A Few Thoughts on Google, Data Collection, and Privacy: The Search Giant Blinks as Regulators Review

Google’s announcement today is a classic case study on how modern media companies deal with pressure from regulators and advocates. The company announced it would “anonymize IP addresses on our server logs after 9 months.” First, this would not have occurred without the extraordinary pressure brought by EU officials, especially data protection commissioners. [We should also thank numerous privacy and consumer advocates]. Nor would it have happened so readily if Google wasn’t trying to appease policymakers to ensure it can continue unfettered its online advertising shopping spree–such as DoubleClick and the pending joint venture with Yahoo! (and soon perhaps Verizon). Google blinks a bit on privacy when its corporate plans are under the regulatory cross-hairs (such as precisely this moment by the U.S. Department of Justice).

Google still needs to really limit its data collection practices, and become the global leader in privacy protection. It needs to become fully transparent about the myriad–and ever-growing–ways it collects, analyzes, and utilizes consumer data. It shouldn’t take regulatory review, policy pressure, or an attempt to blunt the outcome of a review from competition authorities, for Google to do the right thing. More coming.

Author: jeff

Jeff Chester is executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. A former journalist and filmmaker, Jeff's book on U.S. electronic media politics, entitled "Digital Destiny: New Media and the Future of Democracy" was published by The New Press in January 2007. He is now working on a new book about interactive advertising and the public interest.

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