous data from Flickr and Twitter, run an algorithm on it, and from that reconstruct people's real names and addresses. They were able to do that to a third of the people who used both social networks.

Now add Google information to the mix, and you can imagine how easy it would be to personally identify people, and then match them not just to their interests and surfing habits, but actual conversations and what they do in their everyday lives, as revealed by Twitter.

People have worried for a long time about Google's privacy invasions. They're getting increasingly worried about Twitter's as well. Salesforce.com, for example, recently introduced a plug-in to its Service Cloud application that searches through Twitter, grabs relevant Twitter posts and conversations, and constantly monitors them. The plug-in can even automatically respond to the posts. For example, according to betanews:

a telecom service provider might find and monitor a Twitter conversation about a user's problems with a specific phone, later sending the user a link to a relevant help document.

The article also notes that as a result of the launch of the plug-in:

Salesforce.com is now stirring further privacy concerns among some observers, who suggest that customer service workers and/or their employers might abuse the new tool by inappropriately infiltrating user conversations.

As I've written in a previous blog, Google's Google Voice service represents another potentially sizable invasion of your privacy. It will potentially allow Google to know who you talk to via phone, and even monitor those conversations. Combine that with what it knows about your surfing habits and interests, and with your Twitter conversations, and you have a way to monitor you that would make Big Brother blush with envy.

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