One of the great attractions of Google is that it appears to offer so many powerful services for free—that is, for no remuneration. But there is an implicit nonmonetary transaction between Google and its users. Google gives us Web search, e-mail, Blogger platforms, and YouTube videos. In return, Google gets information about our habits and predilections so that it can more efficiently target advertisements at us. Google’s core business is consumer profiling. It generates dossiers on many of us. It stores “cookies” in our Web browsers to track our clicks and curiosities. Yet we have no idea how substantial or accurate these digital portraits are. This book generates a fuller picture of what is at stake in this apparently costless transaction and a new account of surveillance that goes beyond the now-trite Panopticon model. Google is a black box. It knows a tremendous about us, and we know far too little about it.
Do you always get stuck in traffic jams, every morning and evening to and from work, five days a week, yet the next Monday you just keep on driving your car, continuing the vicious circle, and thinking: Do I have another option?
In some sense, whether you agree or not, this is a sign that the car has own you instead of the other way around you always think it is. If you own the automobile, you’re suppose to have choices right?
In that same sense, on some extent, that is what Professor Vaidhyanathan questioning to us: If information is our next ‘oil’, then Google is the 21st century ‘free cars’.