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Yet more evidence of Google's hostility to privacy -- Part XV -- Privacy vs. Publicacy Series

Why did it take a high-profile FTC letter to Google for Google to finally make public a simple privacy policy for their be-leaguered Book Settlement after privacy has been a major Book Settlement issue for months?

  • For that matter, why did it take a high-profile public shaming by Saul Hansel of the New York Times (here & here) for Google to just put a link to its privacy policy on its home page, which is industry standard practice and required by California law?

The increasingly obvious answer is that Privacy International was on target in concluding that Google is actually "hostile to privacy."

However, it is more than that, as this eight-month, fifteen part privacy vs. publicacy series can attest.

  • Google and the Web 2.0 movement have a very different belief system relating to privacy than most everyone else does.
  • Hence, privacy is a low relative corporate priority at Google; for proof of this assertion, note that the word "privacy" does not appear anywhere in Google's ten-point philosophy statement, or its ten-point statement of design principles

The reason for that whopping omission is that Google actually believes in "publicacy," (the opposite of privacy) i.e. that enabling and promoting more transparency for the benefit of the public is more important than protecting or respecting individuals right to privacy.

  • To this end, Google has been the de facto world publicacy leader and pioneer, pushing the envelope repeatedly in bringing previously private information to the public without the permission of those affected, Google Earth, Streetview, Latitude, etc.

What many have failed to grasp, in part because of Google's legendary PR, is that Google's mission and entire business model is antithetical to privacy because its business goal and comparative advantage is all about leveraging and monetizing private information so it can target and personalize advertising down to the individual.

To drive this point home, listen to how top Google officials provide deep insight into Google's publicacy model and vision.

  • ""The perfect search engine," says Google co-founder Larry Page, "would understand exactly what you mean and give back exactly what you want." Given the state of search technology today, that's a far-reaching vision requiring research, development and innovation to realize. Google is committed to blazing that trail." Per Google's website.
  • "Mr Schmidt told journalists in London: “We cannot even answer the most basic questions because we don’t know enough about you. That is the most important aspect of Google’s expansion.” per the Financial Times
  • Google's Chief economist: "Varian believes that a new era is dawning... and it's all about harnessing supply and demand. "What's ubiquitous and cheap?" Varian asks. "Data." And what is scarce? The analytic ability to utilize that data." per Wired Magazine.   

In closing, the big takeaway here, is that before, we never needed an antonym to the word "privacy" in the english language because there was such an obvious and implicit consensus around the social value of privacy among most everyone.

  • Like it or not, privacy advocates and others can no longer ignore that that the long-cherished consensus around the important social value of right to privacy is gone.
  • The social value of privacy is increasingly under proactive assault from a growing Web 2.0 movement, which increasingly defines an "open" Internet, as an Internet where there is no expectation or need to explictly ask permission for the use or monetization of their private information.   
  • The debate and issue is no longer about the degree of privacy people can expect, but about whether they have any right to privacy or control over their private information at all.  
  • Like it or not, Google is at the epicenter of this privacy-publicacy debate because of their strong support of publicacy and because of Google's increasing dominance over how the world's digital information is collected and found.


Privacy-Publicacy Faultline Series here:

  • 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"