Thursday, Feb 9, 2012, 1:04 am
Privacy Watchdog Warns Against New Google Policy
EPIC alleges that Google is in violation of an October consent order with the FTC. The order was the result of EPIC's complaint over failed social networking site, Google Buzz. EPIC accused Google of disclosing personal information acquired from Gmail accounts without user consent as a way to kickstart the social media website. The FTC determined the practices were “unfair and deceptive” and issued an order prohibiting Google from “misrepresenting the extent to which it maintains and protects the privacy and confidentiality of personal information” and failing to comply with other privacy safety measures.
Now, EPIC is suing over the FTC’s failure to enforce the order.
The policy itself is not much different than previous ones. Google has long been collecting data from cookies and Gmail in order to create more targeted advertising. The difference here is that the policy now integrates that data across all Google platforms. Amit Agarwal in The Wall Street Journal breaks it down nicely:
Say you are planning to visit Singapore and have been exchanging emails on Gmail with your travel agent, Gmail can pass data to Google.com so the next time you type “travel” in the Google search box, the ads on your screen could be for hotels in Singapore.
The encroachment of dot.com sites on our personal data is nothing new, and every new privacy line crossed is predictably met with resistance; that is until the public forgets about it and moves on. It’s unlikely that many Google users will jump ship once the policy goes into effect, just as they didn’t during the Buzz brouhaha or during numerous changes to Facebook. But as Sarah Marie Watson in the Atlantic points out, these privacy changes should be an impetus for users to examine their digital selves.
I'll admit, I won't be giving up Gmail or moving my searches over to Bing anytime soon. I'm not calling for a boycott by any means. . .We must each begin to test our thresholds for levels of exposure and begin to question the nature of our relationships with these companies. We must ask ourselves, at what point does Google know more about me than I'm comfortable with?
Alyssa Meza is a Winter 2012 In These Times editorial intern