Is Google Watching Us?

Yesterday, Google launched the My Location function for Google Maps on mobile phones – an auto-customized You-are-here pointer for virtual maps. Or to put it in the discourse of ‘seamless experience’ that is often used for these product innovations: ‘Just press the button and the phone will tell you where you are.’

Interesting is the framing of this logical next step in locative and mobile media. Google itself claims that the company will not know where you are. In the clip posted below they state Google will only know the location of the handset, but they will not connect this information with the private data of the handset user. Yet a dutch tv-report this morning had a different take on the story. Google was portrayed as ‘Big Brother’ that not only reads all your email, but now also will know your exact whereabouts.

Martijn de Waal

Martijn de Waal (1972) is a writer, researcher and strategist, working in the field of digital media and (urban) culture. He is currently a senior researcher at the Play & Civic Media group at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences.

He has worked with and for various clients and organizations such as The Netherlands Architecture Institute, Open Society Foundation, The Architectural League of New York, Lift@Home, Kitchen Budapest, The Mondriaan Foundation and Dutch Public Broadcasting.

Formerly he was part of the New Media, Public Sphere and Urban Culture research group at the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Groningen, and connected to the department of mediastudies at the University of Amsterdam. In 2009 he was a visiting scholar at MIT’s Center for Future Civic Media.

His most recent book are The City as Interface. How Digital Media Are Changing the City (NAi010 Publishers, 2014) and De Platformsamenleving (The Platform Society), co-authored with Jose van Dijck en Thomas Poell (Amsterdam University Press, 2016)