Privacy

by Mike Masnick


Filed Under:
advertising, privacy

Companies:
google, microsoft



Compare And Contrast Google To Microsoft On The Privacy vs. Ads Question

from the which-one-is-more-trustworthy? dept

Last week, we wrote about a WSJ article that discussed some of the tensions inside Microsoft over whether to side with advertisers or consumers when it came to privacy features in Internet Explorer. This week, the WSJ appears to have a similar article, about a similar debate within Google. I actually expected the story to be quite similar to the Microsoft story, but, honestly, I was pretty surprised at the lack of any "there" there in this latest article. It appears to take a single document by a mid-level staffer, who tossed out a bunch of random ideas for brainstorming purposes -- many of which, it appears, everyone at the company knew were non-starters -- to suggest that the company was "agonizing" over competing privacy and advertiser interests. These sorts of documents get created all the time, and don't mean anything really.

There are some interesting nuggets in the piece, which suggest that the real struggle over privacy issues and Google will come down the road after Sergey and Larry leave the company. As it stands, those two still appear to have pretty strong views on protecting users' privacy, correctly realizing that not doing so will actually do more long term harm to both consumers and Google itself. But, not everyone is good at recognizing the long term impact of profitable, but short-sighted, short term decisions.

If anything, the article does serve as a reasonable reminder that for most of us, Google really does have access to a tremendous amount of potentially sensitive material, and basically everyone has put their trust in the fact that the company won't abuse this access to data. To date, the company has actually been quite good about all of this, but there's certainly no guarantee that will always be the case. If anything, the increased scrutiny on Google should have the company looking to put in place a framework now to "forward protect" people's data, in case future Google execs change tactics. I think that could go a long way towards retaining people's trust.

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  1. icon
    interval (profile), 11 Aug 2010 @ 7:56am

    The Problem

    Google is still a very profitable company, of course. The problem they face, however, is expansion of those profits. As a public company share holders are going to want to see healthy growth; and Google as a company are just beginning to start the scramble for that growth. Nothing up to now is really working. Its not bad; there just isn't any "insanely great" (to use a handy Jobsism) new profitable products coming down the pike. If Google continues to fumble about for more profit growth the pressure to dip into that huge pool of private data may become unbearable.

    When I signed on to use gmail all these... wow, must be 10 years ago now, I didn't use my actual name or anything. I use a pseudonym. Anything else that requires my actual information is sent via a pop server that I control. See, when I see a company motto that reads "Do no evil" I always make sure I'm insured when I use that company's services.

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