Through the looking glass: Acknowledging wrongdoing is Google's strategy in facing the Senate for a round of hearings on consumer data privacy. As Congress members throw around ideas of a US version of GDPR, Google has little time to show its privacy invasions can be fixed through self-monitoring.
In testimony to the Senate Commerce Committee, Google's chief privacy officer Keith Enright shares that the company has made a series of mistakes. Previous fines and lawsuits brought against Google make that fact blatantly obvious.
In 2011, Google agreed to privacy audits over a 20 year span after being accused of violating its own policies on the failed social network Google Buzz. A year later, Google shelled out $22.5 million to the Federal Trade Commission for misleading users of Safari into thinking that tracking cookies were not being used for targeted ads.
More recently, Google has been caught trying to track smartphone users even when location services have been turned off. The extensive means that Google has gone through to track users might make you want to actually read some of the lengthy policy pages that are frequently skipped over by clicking "I agree", a fact that Google and other companies frequently take advantage of.
Enright writes to the Senate, "We acknowledge that we have made mistakes in the past, from which we have learned, and improved our robust privacy program." Quite frankly, there is nothing in Google's policies that is really privacy-enabling. It is still nearly impossible to avoid Google's tracking without going through extensive means to avoid all Google services.
Google emphasizes that personal information is never sold to outside parties, but all that really does is force advertisers to use Google's services instead of being able to run their own private ad campaigns. Although advertisers cannot directly buy your information from Google, they still have deep insights into personal interests and know what you might want to buy and which services you might be likely to use.