Google’s decision to enter our homes by purchasing Nest and Dropcam has attracted scrutiny from privacy advocates worried about giving the company access to even more information. Gathering data from (often free) digital sources is one thing — collecting it through connected physical devices like thermostats and security cameras is another, far more invasive thing entirely, the argument goes.
Now we’ll have to see how those same people feel about Google’s plan to collect genetic and molecular data from thousands of people as part of a project meant to construct the “fullest picture of what a healthy human being should be
,” as the Wall Street Journal puts it in its report on the project.
The project will begin with anonymous data collected from just 175 people, and it will be overseen by institutional review boards meant to ensure that medical experiments don’t cross the line of indecency or compromise the privacy of their subjects. Still, given that the company is facing increasing criticism for its data collection practices, this “moon shot” project is surprisingly brazen.
It’s also the perfect example of Google’s disregard for what anyone thinks about its endeavors. A rational company might have kept this project a secret for a while instead of revealing it right as complaints about its acquisition of Nest and Dropcam were starting to die down. Instead, here we are.
Google knows that consumers won’t be able to stop it from gathering this data. A few of them might complain, but others will volunteer to give the company access to this information with the hope that it will benefit them in some way. The same thing has happened as Google expanded across the Web and now into our homes — the battle between privacy and convenience has long ago been settled, with convenience the clear and resounding victor.
So we might as well go ahead and welcome Google into our bodies. It’s everywhere else — what’s a little more information, anyway?