In the Terminator movie series, machines take over the world and nearly exterminate humanity. They are led by Skynet, a computer program that was once used to coordinate the American military’s nuclear weapons.
During its development, Skynet became self-aware. It realized the complete control it had over the military, and it took action, sending the planet into a nuclear war. In the movie, Skynet is a near omniscient system – it has eyes and ears everywhere. With this near-unlimited supply of resources, it is able to learn at an incredible rate.
As farfetched as this sounds, it isn’t that different from today’s technology. Google, one of the most-used search engines in the world, is able to do almost everything that the imaginary Skynet could (apart from the whole being self-aware thing, of course).
The Google network uses a program called GoogleBot, which tracks a person’s searches and Gmails and compiles them together, in order to determine who that person is, what they are involved with, and what they like.
But it doesn’t just stop there. If you use a Gmail address to log into Facebook, or another similar social networking site, then Google is also allowed to search through your profile and use that information as well. It also keeps track of anything you do on any site owned by Google, including YouTube.
Normally, most of this wouldn’t be legal. However, all this changes when a person clicks the little “I accept” button at the bottom of the screen, indicating that they have read the terms of service (which, usually, they have not). And Google doesn’t just spy on those with Gmail. They also keep records of the searches done by every computer, based on the IP addresses that are being used.
Kevin Bankston of the Electronic Frontier Foundation was quoted as saying, “Google knows more about you than your mother.” The network’s databases are extensive enough that they are able to form a relatively accurate depiction of a person’s personality.
Of course, it’s highly unlikely that Google is going to use all of this information to conquer the world and kill everyone, as in Terminator. In reality, the most they use the information for is to put up those advertisements that seem tailored to where you are and what you’re doing.
Google isn’t the only site that tracks your activity in this manner. Nearly every other major networking site on the Internet follows a similar policy. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find an e-mail service that didn’t check through your e-mail. Perhaps we don’t need to be worrying about Google becoming Skynet, but there’s still all those other sites to worry about…