Why should we care about privacy? Why shouldn’t Google be able to track our movements online whenever it wants, to consolidate its data on us from its multiple products into a mega file about you, thereby allowing it to target you with adverts for stuff you may want or may not? We choose to use Google’s products so we have to comply with its commercial needs, right?
Firstly, there are many reasons why Google should track off and respect your privacy. If you were looking for a surprise present for your partner, and happened to look at expensive options before settling for something affordable, would you like to be targeted by the companies you’d turned down through Google’s adverts? Probably not.
If you wanted to surprise your partner with an engagement proposition, would you like him or her to see the rings you’d considered? We doubt it.
If you were suffering from an illness that you hadn’t told your family, friends or work about, would you like your browsing for help to lead to targeting for sales? Definitely not.
If you were gay, would you want to be outed by Google rather than in your own time? Probably not.
If you had financial difficulties, would you want a trace of this to show up in the adverts in sidebars of other websites? No way.
If you used the Gmail service, would you want your emails ‘scanned’ for content by Google’s servers to identify items that can personalise adverts? Well, it happens.
Our issues with Google (see court case) began when we used our Apple Safari browsers to do private stuff. Like millions of other Apple users, we clicked on the button under the Safari drop down entitled “Private Browsing”. We thought this meant that Google would respect our right to privacy and not track us. Only later, when a US academic made it public, did we learn that Google hadn’t respected the wishes of Apple users. That’s where this campaign began.
Since then, we have learned that Google’s track record on respecting users’ privacy is unacceptable. Here are some of the highlights that really should be causing great shame at Google HQ: