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Exposing Google's Systemic Privacy Vulnerabilities -- Part XXII of Publicacy vs Privacy series

Google's latest privacide admission -- that all of Google's roving StreetView vehicles around the world have been recording some of people's WiFi traffic/web behavior since 2007 -- should prompt privacy officials and the media to ask the simple question: why does Google serially keep having privacy scandals?

Simply Google will continue to have privacy scandals because Google has deep systemic privacy flaws and vulnerabilities -- by design.

  • At core Google philosophically believes in "publicacy" that the world is a better place with more openness/transparency rather than closed systems or private/proprietary information.
  • Thus Google has a publicacy mission, culture, business model, and no serious of effective system of management and internal controls to protect people's privacy.    

1.  Publicacy Mission: Google's infamous publicacy mission is to "organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." It is their mission to collect whatever information they can, where ever they can, whenever they can without regard to whether it is private or proprietary information. As Google's repeated privacy flaps prove, they believe it is more efficient to ask for forgiveness than for permission.   

2.  Publicacy Culture: Google has long touted its "innovation without permission" approach to most everything. Google has a maniacal focus on crawling/collecting more information than anyone else because it knows that the key to search engine loyalty is to be the search engine that can best fulfill the "long tail" or obscure searches. This essentially makes Google a humongous vacuum cleaner sucking up whatever information it can discover, regardless of whether it is private or not.  

3. Publicacy Business model: Most all of Google's revenues come from targeted advertising, meaning that Google's chosen competitive advantage and fulcrum business strength is that it collects more personal/private information than anyone else so it can be relatively the best in targeting advertising to that particular user in that particular context and time.  

4. Weak Management/internal control weaknesses: Google prides itself on not having much accountability. Per Nikesh Aurora, Google Head of European Operations:  "We try not to have too many controls." "People will do things that they think are in the interests of the company. We want them to understand the values of the firm, and interpret them for themselves."

  • Google also is infamous for 20% personal time so for a big chunk of time its employees are unsupervised while using Google's resources. 

5. Reliance on PR: It is telling that Google waited to release this self-admitted "mistake" conveniently on a Friday at the end of the day to ensure it got the least amount of media and government attention, and also conveniently after Google's annual shareholder meeting Thursday.

  • Much like Google systematically deceived the public that its Chinese data breach was mainly about Google standing up to China's censorship, they proactively have limited public awareness that Google's password system was hacked and that Google does not know what private information may have been accessed by the hackers.

In sum, this latest act of Google privacide is not a simple "mistake," it is just the latest in a scary serial litany of privacy scandals: Gmail; Google search; Google Earth; Street View; Latitude Geo-tracking; Google Picassa Facial Recognition; Google Translation411 voice recognition; Google Books; Google DocsGoogle Buzz; cloud computing; DNA prints; Google-NSA partnership; Schmidt on privacy; these links are illustrative of Google's pervasive invasiveness of everyone's privacy, not comprehensive.

Privacy officials and the media need a much healthier skepticism of Google's legendary PR spin, especially when it comes to privacy. The big question is will Google ever become accountable for its serial privacide?


Publicacy vs Privacy Series:

Part I: The Growing Privacy-Publicacy Fault-line -- The Tension Underneath World Data Privacy Day 

Part II: Implications of User Location Tracking

Part III: Extreme Publicacy -- Does Privacy Stand a Chance?

Part VI: Why FTC’s Behavioral-Ad Principles Are a Big Deal

Part V: Privacy prevailed in Facebook's privacy-publicacy earthquake

Part VI: Do People Own Their Private Information Online?  

Part VII: Where is the line between privacy and publicacy? 

Part VIII: "Privacy is Over"

Part IX: "Interventional Targeting? "Get into people's heads" 

Part X: "Latest publicacy arguments against privacy"

Part XI: "The Web 2.0 movement is opposed to the privacy movement." 

Part XII: "No consumer control over the commercialization of their privacy?"

Part XIII: "Does new Government cookie policy favor publicacy over privacy? "

Part XIV: "Google Book Settlement "absolutely silent on user privacy" 

Part XV: Yet more evidence of Google's hostility to privacy

Part XVI: Poll: Americans strongly oppose publicacy & expect online privacy

Part XVII: FaceBook CEO throws privacy under the bus

Part XIII: Fact Checking Google's privacy principles

Part XIX: Google's Privacy "Buzz" Saw

Part XX:  Facebook and Google in a race to the Privacy bottom?

Part XXI: Questions for Google on its latest act of Privacide