A Ph.D. student in the Netherlands has freely created a database containing all Google Profiles without any opposition from Google, according to Help Net Security.
Some 35 million Google Profiles were downloaded by University of Amsterdam Ph.D. student, Matthijs Koot, without any attempt by Google to throttle, block or interfere with his mass downloading.
“My activities are directed at inciting, or poking up, debate about privacy and the meaning of ‘informed consent,’” Koot said.
“How can a user possibly be considered to ‘informed’ when they're not made aware about the fact that it does not seem to bother Google that profiles can be mass downloaded and about misuse value of their social data to criminals and certain types of marketers?"
While users know and agree to their Google Profile being available publicly online when they sign up, what they may not be aware of is that Google does not forbid their information from being harvested and indexed for data mining, nor does it limit the amount of data that can be extracted.
Data such as Twitter conversations, names, aliases, past education and employment information, and links to Picasa photo albums can be pulled from the profiles.
In most cases, even user names can be extracted and translated into a valid Gmail addresses.
The mass download of profiles and the potential implications does not have Google worried.
“Public profiles are usually discovered when people use search engines, and sitemap information makes it possible for search engines to index these public profiles so that people can find them,” a Google spokesperson said.
“The sitemap does not reveal any information that is not already designated to be public.”
Google Profile users who are worried about their privacy can set their profile settings to not allow their profiles to be indexed by search engines.