After the data breach of Cambridge Analytica, Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg was grilled over the security of personal data and its illegal sharing to third-parties. Zuckerberg apologized for the breach and claimed to take help of artificial intelligence (AI) to prevent the misuse of information in future. However, when it comes to data storage, Google holds a treasure of private information like no one else. That is why, people cannot shake the thought of what would happen if Google decides to misuse the information or someone hacks into their servers.
If the government is concerned that companies such as Facebook are using and sharing personal information without user’s explicit knowledge or consent, Google is bigger threat than Facebook. The recent regulations are driving Google and other companies to disclose more information and permission from users. Even though, users easily give permissions in exchange for services, only few understand the possible consequences if any data gets leaked or misused. In the recent hearing of Zuckerberg, senators asked him about so-called “shadow profiles”, the data gathered on people without Facebook accounts, and it is likely that Google has billions of such shadow profiles. Furthermore, several researchers believe that if lawmakers really want to understand online advertisement and data harvesting, they should talk to Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google.
The information collected by Google is beyond imagination. Google knows where a person is, what time one eats, what time one sleeps, and it knows what things one search for even after erasing the search history. Furthermore, Google creates an advertisement profile based on age, gender, culture, hobbies, preferences, relationship status, income and even one’s weight. However, Google claims it does not use sensitive information, including race, religion, sexual orientation, and health as it requires cross-device tracking, spotting a logged-in user no matter which device they are on. This can be a reason that Facebook and Google are leading the market of AI and online marketing. Due to this unlimited access of users’ personal information, Google can expose their vulnerability and use it against them. Furthermore, Google is one of the top companies that fuels data harvesting and is linked with more than 4,000 data brokers in the U.S. On the contrary, the company claimed that such tie-ups exist only for security purposes.
There are more than two billion active Android mobile phone users in the world, and each app is linked with Google, which helps gather information about people. Furthermore, Android apps are accused of sending data to Google regardless of the privacy setting. Recently, a study proved that Android can track kids without user’s consent. Android apps ask for location or storage permission again and again till user says yes and can be used to drive online marketing. For instance, Google maps asks for mobile phone’s location, which is justifiable, however, it also triggers region-targeted ads. All these things are done without user’s consent and is a violation of privacy.
Google is aware of such defilement of regulation and has opposed California Consumer Privacy Act, on the grounds of that rules are vague and unworkable. Even Facebook removed its opposition to the act. Though the solution may seem difficult, it is not impossible to achieve. After all, if the companies such as Google and Facebook want to keep their bottom lines safe, they need to build a tool that provides a clear idea about what user is opting for in exchange for services and guarantee the security of users’ personal information.