Undergraduate Business Council hosts lecture on Google, privacy

Samantha Greyson

UT marketing professor Raji Srinivasan laid out the many ways companies like Google watch people and collect personal information at an Undergraduate Business Council event Wednesday night.

“They are sucking up data from all of us, sucking up data from websites,” Srinivasan said. “In short, Google is watching you.”

In her lecture McCombs TALKS: Everything Google Knows About You, Srinivasan discussed her research, which is focused on high-tech marketing. As technology evolved, she said her research also came to encompass the importance of personal information.

“We should be well-informed,” Srinivasan said. “Whether you are scared about it will depend on the kind of person you are and how you value information. Different people may have a different evaluation of information.”

Srinivasan’s lecture focused on Google’s direct observation of human behavior through data collection. She said that in the past, corporations used surveys to collect information about their customers. Now, modern companies can directly observe human behavior through technology, she said.

She said Google stores users’ locations and search records and creates advertisement profiles for each customer, but many Google users are unaware of this data collection.

“Young people might be well-informed about data capture,” Srinivasan said. “Just imagine your grandparents, your older aunts, your older uncles, people who are not as well educated. They don’t really know what information is being captured.”

Google uses this data to customize personal advertisements, develop new product offerings and gain a competitive advantage, said Skyler Saleebyan, business analytics master’s student.

“Right now, there is enough evidence to say that Google uses these insights to cater all messages coming your way, toward you, in one way or another, when they curate content,” Saleebyan said. “That means that inevitably, they play a role in you perceiving the world around you.”

Srinivasan said the process of data capture also extends to Facebook, Twitter and many other large tech companies.

Khoa Ho, business freshman and member of the council, emphasized the importance of privacy in an increasingly technological world.

“It’s an issue that more of us should think about, but it’s one that a lot of us push in the back of our minds because convenience is king,” Ho said. “We’ll think, ‘Oh, we don’t really care about the data they use’ if it’s more convenient for us in our day-to-day lives, but in the future, it could be a real problem.”