Pulling Google Back to the Right Side of the Privacy Line

I don’t usually agree with the European Union. However, it has demanded that Google help to protect the privacy of citizens rather than exposing everything, and I tend to agree. The latest EU ruling doesn’t solve the whole problem, though. In fact, it raises more questions — but it is a good start.

Remember a few years ago, in the very early days of Google, when we were having the raging debate about how Google was violating privacy? Well, this week’sEU court decision is all about privacy.

We have been losing our privacy bit by bit over the last few decades, but Google seems to have upped the ante. Its purpose seems to be to expose everything about everyone. It crosses the line, in many people’s opinion.

Restarting the Fire

This was a heated debate a few short years ago, but people have a tendency to get tired of fighting and just give up. If that should happen in this case, Google would win, even though we might not like it. However, this EU decision could rekindle dying embers.

Don’t get me wrong, I think Google is a great company and has created many great products — like its search engine and its Android mobile phone operating system. However, every great company has areas where it may cross the line and go too far.

Google thinks it has the right to do whatever it wants with people’s private information — and that is, very simply, none of its damn business. What gives it the right to impact and affect everyone’s lives, without permission? And why is it allowed to get away with it?

This EU decision will be hated by Google and other search engines but loved by end users. If this happens, I can see other countries jumping on the bandwagon as well, creating a very difficult playing field for Google.

Where the Data Lives

This won’t hurt Google, but it will feel a pinch. However, it’s really Google’s own fault since it decided it was OK to breach privacy. So it should be responsible for fixing the problems that resulted because it crossed the line.

That said, I’m afraid just forcing Google to conform to new rules might not be enough.

First of all, there are other search engines. More importantly, Google doesn’t create the data — it just links to it. It is simply a search engine. The problem data exists on other sites that Google just points to.

So should the EU be focusing on Google as the only problem? No. There are countless sites that Google points to. If Google should be responsible for not violating privacy by pointing to other sites, shouldn’t those other sites be responsible for taking down data? Of course.

That’s where this whole EU argument gets very sticky and much more complicated. It raises some very important questions. If we pull back the camera, we see there are many more layers that need to be addressed.

So good job, EU, but this is only a first step in a much longer journey.

Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technologyindustry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at [email protected].

1 Comment

  • Jeff, I’m wondering how you can disagree with the entire European Union! If you meant that you often disagree with their policies on certain matters, then why don’t you just say that? Being against an entire country or group of countries is just a little strange, don’t you think?

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