The Very Public Privacy Debate Heats Up

Carl Weinschenk
Slide Show

Consumer Privacy Insights and Trends - Q1 2012

Privacy concerns and sentiments of online U.S. adults and the impact on businesses.

Deep privacy questions are growing more pointed as the devices people carry are more powerful and the personal and corporate data stored on them grows more sensitive and valuable - to both the device owner and to the crackers.


There was no shortage of news this week to get people thinking about the implications of the new technology even more deeply than before.


One of the items is a "dust up" between Google and Apple. At issue is a claim that Google has been working around privacy protections in Apple's Safari browser to track the surfing of folks using iPads and Macs. It is unsettling to read about differences in how two behemoths treat the personal information of people using their services. Another big company - and one that is not known to be solicitous of the feelings of its customers - took the opportunity to take a shot at Google and push its product:

If you find this type of behavior alarming and want to protect your confidential information and privacy while you're online, there are alternatives for you. Windows Internet Explorer is the browser that respects your privacy. Through unique built in features like Tracking Protection and other privacy features in IE9, you are in control of who is tracking your actions online. Not Google. Not advertisers. Just you.

The second issue also involves Google. The Next Web points out that the company increasingly is being looked at askance because of its stewardship of people's information. And the criticism is not just from competitors:

Many of Google's privacy issues have arisen following the company's decision to amalgamate its privacy policies into one document, which states that it may track users across products and services, without an option to opt-out. This has forced government regulators and consumer watchdogs to request Google delays the roll out of its new policy, so they are able to analyse the new rules and assess the impact on Google users.

The New York Times offered an item this week that related concern by Congress on the practice of apps harvesting data from users' address books without permission. The story cites concerns that this is being done by apps available on Apple's App Store from Twitter, Foursquare, Instagram and others. The story reports that Apple said that this is against its policy, but didn't say why the apps were approved.


Finally, Juniper Networks released research that suggests that mobile malware is exploding. Lots of this bad code, the press release hyping the study suggests, is picked up from apps on third-party application marketplaces.


There is a thread through these superficially unconnected events: If you are a cracker, times are good and you have a lot to work with. The technology is evolving so quickly that opportunities would exist for the bad guys even if the companies involved were working 24/7 to protect consumers. In the real world, there are areas where Google, Apple and any other corporation will cut corners in an effort to save money, get to market more quickly or please an important constituency - such as advertisers who want to know where their target audience is spending its online time.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Feb 17, 2012 1:00 PM Brian Russell Brian Russell  says:

Privacy. Ha. (Although that pains me.)

Feb 17, 2012 1:02 PM Carl Weinschenk Carl Weinschenk  says: in response to Brian Russell



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