“Honey, were you looking to buy bath toys?” I thought, how did he know? “Yes,” I confessed, “for your grandson!” It’s funny but kind of scarry, too. All our devices are synced.
“We’ll never sell your personal information to anyone,” Google reassures us. “We make money from advertising, not by selling personal information.” OK, so what happens to all our “non-personal information”—which Google is not “selling” but from it makes tens of billions of dollars a year?
Google uses our “non-personal information” (that is, everything we search, buy, read, watch, text, email, and post) to create individual profiles on us. Then it directly shares our profile with advertisers, asking them to bid on specific ads that target each profile. This includes our geolocation, device IDs, gender, age, interests, and browsing history. These “real-time bidding” auctions are spinning every millisecond as more of our “non-personal information” becomes available. And who controls the bidding? Google Marketing Platform of course.
“Trust in this adorable doodle logo with all your heart … and its algorithms will direct your path and track your every move” (Prov 3:5-6, Google International Version). Not even a sparrow can fall to the ground without Google Maps knowing about it.
We all use Google. What is Google’s mission? “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” What are we to make of Google’s theology?
Universal accessibility to the world’s information is useful but it does not automatically make us wise. For example, a simple Google search on “how can I deal with worry and anxiety?” may provide quick answers; but what would happen if we wrestled with God through the book of Philippians instead? To use CS Lewis’s words, such a momentous experience would change our whole consciousness and we would become what we were not before. To access all the world’s information without engaging the world’s Creator is unwise, don’t you think
Searching the world’s information through algorithms may be expedient but it often creates confirmation bias. How do we know whether we are searching for the truth or searching to confirm our own ideas? What is sharp enough to pierce our soul to discern the thoughts and intentions of our heart? God’s word is “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword” (Heb 4:12). The “sword” here is the same word used to describe Peter’s fisherman knife (John 18:10). Like a sharp fisherman’s knife that separates the intertwined meat and bones of a fish, only God’s word can cut through our confirmation bias.
Although Google has the power to auction off our “non-personal information,” the fact is that we’ve already been bought, not by the highest bidder, “but with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Cor 6:19-20; 1 Pet 1:18-19). Google’s Marketing Platform can’t touch that.