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Google Faces Heat for Privacy Policies

Shaelyn Dawson

 

http://www.kqed.org/news/story/2013/02/19/116575/google_faces_heat_for_privacy_policies?category=technology

 

This article from only two days ago explains how Google is under fire from both Microsoft and the European Union for its violation of privacy laws. Essentially Google’s new policy allows for the tracking and combining of an individuals’ information and usage data when they use any more than one of Google’s services—this means if you use Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Maps, Google News, et cetera you are being tracked. Ultimately, though, the article ends by explaining that the primary reason that Microsoft is after Google is because of Google’s monopoly in the operating system and productivity software markets.

This article struck me as particularly relevant in light of our class discussion about the Electronic Communications Privacy Act as well as our lecture by Brad Smith.  On Tuesday the class heard two comments: one declaring as to how the advertisements related to an upcoming wedding were exceedingly helpful and another who bristled at the idea of targeted advertising. It seems to me that the take home from this conversation is that there is not a monolithic model that will make everyone happy. As Brad Smith explained in response to my question about the EU, the “notice and consent” model simply do not seem to be working. Thus, in applying Mr. Smith’s advice, a new model should be reworked following this 3-step approach: first, we need updated laws and regulatory measures which create an even playing field for all actors: good and bad. Though the EU model has wider consumer protection, many of the same problems that occur in the U.S. also occur in the EU. Second, we need more self-regulation so that the legal/regulatory foundation can be bolstered and built upon. This means that a company like Google must regulate itself and create internal safeguards in order to comply with recognized laws and regulations. Finally, we need market-based innovation and competition so that actors are incentivized to respect consumers’ privacy as well as legal norms.

This third prong directly relates to the above article in that the article specifically notes that Microsoft “has seen Google and others erode its monopoly position in the operating-system and productivity software market, and “it’s fighting tooth and nail to try and find a way to get it back.” Thus, the free-market essentially encourages competitors to be watch-dogs of each other. While Microsoft’s motives may not be purely altruistic the fact that it is keeping Google honest ultimately will benefit the consumer.

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