Google Privacy Principles Might Not Be So Bad

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On Data Privacy Day last week, I took Google to task for its seemingly skimpy privacy principles. After pointing to Clint Boulton's eWEEK piece, I said:

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...For instance, it would not be hard to give examples of products that "reflect strong privacy standards and practices."

Monday morning, I talked to Google's Brian Richardson, who says the company did "flesh out the principles" on its corporate information privacy page. What's more, he said the video to which Boulton linked in his piece (and which is found on the front page of the company's privacy center) shows just some of the examples I was asking for.


First, I checked out the privacy principles. Other than a couple of added sentences under each principle that were just as vague as the first, I didn't see much. For example, under "Be a responsible steward of the information we hold," I found, "We take security issues seriously and work together with a large community of users, developers and external security experts to make the Internet safer and more secure." Again, that's great, but how? More details please. Or, in addition to "Develop products that reflect strong privacy standards and practices," the company says, "We comply with privacy laws, and additionally work internally and with regulators and industry partners to develop and implement strong privacy standards." What are some of those standards?


Some principles, however, did include more info. After "Give users meaningful choices to protect their privacy," the statement continues with links to examples of those meaningful choices:

People have different privacy concerns and needs. To best serve the full range of our users, Google strives to offer them meaningful and fine-grained choices over the use of their personal information. We believe personal information should not be held hostage and we are committed to building products that let users export their personal information to other services. We don't sell users' personal information.


Then, I followed the link near the bottom of the page to the company's privacy center. And I'm glad I did because this is where I found the most helpful information regarding how Google uses information we give it when we use its offerings. There is a general privacy policy, and then links to several more detailed privacy policies tailored to different Google services.


And Richardson was right. The video embedded there does provide helpful examples.


So I guess my biggest beef now is that these particular pages were not exactly easy to find. If Richardson hadn't told me about them, I wouldn't have known where to look -- especially since the privacy link on the main Google page is so tiny.