The Privacy Battle To Save Google From Itself

From Wired

OVER TWO DAYS during the summer of 2009, experts from inside and outside Google met to forge a roadmap for how the company would approach user privacy. At the time, Google was under fire for its data collection practices and user tracking. The summit was designed to codify ways that users could feel more in control.

Engineer Amanda Walker, then in her third year at Google and now the company’s software engineering manager of privacy infrastructure, jotted down notes on a paper worksheet during one of the summit’s sessions. “HMW: Mitigate Impact of bad Gov’t + 3rd party requests,” she wrote, using shorthand for “how might we.” A few suggestions followed: “Discourage abusive requests. Make privacy measurable/surface rising threats. Industry wide.” It was the seed of what would eventually become Google’s suite of transparency reports that, among other things, disclose government requests for data.

It also was just one of several features the group brainstormed that summer that became a reality. An idea called “persona management” became Chrome and Android profiles. “Universal preferences” became My Account and My Activity. And “private search” turned into controls to be able to see, pause, and delete search queries and other activity.

Longtime Google employees remember the 2009 privacy summit as a turning point. “A lot of these were a lot more work than we anticipated at the time, but it’s reassuring to me that I think we got the big things right,” Walker says.

More here.

, ,

27 Responses to The Privacy Battle To Save Google From Itself

  1. Monique Edward November 2, 2018 at 7:33 pm #

    The balance between privacy and profit that this article centers around is, in essence, an exercise in regulation through the free market. If Google continues to make money while continuously collecting the amount of data that it does currently, it will have no reason to change what it is doing. If people honestly have a problem with Google’s data collection and storage practices I would suggest that they vote with their clicks. In other words, do not visit a website if you do not want the data recorded.

    Many people underestimate the value of what Google offers. Before the internet, and Google, in order to find the answer to a simple question, you would have to go to the public library, and likely navigate a web of interlibrary loans and if your question were exceptionally specialized, you would have to pay for a college education to have access to its libraries and databases. In short: through Google, we are given access to information that would be otherwise nearly inaccessible.

    Google is providing this service, and it is up to Google to set the price for the service for us to accept or reject. If you feel that the price that Google has set for its service is unreasonable, you are perfectly within your rights to not use the service.

  2. Gary Wolz III November 2, 2018 at 8:33 pm #

    There is no doubt how big and influential google is in our lives, or anyone who has access to the internet. Google is nearly part of our everyday lives, it has extended its reach from a search engine to so much more like email, messaging, photo storage, and so on. All of these things however make it very difficult to keep things secure and safe. This is also an issue for Google for the fact that they rely on using the information from its user to generate correct ads and give people the results they want to see. How much information should they be able to access becomes the fine line in the debate and creates an extremely tough job for the privacy engineers at Google. Not only are they one of the biggest factors in this race to figure out what should be done and what should not be done they are almost in a way the test subject. While people are pushing for Google do to things faster which is expected in this era where everything is fast paced that might be the wrong choice for them. The best approach for them, as stated in this Wired article would be a slow approach to developing safeguards and ideas. Although people might figure that this would give hackers and such more time to infiltrate Googles system which yeah that is always a possibility but there would be a much greater benefit. A safe, stronger, more suited for the user system in place that would have way less issues and be safer and have a greater privacy for the user.

  3. Matthew Frederick Brown November 2, 2018 at 10:44 pm #

    It is interesting to note that this summit happened in 2009, because as the world has gotten more and more connected, and smartphones becoming much more widespread, the privacy debate and discussion is still ongoing. Most notable is likely Facebook, with their Cambridge Analytica hack. The issue lies not with what Google has done to protect users privacy, it is that with so many large companies controlling the devices we use, and the information we send, that even when one institutes a strict privacy policy, other may not, and then another large company has all the information anyway. This can come through apps, like Facebook or Twitter, or devices like Google, Apple, or Microsoft. People are all too willing to surrender their information to large companies who have a track record of data insecurity. There are virtually no repercussions for large hacks or leaks, and people will continue to use the service in the wake of an attack, because there is not one large tech company that has not had to deal with the repercussions from a hack. It cannot be left up to the companies anymore. It is common knowledge at this point our data is collected and stored, and there is little we can do. Our best option is to have the government introduce legislation of some kind to ensure regulations as to the security of the area’s intranet where the data is stored.

  4. Dominic L November 2, 2018 at 11:24 pm #

    The amount of data created daily is astounding. The U.S. creates around 3 billion gigabytes of data per day. Google has so much to process there has to be some leaks in the system. The article says Google is not a “search company. Its an ad company.” To an extent that is true. Google tailors search results to each user for the most relevant results and content. They need all this data to serve the user. When they are done with it, why not sell it? Selling data is the greatest way the company makes money. Data is such an abundant resource, they have to protect it. Protect it so hackers do not steal their resources while stealing potential revenue and giving the company a bad image. Google, however is not the only website collecting data. Facebook collects data and builds this profile of internet users, whether they have a Facebook account or not. Privacy is a serious issue but I feel that we the consumer, do not take it seriously enough.

  5. Shaunak Rajurkar November 5, 2018 at 5:24 pm #

    With the rapidly growing sizes of tech giants, (FAANG+(M)), individuals needed to be very cautious of keeping track of their own information. Privacy is quickly ceasing to exist as a result of the increasing value of personal information. Consumers are quick to characterize tech companies as what they appear to be on the surface – Google, for example is commonly called a “software company.” This article brings up a great point, in that it suggests that we should characterize a company by how they spend money, and how they make money. First and foremost, Google is an advertising and information company: 86% of Google’s revenue comes from their ad business.

    From a market value perspective, it seems that investors are quickly realizing that data harvesting (and distribution) isn’t a very sustainable business practice. It will inevitably be regulated (eventually.) Companies that are primarily content creators, such as Netflix and Amazon, have demonstrated stronger guidance than data harvesters in recent quarters. However, to create content that users will almost unanimously enjoy, a firm ultimately needs to collect vast amounts of data. Netflix has done this through analysis of user-submitted data, whereas Amazon has taken a more Facebook-like approach. For online shopping in the e-commerce space, Amazon’s voice assistant, Alexa, seems to be under fire for “eavesdropping” when the device is supposed to be idle. Amazon’s greater battle seems to be convincing the federal government that it is not a monopoly – if it were to double in size, perhaps by capturing international markets, Amazon’s vast amounts of information could wreak havoc.

    On the original topic of Google, it is a strange concept that user privacy is valued as a crucial part of the company, while simultaneously monetizing user data. Google seems to cyclically take large leaps to monetize data, only to be (semi) regulated by themselves in an effort to keep both users and investors happy. It appears that Google’s most ironic challenge is to let users know what they can do to protect themselves. This poses a large conflict of interest.

    Perhaps the greater question is – where do we finally draw the line as to where privacy becomes more important than convenience?

  6. Chris Vena November 5, 2018 at 7:27 pm #

    Currently there is a lot of talk about privacy especially regarding big data and the internet. I found this article interesting because almost ten years ago google was already talking about this issue. During this summit in 2009 Google wanted to address one goal, “to respect Google users and help them understand and control their data as they generate it in real time on Google’s services.” (Newman). Considering how much in today’s world this issue is still viewed as a problem by many, it seems as if google did not completely address this goal. Douglass Schmidt brings up a good point that one of Google’s purposes is to collect as much data as possible to enhance the user’s experience. This means there is a fine line between data collection and a user’s privacy. Schmidt does talk about some ideas that google did implement from this summit to help with privacy such as the ability to reduce one’s search history to zero at their own discretion and the ability to go “incognito” while using Google. Another good point in this battle between privacy and data collection is the fact that ads from businesses fund a lot of Google’s free services. I believe as users we must recognize what Google has done over the years to help protect its users while still collecting data to enhance our experience as users. Although privacy is a big issue, this article does show that some things we take for granted such as Google being a free service, comes from our data collection.

  7. Tyler Miller November 7, 2018 at 4:50 pm #

    The blog by Professor Shannon, “The Privacy Battle to Save Google From Itself” explained how the search engine google needs to use caution with their product. Google was started in the year 1998 with the intention to connect individual pages to the World Wide Web. This means that the company needs access to large amounts of information to be able to make the connections for their business. One side of this approach is where the line is drawn for the information the company is able to have access too. The information they are not allowed to have access to would be private information of businesses and consumers. This would be the privacy or being out of the public information that the users of Google have a right to as given to them by the constitution. This causes a conflict because Google needs an abundance of information but is only able to obtain a limited amount. This conflict has been a constant battle for the company and needs to be examined and solved before it becomes too much to handle for the company. Additionally, it has evolved from only a search engine dilemma but has more information given to the company due to their own web browser and social profiles. These cause more disruptions for the company because of the privacy that becomes tested through the use of the various entities of Google.

  8. Olivia I. November 7, 2018 at 6:49 pm #

    This article talks about Google’s struggle with data protection and the negative reviews the company gets for their data warehouse. Over the years, the company has struggled with making their data more secure and has come under fire for it. As technology has evolved, so have the methods of data hacking, which makes it difficult for Google to stay on top of their data and where it is going. Many people feel like their privacy is invaded from the data collections companies like Google partake in. While a lot of it is helpful in nature and used to better fit the needs of consumers, some customers do not like companies having their information. I personally do not mind if a company has this information about me on file.
    I find it helpful for a company like Google to cater my experience with their site specifically to my interests. This would not be possible without the data collection from this technology. I do feel that for consumers who are concerned about their privacy, Google needs to do a better job of outlining their privacy agreement to users so that they know what information they are giving up when they choose to use this site. This my cut down on the problems from negative reviews that the company receives.

  9. Michael Martini November 9, 2018 at 10:53 am #

    I personally do not believe that companies such as Google collect your data to use it to invade your personal life. Rather, they use the data to give you a better experience overall. For example, the feature of location services, allows Google to quickly give you the best suggestions based on your location, such as restaurants, weather, etc. Google uses your personal data to make life easier for the user in a way. There are so many people that use the search engine that it is simply unnecessary for Google to pinpoint a single person and collect personal data about them. In fact, it is a good thing to prevent terrorist attacks, and find out information about disasters that could occur in the future and prevent them. Us as Google users have the option of not using Google at all if we still do not trust the search engine. Google is simply a search engine, and not a site where we give all of our personal information to, which would be a huge risk.

  10. TylerP November 9, 2018 at 1:19 pm #

    Over the years, it would seem as though Google has been walking a fine line between accomplishing their mission of connecting pages pages across the World Wide Web and collecting data from customers and businesses. Now, they have been making huge profits each and every year for a long time while amassing vast swatches of data, so I do not see them stopping this anytime soon. I am in favor of the belief that the argument that Google is collecting highly private information and is not storing it properly is generally a weak one. The types of data collection that Google partakes in is simply to improve individual experience. This is why Google takes things into consideration like search preferences, to orient pages on the internet to be pages that you are likely looking for or are interested in. With regards to picture captchas that are seen across many webpages on the internet, those signs, cars, roadways, etc. are all tracked by our clicks to help Google improve features such as Google Maps and Google Earth. Without people identifying specific things in small pictures like those, Google would have to hire thousands upon thousands of people to sort through data just so they can improve some features and services that they offer. In all, I’d like to believe that the data collection that Google is conducting is used solely to improve user experiences and the quality of services that Google provides. At the end of the day, Google is still one of the most well-rounded search engines with some of the best services imaginable. Should people still feel uncomfortable in trusting some information such as search preferences with Google because they are not taking bank information or credentials of any sort, then they should consider different search engine options.

  11. Daniel Campbell November 9, 2018 at 1:20 pm #

    It is not a surprise that tech companies such as google make cybersecurity their number one priority. Any company that takes advantage of the unique business opportunity that is the cloud can run into problems regarding consumer safety. Privacy is huge for consumers and companies such as Google need to ensure users that their data is safe and not shared with other companies or the government. The situation that occurred which inspired the summit meeting of 2009 was avoidable but also an important moment for the company. Guillaume Chaslot is right when he says that the consumer behave irrationally when offered free things. It’s normal for users to forgo their private information for free things. An example being giving a company your email address so they can send you free promotion and coupons.
    Keeping user data is vital for data processing companies to create better interface. The data is what creates such a seamless layout that Google provides. Knowing things about the user of their systems is what makes google such a successful company, but can they maintain the wants and needs from consumers while simultaneously providing complete and easy internet access and media? The article provides lots of conflicting opinions from numerous reputable sources so the question is valid to consider the overall health of the company.

  12. John Heintz November 9, 2018 at 2:45 pm #

    It’s very interesting to note that, back in 2009, the topic of privacy and technology was in its humble beginnings. Today, privacy and its limitations are under constant scrutiny. With companies like Facebook being placed at the center of scandals relative to privacy, the fine line between reasonable inquiries and intrusion is still not exactly clear.

    Given the plethora of information that exists in the current big data world, data mining and other analytical procedures have been used as means to conduct individualized profiles of internet users. The topic of “creepy marketing” comes to mind when an ad for a product we were just in conversation about appears across our devices shortly after it is mentioned.

    Considering technological advancement, and how it will continue to do so at an exponential rate, it is unavoidable for people to simply stop using search engines like Google. Privacy laws are going to have to be strictly defined and known among both companies and users so that situations like Facebook finds themselves in doesn’t become something constantly in the news.

  13. Gabrielle Bram November 9, 2018 at 2:53 pm #

    Google has become a major part of everyday life around the world, it is used for school, professional jobs, or just everyday requirements. Google has been working very hard on their privacy setting since 2009 but are still under scrutiny for data privacy. Google does use peoples search histories for data, but it is also people’s choice to use Google. Google is widely known for Gmail, Google doc, Google Drive, Google calendar, and a search engine. There are other websites people can use besides Google for most of those apps like Yahoo or Bing. The article mentions a computer science researcher that analyzed Google’s user data collection and they said the user data collection is essential for their business. Google uses your location and search history to give you the best answers on the internet. The article also discuss that Google has made changes to their privacy settings including an option to delete browser history. Google has also made privacy protections one of their top priorities in the company.
    I recently read an article “Google will acknowledge privacy ‘mistakes’ before Senate committee on Wednesday” by CNBC, and the article discussed how Google admits to making mistakes on privacy issues. Google is working to improve their privacy program, and they said they are learning from their mistakes in the past. I think that Google’s privacy settings have been an issue for a while, but most of the information they collect is used to make personalized searches. I personally like to use Google products and find them to be very helpful, especially for my school work. The privacy settings do not cause an issue for me personally, but I can understand how some people might feel there is not enough privacy when using Google.

  14. Schron B November 9, 2018 at 4:03 pm #

    Google has an unimaginable wealth of information that is constantly given out by them and received by them every day. The very fact that a question that could have taken an entire day to find out through books at a library can be found in about a second through Google is an example of just. Add in Gmail and the various other projects that Google has their hands all over and that ends up being a ridiculous amount of information for one company to track efficiently. Even with Google having a ridiculous amount of money there is bound to be flaws or errors. So keeping that information private and secure constantly is inevitably difficult to achieve.
    Also, Google needs that information to make a profit. This is obviously causing the conflict over whether Google itself is taking advantage of consumer trust. Which is completely understandable but to be honest Google has been open for the most part at least, about how much they value data and information. Its got to be up to consumers to be aware of the data their sending out and maybe not be as trustworthy as we tend to be. For some reason Google isn’t looked at as a corporation in the same light as others. They’re seen almost like the ‘good’ corporation that exists solely to help people and that is not exactly the truth. People have to be aware and responsible for their privacy as well.

  15. Brandon Ruiz November 9, 2018 at 4:54 pm #

    Search engines have access to an infinite amount of user information due to being provided with millions of search inquiries every day. Therefore it isn’t a surprise that there are privacy concerns when it comes to the biggest search engine, Google. Google collects information such as user search history, user purchase history, user location data, and an extensive list of other kinds of information. When collecting user information on this large of a scale it is important that user’s privacy is protected in the process. However, google has caused controversy many times due to the way it stores user information potentially violating user’s privacy.

    The most significant time when Google’s privacy practices were troubleshot was in 2009 when they held a privacy summit. They brought in people from inside and outside Google in order to forge a roadmap for how the company would approach user privacy. During that summit many improvements were made to the company’s privacy policies, but even with these changes Google continues to find itself in controversy concerning user privacy. This includes the continuing collecting of users’ location data on iOS and android devices even when the phone’s privacy settings are set to block location services for Google. Something like this is a complete invasion of privacy, but it is possible to understand how a mistake like this could happen.

    In order to understand how something like that could happen it is important to understand that Google is not a company that centers its profitability on a search engine. They center their profitability on the collection and analyzation of users’ data in order to sell online ads to companies. Therefore, in a sense, Google makes money off of violating our privacy in certain respects. The monitoring of a person’s search history is a violation of privacy no matter which way you put it. However, the kind of violations of privacy that Google participates in are considered to be legal. Therefore, it is easy to understand how the line between what kinds of violations of privacy are acceptable and what kinds are not acceptable.

    Google understands this and as a result has invested billions of dollars into their privacy apparatus in order to respect their user’s privacy. They have worked towards giving users the ability to control the data that Google collects from them by giving them options in order to delete that data. It is also important to realize that even though giving users more of an ability to control their data conflicts with Google’s business model of collecting user as much user data as possible, people who work in Google’s privacy apparatus insist that there is no internal pressure to water down privacy protections. This is important because Google needs to be able to improve its privacy policy without being influenced by economic incentives in order to protect its users’ privacy.

    In conclusion, Google makes money off of violating people’s privacy, thus the focus of their privacy apparatus isn’t on improving their privacy policy in order to not violate users’ privacy. The focus of their privacy apparatus is instead on making sure that they don’t violate people’s privacy in a way that is unacceptable. Because of this fact I don’t think that Google will ever be able to truly protect its users’ privacy.

  16. Sandra C November 9, 2018 at 5:23 pm #

    Going “Paperless” is a goal that many younger generations try to enforce in their homes and offices. In the office, a cluttered, paper-filled, desk is one that can cause stress while at work. This disarranged lifestyle can lead to producing work that is not as efficient. By going paperless, a business will also be able to save money on ink, paper, and many other printer supplies. Due to the environment, economic, and mental savings, paperless is the way that many businesses are evolving. Today, I notice a lot of professors requesting that work be submitted online, or companies sending out internet versions of contracts to sign. Companies are already taking the initiative to become eco-friendly. Because of this, I think that in less than 10 years, there will be many companies and organizations that turn to the paperless office.

    The article provides many resources and ways to initiate a paperless lifestyle. Many of the recommendations are directed towards a younger generation, however many offices and superiors are from older generations. It is in these generations that “the old fashion way” of printing is used. They enjoy tangible items that are not on a screen. In these situations, it is important to use eco friendly, or recycled, paper. It is easy to say that there is technology in place to reduce paper, however not everyone wants to make the switch to technology.

  17. MBB November 9, 2018 at 5:26 pm #

    Data security is a huge concern among both public and private businesses. As technology progresses forward, consumers are becoming more conscious about what they do with the information that they enter into their personal devices or accounts. This can be anything from phones, tablets and computers, to Facebook, Instagram or online dating platforms. One of the biggest targets of privacy concerns has been Google. This got so bad that in 2009 they had to overhaul their way of collecting their customers data. They launched tools for people with Google accounts so that they could see what kind of information Google had and delete some queries that they didn’t want them to see. However, almost ten years later, this data security issue still persists for Google.
    In just the recent months, Google has been caught keeping users location even when they didn’t want it tracked and also had to roll back an update to their Chrome browser that unlocked potential security issues. Furthermore, they also had a data breach of their social media platform Google+, which affected over 500,000 accounts. Much of this data that they collect goes into predictive advertising in its web browser and search engine. In Q3 2018, Alphabet, Google’s parent company, reported revenue of 88.7 billion dollars. A staggering 87% of that was from ad revenue. With numbers like that, it is easy to see why Google values customer data so much.
    Personally I can see both sides of this issue. On the one hand, I have been directly affected by Google’s targeted advertising and it has actually helped me save money on occasion. I also feel that I keep track of my data well enough to not be concerned if Google has access to it. On the other hand, I can see that they have definitely crossed the line afew times. Specifically with keeping users location without permission. To me that is clearly a breach of privacy by them and really needs to stop. I also think that they can do more to be transparent about the data that they have on their customers. The account dashboards were a good first step, but the amount of data shown on them needs to be expanded so customers get a fuller picture of what Google has on them. They should also have a way for customers to ensure that Google doesn’t keep the information that they want deleted.

    Works Cited

    Newman, Lily Hay. “The Privacy Battle to Save Google From Itself.” Wired, Conde Nast, 2 Nov.
    2018, https://goo.gl/1jWQqN.

  18. Erica Glover November 9, 2018 at 5:48 pm #

    After reading the article; “ The Privacy Battle to Save Google From Itself”, It came to my attention that back in 2009 google was trying to make a roadmap as to how they would protect user data. Now almost 10 years later security and privacy of data is an even bigger threat. The article stated that the workers of google “saw and had to tackle these challenges years and years before most other people” they also went on to state that googles turning point was their privacy summit that occurred in 2009. Google company works its best to protect data from hackers, phishing and makes it easier to delete your search history. Google gives us more than most people realize, it offers us access to information that without google would most likely be inaccessible. It is a part of our every-day activities, and is not only a search engine but is also now email, messaging, photo storages ect.
    With google having all of these options it tends to be harder to secure the data. In my opinion no matter what security precautions you have, there still will be hackers and people will still continue to use the service of google. Now a days it seems as if convenience is more important to us humans than our own privacy which is sad but with allowing google to access our personal private information where do we draw the line? When is enough, enough? For consumers that are indeed concerned about their privacy, then google needs to do a better job of outlining their privacy agreements so that users know what personal information they are giving when choosing to use google.

  19. John L. November 9, 2018 at 5:51 pm #

    Google is in a unique situation. The majority of its revenue comes from advertisements which it caters to consumers that use its services. Google uses the users’ searches, browsing history, and preferences to optimize ads directed towards each user’s searches. It is a practice commonly practiced by many tech companies that display ads on their pages. The challenge lies in the balance between profitability and privacy. Where is the line drawn when it comes to users’ privacy when browsing a site? Google seems to hold a very strict view when it comes to their business model. They believe that users should forfeit data in order for free use of their services or they should pay a monthly premium fee similar to many other companies.

    It’s imperative that Google, one of the world’s leading tech companies, take charge on securing users’ privacy. Their search engine is used every day by millions of people. If they were to not disclose certain information to advertisers such as your full name or extensive search history from years back, it would be a step in the right direction. Google has taken massive leaps in providing user security for its cloud platform, email service, and other services. The next step is for them to restructure their business model in order to not compromise a user’s private data. One measure they can take is to have rules in place as to what data is off-limits when disclosing to companies that wish to advertise on their site. Google nourishes a culture of innovation and problem solving and can also solve the problem of privacy.

  20. Nicholas Stefanelli November 9, 2018 at 5:52 pm #

    It is a big misconception that Google Inc. is not a data company. While in fact, Google Inc. is first and foremost a data company and nothing less. In the past, it has and still is competing on a level playing field by manipulating publicly available data better than its competition. By doing this, it had an unparalleled accomplishment. How does Google do this, it has three major ones: Cookies, Forms, and Click Tracking. Click tracking is used by Google having logs of all the navigational clicks ads, actions, feature clicks, and more on all of its users and on all of its services. Then, Forms go along with the data the user enters directly into the forms like your username and password. Google logs the time, date, and location of submission, which makes sense of how you are already usually signed into your Gmail account. Finally, Google on all of its web properties uses cookies these cookies help them with ads and keeping tabs on you. Furthermore, these cookies leave advertising “cookies” to track our movement around the web. By them doing this, Google can track individual users on any page that has either DoubleClick or AdSense ads. This means millions of pages that are not on Google’s web properties are still seen by them all the time and are still collecting your data/tracking you. Now, Google says it does all this to direct its user’s experience in a unique way for them. The question is that all they are really doing with it or is there more going on behind the scenes. I think that consumers need to be more concerned about their privacy and Google needs to do a better job of outlining their privacy agreement. This will allow people to know more about what they are giving up and what their data is being used for.

  21. Michelle Vekshteyn November 9, 2018 at 7:16 pm #

    Google is a huge part of everyone’s everyday life that uses technology. It is not only the biggest search engine, but also the name has becoming a verb. I probably say “oh I’ll google that” about five times a day on average. Similarly, I will tell people to go “google it” when neither I nor they know the answer to a question. According to a computer science researcher at Vanderbilt University in this article, “Google does a good job of protecting your data from hackers, protecting you from phishing, making it easier to zero out your search history or go incognito, but their business model is to collect as much data about you as possible and cross-correlate it so they can try to link your online persona with your offline persona. This tracking is just absolutely essential to their business. ‘Surveillance capitalism’ is a perfect phrase for it.” To me this sounds silly. How can a company like google claim that they protect your privacy when they collect literally every piece of information from your searches on the internet. I will be dress shopping online and then go onto a completely different website and see an advertisement with the four different dresses that I had just put in my cart. So many other privacy invading things go on with google. For example the article states that, “in the past few years, for instance, Google researchers have helped develop machine-learning techniques that can build models off of disparate data sets, so there never needs to be one centralized repository of information. The mechanism, known as federated learning, allows Google (or anyone) to develop predictive algorithms locally on your device or any user devices without needing to remove it. This means that the models can train and mature on a collective data set contributed by millions of devices without sending the information to an entity’s servers somewhere else.” I find that very creepy that a device can predict algorithms of things that I decide to do. Obviously this information is basically between you and google, not open to the public, but it is still discomforting that this exists. Unfortunately, this is how they have to do things in order to run their business.

  22. Tess Coorens November 9, 2018 at 8:19 pm #

    Google is the biggest search machine there is. It is also known for Gmail and the things offered with it such as Google Drive, Google Docs, Google Slides and Google Calendar. This is used by everyone around the world, which on its turn makes it easy to share data as the same material is used. Google also tracks and stores the data you research in order to match your online profile with your offline profile. This is essential for google as they try to provide the corrects ads to match what you are looking for. Even though, they track your searches, Google mentions to be focused on private search. Meaning consumers can disable the tracking which should not allow google to store data. However, according to the article, even when you are in this mode, the company can still store your data and location. I think the main reason for the failure still is that google is not actually a company focused on consumer privacy even though they wish to be. Google can hire people to install proper privacy functions for consumers, and they have been focusing on this for a decade already. The reason for this is because you want good credibility towards you customers. You want them to feel safe using your search network and not everything needs to be saved or shared in the Google history. However, for Google to work proper as a company they need to track the data of their customers to provide them with the best searching help they can. This leaves them at a difficult dilemma on what they want to achieve for the company and the consumer. And I think this is the point where Google has to choose a side and say what is going to happen. The customers can either agree or disagree. I think personally until some degree Google needs to actually implement private search, with no way of still keep tracking. This way it is the consumers choice, and thus their own choice it will be provided with less relevant adds for example.

  23. Yash Wagle November 9, 2018 at 8:24 pm #

    Google search engine provides users the ability the access of wide ranges of information in literally a matter of seconds. The widespread use of google has even allowed it to become a verb, hence the common phrase “google it”. But with all the wealth information google provides to us for free, perhaps the more intriguing information is the data that the company is able to capture from its users. It is in fact based on this information the company runs specific ads targeting specific users. Google’s ad business alone generates 86% of its revenue, equating to approximately $33.7 billion. Something that is very concerning about Google’s user data practices is that they actually keep the data forever. In this Wired article it is presented many times that the employees Google are very invested in user privacy. There are also many people who believe that user privacy has gotten better over the years. Yet, even in the Wired article it presents that Google “regularly stumbles” and keeps on raising privacy concerns, as many believe the company continues to favor profitability than its users privacy. In seems that Google’s privacy concerns continue to be a huge issue as the company actually shut down its Google+ service. Google discovered a bug that exposed data from more than 500,000 of its users. Even more alarming is the fact that this bug existed since 2015, and was only recently discovered! This bug reportedly exposed users “user names, email addresses, occupations, genders and ages. For a company as large, and influential like Google that is actually a leader in privacy in their industry is deeply concerning. Google would not even disclose that they had exposed data of their users until a Wall Street Journal reported it. With such alarming privacy issues with Google, along with breaches that have occurred with Facebook it only goes to show that perhaps public trust in these companies is too much. There must be some federal regulatory actions taken place to protect user privacy.

  24. David S November 9, 2018 at 8:30 pm #

    The most important point that was emphasized in this article was that Google is not actually a search engine company but an ad company. This means that Google acquires large quantities of data in order to understand the business better. This data includes backgrounds, browsing trends, purchases, preferences and social lives of multiple consumers. This has been appropriately labeled as “social capitalism” in the sense of Google trying to learn more about online users when they are not on the computer. Google is definitely receiving much more data than it really needs. There is also a question of whether or not consumer privacy is at stake if Google is collecting each of their user’s information without their consent. It can be argued that Google owns this data but if not then the privacy protections of Google’s consumers need to be strengthened.

  25. Henry Steck November 9, 2018 at 8:36 pm #

    I thought it was great that this Wired article brought the heavy lifting which the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has done to combat any poor data collection practices by Google. This actually brings to light the important role the EU continues to play in curbing tech juggernauts like Google which tend to make steps too far every once in a while, infringing on consumer rights.

    Just this year Google hit another record: The largest EU fine ever at $5 billion. That’s a chunk of change. As I mentioned in TID #3, the rights of European consumers are greater than US consumers. The European Commission . It is likely more scary for Zuckerberg and other tech leaders to testify in front of the EU than in front of Congress. EU regulators do not ask questions like “what is a cookie?” Margrethe Vestager comes to mind for me. Although more on the antitrust side of the EU’s battle against unfair big tech practices, she is someone Zuckerberg & Co fear.

    For EU watchdogs, privacy is paramount. The passing of the GDPR in May of 2017 was a major step forward for the EU because it limited the personal data points that could be collected and utilized for targeted ads. In my view, there has been no such similar legislation in the US unfortunately. We can only hope that such legislation will prompt Google to make changes globally, but as such changes could add cost and are optional, this seems unlikely.

    The concepts of consent and clarity, central to the GDPR, are also at the core of other EU legislation to protect the citizens of the union’s 28 members online. I mentioned Brussels I and Council Regulation 593/2008 are designed to ensure that consumer rights are not compromised in contracts, such as TOUs. This is very similar to the battle waged against violations of data privacy as they deal with situations where big tech is attacking the rights of EU citizens without them even knowing.

    I think the fact that Google, Facebook and other companies in the big tech category are domiciled here in the US makes it difficult to get legislation rolling here to limit their power. Just in the last 10 years Google has majorly increased the amount of money it has poured into Washington. Now Amazon is looking at a headquarters in DC. We need to look to Europe for guidance in protecting consumers online.

  26. Anthony L November 9, 2018 at 8:57 pm #

    Google has access to too much of their users’ information. Whenever a user is using one of Google’s products, Google collects large quantities of information on that user. According to an independent, “…analysis of Google’s data collection practices,” relayed by CNN, “…claims that almost every move you make online is collected and collated, from your morning routine…to errands (including calendar appointments, webpages visited, and purchases made). This creates a potentially dangerous situation for users of Google’s products and services. Not only is it a violation of users’ privacy, but when google has a data breach on one of their platforms, all this information could be stolen. Google could also sell this data or give it to government entities. Although according to the featured article, Google claims to, “disclose government requests for data,” this does not mean that they are incapable of hiding that they shared user data with the government. This is part of a larger issue of having all this information in one place. As mentioned in the featured article, “…the mere existence of a single large pile of data is itself dangerous,” Because Google collects more information than they ethically should and because of the interconnected nature of their products, one data breach has to potential to release swaths of users’ information to the public.
    This is exacerbated by the fact that consumers don’t have many alternatives to Google’s products and services, especially their search engine. While there are alternative search engines that one could use instead of Google, Bing and Yahoo are the first two that come to mind, Google controls the search engine market. Google has, “…roughly 80 percent of the online search traffic,” Thus Google has a monopolistic hold on the search engine industry. Another aspect of Google’s market dominance is the large amount of companies it has bought out, “The company has acquired more than 200 startups since it was founded, including central products like YouTube, Android, and DoubleClick,” This increases the company’s reach and unavoidability, since YouTube is the premier video sharing platform on the internet and Android is one of the few viable smartphone suppliers. This vast control over so many products and services makes consumers feel like they have no other choice but to use Google’s products and services. This reduces the accountability Google has for their users’ privacy because if they don’t like Google’s information collection practices they don’t have many other places to go.

  27. Sandra C November 9, 2018 at 9:45 pm #

    When choosing which sites to visit, or search engines to use, the privacy connected to the site is very important. With all of the recent privacy breaches, consumers are looking for a trustworthy company that will not use their services to sell out their customers. Google has a respect for their users, and says they want their users to understand the amount of privacy they can have. This type of thinking allows the customer to choose how much they want to share. Unlike other sites that force information out of a consumer, Google does not do this. This has to do with the fact that Google does not sell information to ad companies, but instead they use Google searches to figure out what to advertise. The search that someone puts into Google is enough to trigger an advertisement to come up according to the words that one searches.

    As a company, Google takes their employees under consideration. This is not only a good aspect for consumers, but is also a good feature for employees. To give employees the platform to be able to make recommendations on how to better a company says alot about a business. This says that Google is constantly wanting to do better for their users. With security and hacking changing everyday, I am curious what Google’s next security move will be to protect their employees and users.

Leave a Reply