Beyond Google and evil: How policy makers, journalists and consumers should talk differently about Google and privacy
Keywords: information privacy, privacy enhancing technologies, self-regulation
AbstractGoogle has come to symbolize the tensions between the benefits of innovative, information-dependent new services and the desire of individuals to control the contexts in which personal information is used. This essay reviews hundreds of newspaper articles where Google speaks about privacy in an effort to characterize the company’s handling of these tensions, to provide context explaining the meaning of the company’s privacy rhetoric, and to advance the privacy dialogue among policy makers, journalists, and consumers. The dialogue surrounding these tensions is unfocused because many policy makers, journalists, and consumers concentrate the debate on whether the company violates its “you can make money without doing evil” corporate motto. This first observation flows to a second: Google’s conception of “evil” is tied to the revolution the company brought about in advertising practices, practices that many think are mainstream now. Google is thus missing opportunities to remind the public that its advertising policies have several strong pro-consumer aspects, many of which are lost when “evil talk” is employed. Third, vague privacy rhetoric signals a weak commitment to technical or legal safeguards. Journalists are well suited to remedy this by exercising greater inquiry and skepticism in contexts where Google’s privacy representations are non-substantive. Finally, Google heavily relies upon appeals to competition, arguing that those who adopt the company’s services engage in meaningful tradeoffs. Quietly shifting practices, lock in, and lengthy data retention periods, however, mean that these tradeoffs must be continually reevaluated. Google should give voice to its competition and tradeoff rhetoric by creating data portability and deletion rights for consumers.
How to Cite
Hoofnagle, C. J. (2009). Beyond Google and evil: How policy makers, journalists and consumers should talk differently about Google and privacy. First Monday, 14(4). https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v14i4.2326
Authors submitting a paper to First Monday automatically agree to confer a limited license to First Monday if and when the manuscript is accepted for publication. This license allows First Monday to publish a manuscript in a given issue. Authors have a choice of: 1. Dedicating the article to the public domain. This allows anyone to make any use of the article at any time, including commercial use. A good way to do this is to use the Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication Web form; see http://creativecommons.org/license/publicdomain-2?lang=en. 2. Retaining some rights while allowing some use. For example, authors may decide to disallow commercial use without permission. Authors may also decide whether to allow users to make modifications (e.g. translations, adaptations) without permission. A good way to make these choices is to use a Creative Commons license. * Go to http://creativecommons.org/license/. * Choose and select a license. * What to do next — you can then e–mail the license html code to yourself. Do this, and then forward that e–mail to First Monday’s editors. Put your name in the subject line of the e–mail with your name and article title in the e–mail. Background information about Creative Commons licenses can be found at http://creativecommons.org/about/licenses/. 3. Retaining full rights, including translation and reproduction rights. Authors may use the statement: © Author 2016 All Rights Reserved. Authors may choose to use their own wording to reserve copyright. If you choose to retain full copyright, please add your copyright statement to the end of the article. Authors submitting a paper to First Monday do so in the understanding that Internet publishing is both an opportunity and challenge. In this environment, authors and publishers do not always have the means to protect against unauthorized copying or editing of copyright–protected works.