The $64,000 Question

When I saw the article in the NYTimes a couple of weeks ago about Google searches and tracking the spread of influenza (pdf), I knew I’d get around to it eventually. What I didn’t expect was to find a commentary on the Times’ website that so clearly raised the key question I had: The Media Equation – Google Seduces With Utility (pdf)

If Google owns me, it’s probably because I am in favor of what works.

“I’m glad to hear it,” said Eric E. Schmidt, the chief executive of Google, who was in New York last week. “We want a little bit of Google in many parts of your life.”

Mission accomplished, at least on my desktop, but I asked Mr. Schmidt if I shouldn’t be worried that I am putting all of my digital eggs in one multicolored, goofy-lettered basket.

“That depends on what you think of our company and our values,” he said. “Do you believe we have good values?”

The subtext, of course, is whether trust is enough. And what instruments are available once that trust is gone. Should/can one rely upon a firm like Google to offer up meaningful tools to act on how that trust might change over time?