Did anyone else use their gift from Google Santa this holiday season? If not, you still have until Jan. 15 to use Google’s free WiFi for the holidays at 54 participating airports.
So, why are they doing this? What’s in it for them? They’re brilliant, really. They’re giving you free internet in return for data. They want your browsing data. What Web sites are you looking at? For how long? In what sequence?
It’s just like the tradeoff you make when using your free (and wonderful) Gmail account. You get to use the service for free, and Google gets insight into what you’re e-mailing about. You might have noticed that Gmail serves you ads at the top of your inbox. Did you ever notice that those ads are targeted to the e-mail you’re reading? For instance, I know someone who works for Bank of America. When I receive e-mails from her, the small print below her signature contains some legal jargon including a mention or two of Bank of America. As a result, whenever I open an e-mail from her, the link / Google ad at the top of my inbox is almost always for Bank of America, if not for a competitor financial institution.
Google hasn’t said it straight out (scroll down to “What kind of information are you collecting about users with the networks?”), but I imagine you make the same tradeoff for free WiFi at the airport. You get free internet access and Google gets your browsing data to help them sell more ads. To me, it’s a great exchange – I want free internet, and I also want to see ads that are better suited to my interests. The extent of Google’s data on its users is a bit frightening, but I’m willing to make the exchange. How about you?
And, if you don’t know how you feel about Google investigating your online habits, perhaps you’ll feel better about them matching your donation to charity. Nothing suspicious about that, right?
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