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Google Hand-Holds Congress Through Privacy Concerns




Google must be getting paranoid by now. I bet Larry Page can’t fart without getting a letter from Congress these days.

The latest Congressional attention of course comes from the latest privacy scandal to hit the Internet. Oh, I’m sorry, I must have channeled my inner sensationalistic blogger for that last line. The only thing that has really happened, at least as Google says it of course, is the consolidation of privacy policies. That idea was enough to get members of Congress to get their hands out of lobbyists pockets and realize that the cameras might be rolling in an election year so they jumped to attention and called Google to protect your interests (wink, wink, nod, nod).

Google responded on their Public Policy Blog

Last week we heard from members of Congress about Google’s plans to update our privacy policies by consolidating them into a single document on March 1. Protecting people’s privacy is something we think about all day across the company, and we welcome discussions about our approach.

We hope this letter, in which we respond to the members’ questions, clears up the confusion about these changes. We’re updating our privacy policies for two reasons:

First, we’re trying to make them simpler and more understandable, which is something that lawmakers and regulators have asked technology companies to do. By folding more than 60 product-specific privacy policies into our main Google one, we’re explaining our privacy commitments to users of those products in 85% fewer words.

Second, we want to make our users’ experience seamless and easy by allowing more sharing of information among products when users are signed into their Google Accounts. In other words, we want to make more of your information available to you when you’re signed into Google services.

Now I will be completely honest here. I have not done a deep dive into these changes and I honestly could give a rip about the supposed injustices Google is perpetrating upon the masses with privacy policy consolidations and Google+ favoring searches. I will leave that for the long-winded to wrestle with over and over and over.

As a rather “normal” user of Google’s services I realize that I can yell, scream, hold my breath, write 2,000+ word rants about things and to what end? None. Why this attitude? It’s because this is a free market and free markets allow for things to happen. Oh and whining is REALLY unbecoming.

OK, class, let’s go over this one again. it looks like everyone needs a refresher. Repeat after me.

  • Google is a company, not a government entity
  • Google can do whatever it wants to do as long as it breaks no laws (that are real laws not ones that bloggers make up or redefine)
  • Most people are not lawyers and wouldn’t know the definition of monopoly or antitrust if came up and kicked them in the shins
  • If Google screws up and makes its products worse through its own decisions that is their problem
  • If I don’t like what Google does I have options like Bing, Yahoo, Blekko, DuckDuckGo etc etc etc
  • Congressmen and women like to see themselves in the news
  • Congressmen and women make a lot of money from people who don’t like Google and and from those who do (each side’s money is green so it’s easy to be confused)
  • Google, just like IBM and other huge companies before them, will make colossal mistakes that might take the company down. It’s called doing business. They should be allowed to screw themselves up if they see fit.

There’s more but it gets old doesn’t it?

Just to wrap this up Google points out that there are many things that are staying the same. Here is their list. You can choose to believe them or not. Even though everyone who wants to handcuff Google doesn’t get this, it’s still a free country and people are actualy smart enough to make decisions on their own. Oh and if they are fine with the way things are (meaning in many cases they are blissfully unaware) it’s fine too. Anyway ……

Some important things aren’t changing:

We’re still keeping your private information private — we’re not changing the visibility of any information you have stored with Google.

We’re still allowing you to do searches, watch videos on YouTube, get driving directions on Google Maps, and perform other tasks without signing into a Google Account.

We’re still offering you choice and control through privacy tools like Google Dashboard and Ads Preferences Manager that help you understand and manage your data.

We still won’t sell your personal information to advertisers.

We’re still offering data liberation if you’d prefer to close your Google Account and take your data elsewhere.

So lock and load everyone. This is far from over and those with the most at stake (I.e lobbyists, Congress people and Google’s competitors) won’t let this rest.

Good luck doing “clean” business Google. You are definitely going to need it.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/davidwewing David Ewing

    I go back and forth on this issue. on one side I completely think as a company Google can do what they want and I am willing to defend that position but on the other side…Google has become such a huge part of society that they impact it to much to just allow them to make any decision regardless if its legal

    • http://www.frankthinking.com Frank Reed

      @David – Once you draw the line as to where a free market company that is doing things legally is STILL restricted or “dialed back” or regulated by the government you have opened a can of worms that can be enormous.

      Like getting toothpaste back in the tube, the mess that could be created and the doors to abuse of power that would be open should be sobering to anyone who appreciates a free market / society.