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The privacy wars — Google and Facebook

November 11, 2010

I once wrote on Twitter that Facebook knows what I like, but Google knows what I want.

The two companies know more about me than any two companies ever have. The same could most-likely be said about you, assuming you have a Facebook profile, and you have a Google login.

But they look at data differently. Google has launched an uprecedented look at data. Go to, and you’ll see everything they have on you. You can sort it, delete it, and export it wherever you want. It’s slick, and forward thinking.

And it’s a marketing tool as well. Floating around the internets these days is this image:

Google's warning to Facebook usersUnder the headline “Trap my contacts now”, this is the warning Google gives users when they try to import their contacts into Facebook.

It’s on.

What is private?

There was a time when data was important to us. We would give big brands our data in return for something. Maybe a form-fill for a chance to win a trip or cash. But our data wasn’t that private because we could use secondary e-mail addresses and work physical addresses in the form. It wasn’t us.

But something has radically changed. The only thing we get in return from Facebook or Google from giving data is better functionality of the things they offer. Google search works better if it’s based on your history. Facebook connects you better to friends if you tell it where you went to grade school.

So we give. And give. And some privacy people care about what we give (give a listen to search engine podcast about privacy), but for the most part, we’re trusting that our data is secure.

And our data is ours.

Here’s Google’s first volley into a new war telling users, straight up, that their contacts are no longer their property if said contacts get imported to Facebook.

Your move Facebook.

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