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					                                                                           LOS ANGELES




                                                                                                                 www.dailyjournal.com

                                                                  TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 7, 2012

                                                                           PERSPECTIVE

Privacy backlash: What’s behind Google’s motivations?
By Ronald R. Camhi                         Texas) have asked the Federal Trade
                                           Commission to investigate whether
   While Google Inc.’s new uniform         the privacy changes violate Google’s
privacy policy is ostensibly shorter       settlement last year over the now
and easier-to-read than its existing       defunct Google Buzz. The European
approach, make no mistake about it,        Union’s data protection authorities
the new policy will allow Google to        have requested that Google delay
gather even more detailed consumer         implementation of its policy until it
information and boost its advertising      can determine whether the change
sales revenue.                             violates data protection laws.
   Fueling the commotion in online            Google’s policy has not gone unno-
privacy circles is the fundamental         ticed from its rivals. Microsoft Corp.
notion that consumers have an expec-       has spent considerable amounts of
tation of trust and confidence when        money on a public relations campaign
searching online, buying online and        crafted to question Google’s motives
engaging in online social networking.      (and steer people over to Microsoft’s                                                                            Associated Press
An all out ban on data collection,         Bing products, of course), including a      A Google receptionist works at the front desk in the company’s New York office.
however, is not consistent with the        print ad campaign that capitalizes on
public policy of advancing innovation      the backlash facing Google.                 opponents of the policy claim that               Added to Google’s legal analysis
and the necessity of utilizing com-           So why did Google bring this             Google’s new integrated policy will           is the current state of privacy laws.
merce as the funding source for both       backlash on itself? This is the multi-      stifle consumer choice.                       The foundation for privacy in the
content and non-revenue generating         billion dollar question. As one would          Less obvious is Google’s need to           U.S. is the Fourth Amendment to the
initiatives. Thus, supporters claim        suspect, the answer is neither obvious      remain competitive while consumer’s           U.S. Constitution, which protects
that there is a practical need to be       nor easy. Google wants to clearly and       online habits change. Google may              the “right of the people to be secure
able to provide valuable information                                                   believe its new policy will allow it to       in their persons, houses, papers, and
to marketers, such as consumer hab-         U.S. Representatives Ed                    successfully compete against rivals           effects, against unreasonable searches
its, likes, dislikes and demographic                                                   such as Facebook. As Facebook further         and seizures.” American judges and
information.
                                           Markey (D-Mass) and Joe                     builds an integrated system, Google           legal scholars have linked this protec-
   Google currently has many differ-         Barton (R-Texas) have                     has tried to follow suit to protect itself.   tion to a broader sense. Simply put,
ent services including but not limited      asked the Federal Trade                    Google understands that Facebook is           the law has evolved to a broader “right
to Search, Gmail, Picassa, Google          Commission to investigate                   able to maintain user attention longer        to be let alone,” including a right to
Calendar, Google Earth, Google                                                         because Facebook’s primary features           control personal information.
Maps and YouTube. Starting March 1,        whether the privacy chang-                  extend beyond simple searches. By                The U.S. does not have uniform
Google is placing 60 of its Web ser-        es violate Google’s settle-                integrating its policy, Google is fur-        commercial data privacy rules and
vices under a unified privacy policy       ment last year over the now                 ther paving the way to become a Web           some suggest that there is no real
that will allow it to share data between                                               portal where advertisers are given            privacy law outside of the health
those services. Google’s pitch: “One          defunct Google Buzz.                     more “face time” with consumers.              care arena. Instead, the U.S. protects
policy, one Google experience.” Ac-                                                    Google’s timing further exacerbates           personal data through a loose frame-
cording to the policy, users with a        simply provide the consumer with a          the controversy; it coincides with            work that uses both voluntary codes
Google account must agree to it when       policy that describes how personal          privacy debates in Washington D.C.            of conduct enforced by the FTC and
using Gmail, YouTube and other             information is obtained, kept and           and around the world.                         various state laws. Currently there
offerings. Users who do not opt-in         disseminated. It also presumably               From a legal perspective, certainly        remains only a patchwork of privacy
can chose to close their account. See      wants to operate within the law and         there are some lawmakers applauding           laws on the federal, state, local and
www.google.com/intl/en/policies/           maximize user satisfaction. One             Google for streamlining its policy.           trade-group level. As a result, many
privacy/preview.                           privacy policy, according to Google,        Others, however, perceive it as a move        of the key participants operate with-
   Google has made it clear that it        accomplishes these objectives. While        to eradicate consumer choice. Google          out specific statutory obligations to
plans to integrate the data taken from     Google certainly needs to remain            may expect that there will never be a         protect personal data.
its various services to assemble more      legally compliant, it also is entitled to   time when it can operate in a climate            There is no speculation, however,
information about consumers. For ex-       remain competitive and profitable.          of less legal scrutiny and probably           that the controversy over Google’s
ample, Google will have the capacity          From the business perspective,           realizes that waiting too long could          privacy policy will not abate anytime
to provide ads in Gmail or on search       advertising sales is Google’s main          harm business. Google can use its             soon.
pages based on videos consumers            source of revenue. Virtually every          new unified privacy policy to quell
watch on YouTube.                          digital marketer must deal with             regulators’ concerns that its current
   Various groups such as American         Google in some fashion. Advertisers         array of numerous policies is simply                            Ronald R. Camhi
                                                                                                                                                       is a partner at
and European lawmakers, industry           spend considerable money on search          insufficient and unclear. And the new
                                                                                                                                                       Michelman &
associations, privacy advocates,           engine optimization, analytics and          policy seems to comply with one                                 Robinson LLP and
states’ attorneys general and Google’s     similar services aimed at obtain-           aspect of last year’s consent decree                            heads its national
competitors are all participating in       ing quality viewers and sales leads.        with the FTC — that express opt-in                              Advertising Market-
the debate. U.S. Representatives Ed        Tailored search results will simply         requirements be provided to users                               ing and Media
Markey (D-Mass) and Joe Barton (R-         generate more revenue. However,             prior to sharing private information.                           Department.

      Reprinted with permission from the Daily Journal. ©2012 Daily Journal Corporation. All rights reserved. Reprinted by Scoop ReprintSource 1-800-767-3263

				
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