Tracking information is a key part of Google's advertising programs. Advertisers love the idea that Google programs allow them to verify and analyze Web traffic and information about those who click on their ads.
Gerald Reischl, author of a German book titled The Google Trap, is especially concerned about the information collected using Google Analytics, a free program for website owners to keep track of usage patterns on their site. The data, claims Reischl, is also saved by Google, and transferred to the United States in violation of German law. "Analytics is Google's most dangerous opportunity to spy," says Reischl.
Hendrik Speck, professor at the applied sciences university in Katserslautern, says that compared with what Google collects and knows, intelligence agencies look "like child protection services." The information, he says, could be used to target advertising many years into the future. And, he says, "The more data Google collects from its users, the higher the price it can ask for advertisements."
According to Peter Fleischer, Google's Paris-based Global Privacy Counsel, Reischl's concern is unfounded. "We collect a lot of data," says Fleischer, "but nothing that identifies any particular person."
The data can be used, however, to influence the behavior of Web searchers. Internet companies like Google and Yahoo! have been expanding the use of so-called "behavioral targeting" technology to tap vast amounts of accumulated data in an ...