Google talks about privacyRunning a business online or providing services to multiple online businesses means you’re dealing in data. Lots of data. A lot of what makes the internet attractive for businesses is the fact that this data is about real people and what they do online. Online commerce allows for easier, more effective marketing. That’s the nature of having more detailed data. Ever since online marketing and commerce started to pick up steam, critics about privacy always rang in. Google has been a target of many critics of online privacy, but today they are coming out on the consumer’s side.

Google Protecting Users

I’ll admit, it can be a little scary when you think about how much information about yourself is out there. I’m relatively receptive to the fact that so much information is out there. Users can benefit from this. I’d rather see advertisements and content that I am interested in than something that wastes my time. Many consumers share this same mentality. The way commerce and free services (like Google’s) currently works is a give-and-take between how much information users give up and how much they keep private. It has been working for quite some time.

Google deals with an unimaginable amount of user information. They have to take in this information – most of it anonymously – for their ads to be profitable. But, news reported this morning is giving a glimpse into what Google does with users’ private information.

According to Martin Kaste at NPR, “For the first time, [Google] has posted its policies for when it gives up your information to the government.” This news comes after many years of relatively vagueness from Google about how it handles privacy issues, especially when it comes from Government requests. Even better for consumers is that this appears to be “part of a broader company strategy to push for tougher privacy laws.”

Part of the beauty of the internet comes from privacy. Users understand we have to give up data about ourselves – data drives the search engines and the marketing that helps businesses have better, more effective, and more profitable ad campaigns and outreach to consumers. Unfortunately, not many people are aware that, according to an Associated Press article, “Google is being pulled into an increasing number of police and government investigations.”

How is Google Pushing for Privacy?

According to Google’s own blog post, in recognition of Data Privacy Day, Google has released to the public how it handles government requests of data and privacy information about its users. David Drummond, the Senior VP and Chief Legal Officer of Google explains how Google is focused on three initiatives to protect user safety.

First, Google wants to update laws concerning digital information “so the same protections that apply to your personal documents … in your home also apply to your email and online documents.” Second, they will continue requiring agencies to go through 100% legal means of obtaining documents. Google won’t resist investigation but they want to make sure the privacy of its users is respected. Third, Google is going to be transparent about government requests for data.

Commerce and Privacy Can Work Together

I have no doubt that consumers enjoy having their data out there for targeted ads and to allow them to see content that is relevant to their lives. I know I enjoy that. Of course, at the same time, there’s no reason for people to give up real and important issues of privacy. What Google and many companies are doing in this realm will help maintain the balance of collecting anonymous data and respecting individual consumers’ privacy.

What do you think about Google’s privacy announcement? Is it the right way for the company to handle privacy?