Google's 'Privacy Principles' Not Much to Brag About

Lora Bentley

I don't know for certain, but I think if I were the organizers and/or sponsors of Data Privacy Day, I would take offense at the privacy principles Google released on Thursday. Well, maybe not at the principles, themselves, but at how vague they appear to be. eWEEK's Clint Boulton suggests "it's going to cause privacy advocates to bare their teeth."


Boulton sets out the five principles, which Google SVP Alan Eustace says are "designed to guide the decisions we make when we create new technologies," as follows:

  • Use information to provide our users with valuable products and services.
  • Develop products that reflect strong privacy standards and practices.
  • Make the collection of personal information transparent.
  • Give users meaningful choices to protect their privacy.
  • Be a responsible steward of the information we hold.


Those are nice generalizations, but if you're going to commemorate data privacy day, do it well. At the very least, flesh out those principles. Boulton says these are the "short and sweet" version, so they probably did have a little more substance as Google released them, but it couldn't have been much or he would have said so.


For instance, it would not be hard to give examples of products that "reflect strong privacy standards and practices." Explain how they do so and how users will benefit from various features. Explain not just that personal information is collected, but also how it is used and where it is stored. Set out the choices users have, and explain pros and cons of each. Finally, describe how you're being a "responsible steward of the data." Answer questions like: How and under what circumstances is it used? Who has access to it how often? When is it shared with a third party? How is it used in behavioral advertising? What is the opt-out process?


I could go on, but you get the picture. If privacy principles do nothing but leave users with the feeling they're missing something, what good are they?

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