Google CEO takes a shot at tech giants which sell privacy as a ‘luxury’ product

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A group called Google You Owe Us wants $1000 each after Google invaded their privacy
You guys, we think he was talking about Apple! (Maybe.)
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Google and Apple’s feud has cooled a lot in recent years. But like a married couple who are staying together until the kids are at college, neither company is beyond throwing a bit of undercover shade at the other.

Tim Cook has previously taken issue with tech giants which gobble up user data. Now Google CEO Sundar Pichai has taken to the New York Times to blast unnamed tech giants which sell privacy as a “luxury good.”

Privacy for everyone

“We’ve stayed focused on the products and features that make privacy a reality — for everyone,” Pichai wrote in an op-ed. He continued:

“Our mission compels us to take the same approach to privacy. For us, that means privacy cannot be a luxury good offered only to people who can afford to buy premium products and services. Privacy must be equally available to everyone in the world.”

Pichai goes on to state that that Google does use user data, but only to make its products more useful to users. “It’s what enables the Google Assistant to book a rental car for your trip, Maps to tell you how to navigate home and Photos to share vacation pictures with a click of a button.”

This aggregated anonymous data also makes the service better for all users. For instance, widespread misspelling of certain words in search allow the system to learn what people are really looking for. Pichai also notes that, while a small subset of data is used for ads, this is done to keep services free.

“That revenue also sustains a broad community of content creators, which in turn helps keep content on the web free for everyone. The data used in ads could be based on, for example, something you searched for or an online store you browsed in the past. It does not include the personal data in apps such as Docs or Gmail. Still, if receiving a customized ads experience isn’t helpful, you can turn it off. The choice is yours and we try to make it simple.”

Setting the record straight?

Ultimately, they’re all fair points to make. They don’t really counter Tim Cook’s claims that, if a service is free it means that users are the product. But it does suggest that Google is keen to set the narrative straight. Or at least to show that it too cares about users.

Interestingly, Pichai signs off by echoing Tim Cook’s comments that the United States should consider adopting European-style data protection laws. This is something a number of tech giants have been talking about in recent times.

What do you think of the narrative Google is presenting? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Source: New York Times