Private Outrage

Today I went for a tour around Lahemaa national park in Tallinn. I’m using a Sony RX100mk2 which does not have GPS capabilities.

When I uploaded my pictures to Google Photos, I was pleasantly surprised. Even though I knew there was no GPS data associated with my pictures, Google was able to give an estimated location for my photos. I didn’t have to spend hours tagging all of them!

There’s an article that brands itself as a public service announcement that Google might be dipping into a user’s Location History in order to make this work.

The article sounded to me as some inflammatory post designed to incite outrage among the privacy conscious.

I think there should be outrage at any privacy violation, but it’s not for the usual suspects. It’s not really about about privacy (or lack thereof) itself, but about the asymmetric information on how our data is being used.

I’m fine with Google using the data I produced to make my life easier (such as the photos example, or where I parked my car, or when should I leave for my flight to Barcelona). I don’t even mind if Google uses my data to serve me ads, if they tell me that beforehand and I am aware that my data is being used that way.

I do mind it if Google uses my data for something else I didn’t want it to or am not aware of, like sharing it to governments or selling it to credit card companies to help them with premiums calculation.

The problem is that my data has a lot of uses, and I won’t have enough time nor energy to figure out and clear all the kinds of usages enabled by my data.

I want to know who else has access to what kind of data there is, and present it to me in a more understandable format (not as a data dump).

I think if this can be done, there would be less of an outrage and more acceptance that this is how data is collected and used in the information age.