Is Google’s Privacy Policy More Draconian than the Government’s?

Instead of every Google service coming with its own privacy policy, products by the company will now adhere to one blanket policy.

GPS Increases Privacy While Google Decreases

The Supreme Court struck a blow for privacy earlier in the week by handing down a ruling that police must have a search warrant in order to use GPS to track a person’s vehicle. The fourth amendment was cited in the decision, stating that using a GPS to track someone without a warrant violates that person’s rights against unreasonable search and seizure. With its roots in a case from 2005, the Supreme Court’s decision was actually the favorable conclusion of a seven-year debate.

Around the same time, the tech juggernaut Google announced that it would be unifying its privacy policy between its products and services. Instead of every Google service coming with its own privacy policy, products by the company will now adhere to one blanket policy. This will let Google access a user’s YouTube video views, previous searches, emails, documents and Android location data to form an alarmingly-clear picture of each of its users. Despite the implicit benefits of a move – searches will now be much more tailored or each user, for instance – there are still a number of red flags with such a move. Plenty of consumer watchdog groups are collectively groaning at Google’s new policy.

Reasonable Expectations of Privacy

The concerns in both the Supreme Court case and Google privacy policy situation are very similar. In both instances, the concern is over the tracking of individuals without their express consent. In the Supreme Court ruling, the decision was made to protect everyday citizens from having too much of the government involved in their lives. Fears of the government becoming “big brother” might be even more justified had the Supreme Court came out and stated that it was acceptable to track citizens’ every move without a warrant. The Supreme Court decision would have affected everyone in the country.

Conversely, the same concerns from the Supreme Court case are echoed when people discuss Google’s new initiative. Again, the concern is that one overseeing body is going to be tracking a large number of people. While Google’s privacy policy won’t impact every citizen like the Supreme Court’s ruling did, it will have a much deeper effect on those using Google services. This is thanks to the fact that Google’s policy lets them track and aggregate not just user location, but other highly-sensitive data such as personal calendars and emails.

Are Concerns Justified?

The biggest question in each instance is whether concerns are justified. In the Supreme Court case, it seems unquestionable that the concerns raised are justified. Again, it’s a big brother scenario. Nobody wants to be tracked against their will.

In the Google case, though, users are not being tracked against their will. They can stop using Google at any given time. Sure, citizens can also leave the US at any time, but that requires significant expense and uprooting of families and careers. With Google, users are agreeing to the privacy policy through their initial and continued use of the service. For users to avoid having all of their information tracked, they just need to find a new email client or search engine.

Obviously, some of the concerns regarding Google’s privacy policy are justified. Some people will understandably detest the idea of Google being able to form such a clear image of what they as a person are like. In the end, though, it boils down to the fact that Google users agree to the policy. If the company sees a mass exodus of users once the new policy is in effect, then they’ll know that they made the wrong move. Unless a true opt-out is introduced, the best method for Google users to voice their concerns is to stop using Google.

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Author: Harrison L.

Harrison L. is a bonsai tree blogger who has recently written a new post at Bonsai Tree Gardener about the bonsai tree care, materials and tools required to grow and take care of a bonsai tree.

This entry was posted on Monday, January 30th, 2012 at 10:30 am and modified by WebMaster View on Friday, March 21st, 2014 at 10:08 pm. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.