Google does right by users? Not when it counts

Is Google really listening and making the right moves for users? Good Googley SPIN typically suggests so.
Written by Donna Bogatin, Contributor

Is Google really listening and making the right moves for users? Good Googley SPIN typically suggests so.

Case in recent point, as reported by IDG News, regarding users of Google Apps:

Google has scrapped a planned 13-hour maintenance of Google Calendar that had some users confused and worried about potentially significant disruptions of the online calendaring service.

Apparently, Google decided to cancel the maintenance work after hearing from enough concerned users of Google Calendar and of the Google Apps hosted applications suite of which it is part.

So all is good? Not quite. Rather than calm the Google Calendar waters, a flurry of admin emails to its user base and miscommunications from the company that is run by engineers muddied them even more:

In a brief e-mail, Google notified Google Apps administrators that it planned to conduct "routine maintenance" of Calendar between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. on Thursday, but it didn't specify a time zone, leading some users to post messages in discussion forums seeking clarification. Others posted messages expressing concern about the length of service disruptions, which wasn't addressed in the initial e-mail.

Subsequently, Google sent these administrators another e-mail, clarifying that the first e-mail referred to Pacific Time and that end users might find Calendar unavailable for no more than 5 or 10 minutes during this 13-hour window.

However, Google is now saying Thursday's maintenance work has been scrapped.

Google apparently can't get its Apps story straight. 

But, more importantly, when will Google get its privacy story straight?

Will Google do the right thing by users where it really counts? When will Google make the right call for user privacy, in all things Google?

In March, I analyzed Is there a Google trap? Data portability vs. accountability, dissecting the Google user privacy policies to conclude:

Google’s Privacy Policy pages reinforce that while Google may tout data “portability,” the Google user data Cloud remains, for all practical purposes, impenetrable for users. Google may allow users to manipulate their data offline, but it does not put forth any absolute guarantee that users are able to modify, correct and/or permanently delete their data from the Google systems.

Since that time, Google has announced several initiatives which put user privacy further at risk, while also reinforcing its trapping of user data, as I have been analyzing and reporting:

Google vs. Google on privacy, or not
Google, YouTube double down on user tracking: DoubleClick next up
Google to tag users across Web: Privacy Boomerang?
Beware: Google cloud platform exposed

For example, in its new "Web History" Privacy FAQ, Google disclaims its own privacy policy to indicate that personal user data will be trapped in Google's servers, forever:

1) Google on user control of personal histories: You can choose to stop storing your web activity in Web History either temporarily or permanently, or remove items. If you remove items, they will be removed from the service and will not be used to improve your search experience.

2) Google on Google control of users’ personal histories: Google also maintains a separate logs system for auditing purposes.

Google user privacy, or not, is coming under increasing fire, around the world.

In the U.S., the Electronic Privacy Information Center, Center for Digital Democracy and U.S. Public Interest Research Group filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission regarding Google's announced acqusiition of DoubleClick, saying:

At this time, there is simply no consumer privacy issue more pressing for the commission to consider than Google's plan to combine the search histories and Web site visit records of Internet users.

In Europe, the Norwegian Data Inspectorate is investigating Google's storage system amid concerns that its practices breach national privacy laws and a data protection task force for the European Union is aiming to raise concerns over Google compliance at a June 19 meeting in Brussels.


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