Google CEO Sundar Pichai has defended the company’s take on privacy and argued that the search giant views this as a feature for everyone, and not as a ‘luxury good’. Pichai wrote an editorial piece in the New York Times, where he said that ‘for everyone’ was Google’s core philosophy and that they were applying the same when it came to privacy.
“For us, that means privacy cannot be a luxury good offered only to people who can afford to buy premium products and services. Privacy must be equally available to everyone in the world,” wrote the Google CEO and his comments are being seen as a clear dig at Apple, which has long touted itself as caring about user privacy.
In fact at the annual CES 2019 show in Las Vegas, Apple had a huge banner advertisement posted on the side of a hotel in Las Vegas which said, “What happens on your iPhone, stays on your iPhone.” This was seen as a clear dig at both Google and Amazon, who were showcasing various products related to their voice assistants at the consumer electronics show in Vegas. Apple never has a booth at CES.
In March 2019, Apple put out another ad touting which said, “If privacy matters in your life, it should matter to the phone your life is on. Privacy. That’s iPhone.”
Pichai in his editorial highlighted that Google is offering “clear, meaningful choices” to customers around their data, and that the company “will never sell any personal information to third parties.” He also revealed that the Google account page where users can review privacy settings is visited by 20 million every day.
On the issue of advertisements, which fuel most of Google’s revenue, Pichai argued that only a “small subset of data” is used to serve these ads, which are relevant.
“The data used in ads could be based on, for example, something you searched for or an online store you browsed in the past. It does not include the personal data in apps such as Docs or Gmail. Still, if receiving a customized ads experience isn’t helpful, you can turn it off. The choice is yours and we try to make it simple,” he pointed out .
Pichai also argued that the company views “data minimization” as an important principle. In fact, Google is now giving customers new options where they can set an automatic option to ensure that their Web& App Activity data on Google is automatically deleted after three months or 18 months depending on the user preference.
Google has also said it will extend this feature to Location Services soon, an area where it has faced heat on how the company continued to collect location data even when users had turned off the setting. An investigation by the Associated Press in 2018 revealed that the company was storing user location data, despite the user turning off the setting on Maps. Later, Google admitted the same and said it would let users turn off Location History at the “account level”.
Pichai in his piece admits that privacy is one of the most important issues impacting technology and that the company is not going to wait for regulation. “We have a responsibility to lead. And we’ll do so in the same spirit we always have, by offering products that make privacy a reality for everyone,” concludes his piece.
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