Much Ado About Google

By Dan McPheeters

Google has been taking flak recently for its “new” privacy policy, which rolled out on March 1st. From tech bloggers calling the company “evil” (and showcasing their graphic design skills in the process) to accusations of illegality from European and American regulators, the company has surely taken a PR hit of late. But that simply begs the question: has the company actually done anything wrong, or have they merely completed the metamorphosis from lovable David to hated Goliath?

On a personal level, as someone who grew up in the 90’s it is interesting to see Bill Gates viewed as a beloved philanthropist and Google as an evil, invasive company hell-bent on eviscerating its users’ privacy in the unholy name of profit. The juxtaposition is somewhat jarring. Meanwhile, there are those in the media who have pointed out that the privacy policies have not actually changed, and that if anything the policy has been made more transparent and easier to understand. Then there is the question of whether privacy on the internet, or even the notion that one’s internet activity was not subject to being aggregated, was a reasonable or realistic expectation in the first place.

Rhetorical battles aside, there are legitimate legal issues at play. Our next posts on this topic will, in turn, look at two specific legal challenges to Google’s policy: the first alleges that the policy violates the consent decree Google entered into with the FTC over the controversial “Buzz” application; the second hails from across the pond, where EU regulators are up in arms over the perceived threat to privacy and possible legal violations. Up next: Buzz Kill.

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