Google decided to take note of International Data Privacy Day last week by publishing their five guiding privacy principles. Here are the bullet points and there is greater detail on Google’s website:
- Use information to provide our users with valuable products and services.
- Develop products that reflect strong privacy standards and practices.
- Make the collection of personal information transparent.
- Give users meaningful choices to protect their privacy.
- Be a responsible steward of the information we hold.
In a post on its corporate blog, Alan Eustace, senior vice president wrote, "We’ve always operated with these principles in mind. Now, we’re just putting them in writing so you have a better idea of how we think about these issues from a product perspective."
The real reason the Internet giant released the principles is because it is correctly being criticized for failing to respect consumer’s privacy rights. The principles do little more than pay lip service to giving real privacy protection to consumers.
Google needs to be candid about its business. It’s in the advertising business, which is where Google got 93 percent of its revenue, according to a recent SEC filing.
Google gathers and analyzes consumers’ data, not to provide them with products, but to be able to sell ads. Google tracks you as you surf the Web, logs your IP address and searches, and provides you with no means to stop the spying.
Google says these five privacy principles have always guided the company. If that’s the case, how come two tools Google likes to tout, its dashboard and Data Liberation Front were only released in the last few months? The dashboard lets a consumer see what information associated with Google services requiring a consumer to login are stored on its servers. The Data Liberation Front enables some consumers’ data on a Google service, say Gmail, to be transfered to another service such as Hotmail.
Both are helpful and only were offered after continuing demands from consumers that they be given control of their information. But Google to needs recognize our right not to be tracked at all.
Google gathers more information and stores it in its servers than any corporation. That fact alone makes the Internet giant the likely target of cyber attacks ranging from recreational hackers to government spy agencies. Simply saying you’ll be a responsible steward of that information without providing details doesn’t do much.
The fact is the fact is Google and all online businesses are too secretive about cyber security. There should be regular public reports about cyber attacks listing the attempts and the successes. The way to ensure a safe Internet is complete transparency. Such corporate reports should be filed quarterly with the Federal Trade Commission.
Meanwhile, statements like Google’s privacy principles are mostly PR efforts designed to burnish the corporate image.