All along, we have warned that Google’s business model is at odds with its public posturing as a company concerned about democratic communications. Google’s plans to expand its data collection and targeted marketing apparatus threatens privacy. In a editorial commentary today in the New York Times supportive of online privacy, Adam Cohen reveals that “in a visit to the editorial board not long ago, a top Google lawyer made the often-heard claim that in the Internet age, people — especially young people — do not care about privacy the way they once did.” Green refutes this claim, noting that ” [I]t is a convenient argument for companies that make money compiling and selling personal data, but it’s not true.”
Companies such as Google are opposed to meaningful privacy policies because, they fear, it would reduce revenues by making its micro-targeting and branding system less effective. But they have to engage in more soul-searching here. Wouldn’t it be better to provide its global users with maximum freedom and security? Is Google a leader–or does it have to be dragged into taking a more pro-democratic position through regulatory action, public shaming, and an eventual public privacy backlash?