Some grown-up questions for Google – Becky Hogge

From OpenDemocracy:

……nothing about has ever been this fluffy. As Andrew Brown recently reported on openDemocracy, Google collects mountains of IP-address-linked data about the search behaviour of all its customers. The more services you sign up for with Google (Gmail, Desktop, Homepage) the more Google knows about you, knowledge that it shares with third parties, for example, to make better-targeted ads. This is its core business model, and the reason why small ads are so successful. To keep our information flowing into the Googleplex, Google relies on a high level of either ignorance or (one hopes, more likely) trust from its users.

My thanks go to openDemocracy reader and friend Tony Curzon Price, and (indirectly) to the US Department of Justice, for pointing out what “Don’t be evil” might really mean in this context. Because what Google is promising with “Don’t be evil” is that it will respect the of its users, rather than that it will work night and day for freedom of speech around the globe.

To find out the extent to which Google avoids “evil” by respecting privacy, we need to read the small print. Our expectations might run along the lines of “Yes, Google, please use my search data to target unobtrusive ads that suit my needs as a consumer but no, please don’t reveal that I spend all day searching for dissident/anarchic/Islamist views on global capitalism to George W Bush/Islam Karimov/Hu Jin Tao”. But what Google’s privacy policy actually states is that “Google only shares personal information with other companies or individuals outside of Google [if, among other things] we have a good faith belief that access, use, preservation or disclosure of such information is reasonably necessary to satisfy any applicable law, regulation, legal process or enforceable governmental request.”

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