Google Privacy and a Wendell Berry Poem
Love the quick profit, the annual raise, vacation with pay. Want more of everything made. Be afraid to know your neighbors and to die. And you will have a window in your head. Not even your future will be a mystery any more. Your mind will be punched in a card and shut away in a little drawer. When they want you to buy something they will call you. When they want you to die for profit they will let you know.
Google says that it will use the information to “offer tailored content,” and “use your email address to inform you about our services.” If others have your email address, Google may show them the publicly available information from the profile that Google has invited you to create, including your name and photograph. Google will use information from cookies “to improve your user experience and the overall quality of [its] services.” In other words it will use what it knows about you to communicate with you in the manner it assumes you’d prefer about the things you have used the computer to inquire about. Not to worry, though, Google promises that it won’t use this approach you about “sensitive” topics like sexual orientation, religion and health. Not because it doesn’t have that capability, mind you.
So, what to do? Wendell Berry knew, way before Google existed:
So, friends, every day do something that won’t compute. Love the Lord. Love the world. Work for nothing. Take all you have and be poor. Love someone who does not deserve it. Denounce the government and embrace the flag. Hope to live in that free republic for which it stands.
And he has some advice for us about how to know what is right in a world with so many questions:
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful though you have considered all the facts. So long as women do not go cheap for power, please women more than men. Ask youself: Will this satisfy a woman satisfied to bear a child? Will this disturb the sleep of a woman near to giving birth?
Oh, this is heavy stuff and quite possibly the easiest thing is just to ditch the Gmail account or at least get rid of that profile. But how are you going to get by without that big ol’ search engine? It makes us so smart. I use it all the time. I used it to retrieve the copy of Berry’s poem which is linked above. So, maybe the next time we Google something, we should type in something random, just to mess with those supercomputers. As Berry says at the end of his poem: “Leave it as a sign to mark the false trail, the way you didn’t go. Be like the fox who makes more tracks than necessary, some in the wrong direction.”
Mando Lines is on Twitter @mando_lines.