Since Google released its privacy principles on Data Privacy Day last month, a debate of sorts has ensued regarding whether the company's efforts to increase transparency and choice for customers are genuine.
I had my own questions at first, thinking the principles were too vague and didn't provide enough detail to really let users know what was happening with their info. I didn't realize then that the company has also launched a comprehensive Privacy Center, the Google Dashboard and its Ads Preferences Center, among other things, to help keep users informed and give them control of their Google experience.
Spokesperson Brian Richardson told me this week:
The ideas behind our principles are nothing new, as we've been designing privacy, choice and transparency into our products for years. Over the course of the last year, it became clear that we should better articulate what our principles are to the public because we want to help users better understand our approach to privacy and our commitment to them...We are always looking at ways to provide users with increased notice and transparency, which, again, is why we announced the privacy principles.
On the other hand, GoogleMonitor.com publisher Scott Cleland told me this week:
Google should be true to their rhetoric and public representations and give users true control over their private information... True consumer control is not being able to close the proverbial barn door after the horse is out of the barn, but being able to keep the barn door closed in the first place. If Google really cared about users' privacy it would allow its users a simple one-step opt-out button, or a "Do Not Track List" alternative.
Like the debate over net neutrality, this might be one that never really ends because those on either side of the issue view it from completely different perspectives. Even still, the discussion is good and forces everyone to reevaluate why they think the way they do and whether that rationale really holds water.