Google strives to acquire user data. All those services – Gmail, Earth, Maps, … you name ’em – are geared to harvest personal behavioral information to “better serve ads to the customers”. G doesn’t even hide its intentions and directly states them in ToS (Terms of Service) pages.
The best tool for the task in the hands of Google is cookies infrastructure. In the beginning cookies employed were only those for storing user settings for G Search. It worked, allowing to aggregate browsing habits stats and such making up for a great marketing resource. However that simple approach had its limitations. Cookies were largely anonymous, identified personally with extreme difficulty. Besides, due to impersonalization cookies for a given person could be changed more or less frequently thus breaking chains of on-line moves of a user. So Google needed something novel to move on.
With the introduction of “value” services like Google Mail requiring individual logins, people started to reveal more of themselves.
People got to likening the G-services so much they remain logged into them all the time. Many can’t now imagine their lives without Google personalized services. Try to ask somebody “Why don’t you move outta Gmail? It intrudes your privacy”, and most likely you’ll hear “You nuts! I’ve got 2 gigs there!”
What that means is Google succeeding in pinning together personal profiles by utilizing individualized cookies and other now much simplified identifiers. I won’t even mention G getting its hands into people’s holy of holies – opened up mail letters. The deceit of the meager 2 GB of free HDD is darn effective.
Now Opera took another route, apparently more profound.
Meet Opera Mini.
For giving away great mobile service – near-desktop web experience with low-end Java enabled cell phones – Opera gets ALL of you. The innovative fully permanent personal “cookie” in the form of unique encryption private key (I assume PKI is used) required for all user web-communications is by itself huge leap forward from the Google’s login cookies. In addition, Opera has all your mobile browsing history as well as all the traffic read and submitted by you – all bound to your permanent digital ID!
Here’s a quote from Opera Mini FAQ:
What kind of data does Opera store on the server? Will filled-in data like credit card numbers be stored, or possibly cached?
The servers will not store any such data.
Customers are surely getting hushed by knowing Opera doesn’t want to mess with the CC numbers. Good, fewer questions about everything else from the Philistines.
The Opera Mini solution gives Opera Software ASA some distinctive advantages:
- Strong cryptography cuts out all the snoopers – whether you are government or a corporation, you’ll have to go to Opera (what a pun…) for the information you are interested in.
- Mobile has always been hot. And it’s becoming “more mainstream” than desktop web very fast these days.
- No competition whatsoever is seen on the horizon. On the contrary, major cell consumer equipment manufacturers are starting to bundle Opera Mini with there devices.
Clearly concentration of global user data is taking place.
- Opera Mini breaking up with Google (On January 8, 2007 Opera Software and Yahoo! announced partnership) only emphasizes gravity of the matters. (A cyber-war is coming?) However, that might be just a “blinding” technique – just imagine the power of the Google-Opera merger practicable in the future.
The regular (desktop) Opera web-browser seems to be a strong competitor even to a renowned FireFox: according to STEREO web stats for the last two months Opera goes 3rd with half the hits of the FireFox which produced half the hits of Internet Explorer in turn.