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Marissa Mayer on Privacy

As TechCruch appropriately pointed out, it must be Google week on the Charlie Rose program. I just finished watching the interview with Marissa Mayer. There wasn't anything earth shattering in the interview, but it's the first time I've watched a lengthy interview with her.

Mayer has taken a beating lately, and I don't know enough to weigh in on whether or not it's deserved. All I will say is that, for its size, Google still seems like a pretty well run company that stays focused on its core business. Mayer has obviously been a part of that.

As usual during interviews with Internet execs, a question was asked about all of the information that Google has and the associated risks to our privacy. It's a valid concern, and the media should certainly ask questions about this. However, Google seems to often be the whipping boy for criticism about its database of personal information.

In their responses, most technology pros talk about the tradeoff between the usefulness of all these online tools and the information that we must share to make them useful. Mayer tows the line, but she also points out a couple other examples of places where personal information is amassed in startling depth:

Charlie Rose:
You guys have an enormous amount of data that you — you know more about people than what they buy, their email, who their friends are. It’s extraordinary phenomenon that one company would have so much knowledge about so many people.

Marissa Mayer:
It is. But there’s actually a lot of other analogies around that people don’t think about in terms of who knows what. I will say that, you know, we have a very strict privacy policy. We try to be very up front with our users, what information we have and how we’ll use it. But search engines aren’t alone. ISPs, your ISP knows a lot of what you do.

Charlie Rose:
You’re right.

Marissa Mayer:
Innocently, your credit card company knows a lot what you do. I was reading an article just the other day that said your credit card company knows two years beforehand that you’re going to get divorced with 98 percent likelihood.

Who do you trust more with all of this information: credit card companies (i.e., very large financial institutions), Internet service providers (i.e., the media giants) or Google? Of the three, Google seems just a bit more trustworthy.