Today, US Attorneys General from 36 states and territories have written a strongly worded letter to Google’s CEO, Larry Page. The letter expresses deep concern over plans by Google to gather all the personal data of its users across different services offered by the company and use it to figure you out more easily, which will dramatically further deteriorate your privacy.
The Attorneys General called Google’s lack of privacy “troubling” and they reminded Google that Internet users don’t want all their personal data harvested and monetized. Since consumers have diverse interests and needs, they should have the right to diversify themselves when using Google’s many different services, which include YouTube, Gmail, Google Search, Google Maps, Google Android smartphones, etc. Google does not allow for consumers to opt-out of this consolidation of their information, even though this is a fundamental right that should be respected by the company.
Google should allow users to opt-out of this change in Google’s privacy policies and terms of service. Google claims that they are only consolidating personal data to create a better experience for their users – but the Attorneys General don’t buy this argument one bit. The Attorneys General told Google if it was truly meant to make for a better experience – and not really meant to make it easier to sell users’ information to advertisers – then Google should have an opt-in option. Surely, if Google combining users’ personal data would somehow make for a better experience, then people would voluntarily opt-in.
The Attorneys General also made sure to hit back at Google’s inconsiderate and nasty comment to those who criticized Google’s plans to combine users’ personal data. People who were criticizing the company for not providing an opt-out were told by Google to stop using Google’s services altogether. Google said that the ultimate opt-out was to quit Google’s services and that critics should accept the changes or get lost.
Although many would absolutely love to quit Google for good, it isn’t as easy as Google is making it out to seem and the company knows it. In hindsight, we know Google is a wolf in sheep’s clothing and that their famous motto “don’t be evil” was just used to make Google look good. Even the late CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs, called Google’s unofficial motto (which, by the way, they dropped in 2009) “bulls**t”. It’s too late for regrets now. We have created a monster and it’s definitely ALIVE!!!!!!
Google is so deeply embedded in our lives and pretty much has a monopoly on search. Since Google is able to reach millions of users all over the globe, it has enormous impact. Even if the most concerned users took steps to dump Google from their lives, Google will still have a hold on millions of unwitting victims of tracking. In addition, Google is present on websites not owned by the company via their tracking tools. Google places tracking devices on millions of websites all over the Internet and they know every one of those sites you have been on. What’s even worse is that even those who reject Google’s products are still targeted by Google. This past weekend we learned that Google deliberately bypassed security settings on Apple’s and Microsoft’s web browsers to track their users. It’s like it’s impossible to get away from this monster!
“This invasion of privacy will be costly for many users to escape. For users who rely on Google products for their business – a use that Google has actively promoted – avoiding this information sharing may mean moving their entire business over to different platforms, reprinting any business cards or letterhead that contained Gmail addresses, re-training employees on web-based sharing and calendar services, and more. The problem is compounded for the many federal, state, and local government agencies that have transitioned to Google Apps for Government at the encouragement of your company,and that now will need to spend taxpayer dollars determining how this change affects the security of their information and whether they need to switch to different platforms.”
It’s also expensive to escape Google. Google’s smarphone software, Android, is on an estimated 50% of all smartphones out there. People who purchased these Google powered phones did so under the impression that their personal information was going to be used in one way and now it’s going to be used in a different way. Google can’t reasonably expect these people to simply break their contracts and throw out their phones now that Google has plans to change their privacy policies. Google knows that these people’s personal information is “held hostage”.
Furthermore, the Attorneys General brought up another important point about the potential danger Google is risking in harvesting and combining personal data:
The states and territories signing on to this letter include: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Guam, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, N. Mariana Islands, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, the Virgin Islands, and Washington.
To read the Attorneys General letter in its entirety, click here (PDF file)