The day before I wrote about Google's new privacy principles, GoogleMonitor.com publisher Scott Cleland wrote on the same topic, except his post was far more detailed and pointed. He raised several questions that I hadn't considered until that point, and reinforced others that had been floating around in my head for awhile.
Cleland took apart each principle and explained why he thought each was nothing more that "lip service" to appease consumer privacy concerns. For example, he writes:
3. Make the collection of personal information transparent.
- If Google was indeed operating under these privacy principles all along, why was it only in 2009 that Google created the Privacy dashboard, and their Data Liberation Front?
- And if Google is so transparent with how they collect private information, why do major respected surveys by Consumer Reports and the Annenberg School strongly suggest that consumers are largely unaware with what Google and others are doing with their private information online?
4. Give users meaningful choices to protect their privacy.
- If the "dashboard" is supposed to be "meaningful choice," why do Google's privacy practices not also offer an on-off switch, a brake or a reverse?
- If the Data Liberation Front is supposed to give users full portability "choice", why did the user never have meaningful choice in whether Google collected the information in the first place?
Since Google's Brian Richardson already has been so kind as to answer a few of my questions, this morning I asked him if he or another Google representative was available to respond to Cleland's post. I'm looking forward to hearing what the company has to say.
In the meantime, I'm also compiling questions to ask Cleland, like how he responds to those who believe the idea of online privacy is a thing of the past --if it ever existed in the first place. Or how he would go about protecting user privacy if he were the one making decisions at Google Inc. I'll keep you posted on that, too.