Monday, May 13, 2019

Google’s Apparent Turnaround on Privacy

Lauren Goode:

On Tuesday, The New York Times ran an op-ed about privacy written by Google CEO Sundar Pichai, in which he argued that privacy is not a luxury good, and that Google intends to give people “clear, meaningful choices” around their data. On the same day Pichai’s op-ed ran, Google held its annual developer conference, I/O, where it announced that Android Q, its latest mobile operating system, would ship with something like 50 privacy and security features.


But as Google increases the number of privacy features—part of an attempt to scrub its reputation clean of data-tracking dirt—the setup of the settings, toggles, and dashboards within its apps seems to put more responsibility on the individual user rather than the platform. As Pichai himself said, Google aims to give people “choices.” So it’s your choice if you want to take the time to adjust, monitor, take out, or toggle something off. Just like it’s Google’s choice to not change its fundamental approach to gathering data to help better target advertising and thus make heaps of money.


We announced at I/O that we will be updating Chrome to provide users with more transparency about how sites are using cookies, as well as simpler controls for cross-site cookies. We will preview these new features later this year.

We are making a number of upcoming changes to Chrome to enable these features, starting with modifying how cookies work so that developers need to explicitly specify which cookies are allowed to work across websites — and could be used to track users.

Chris Smith:

A report says that Google will launch a new feature for the Chrome browser that will make it a lot harder for companies to track you online, but only as long as those companies are not Google.

John Wilander:

What Chrome has announced is a change to their default cookie policy, going from allowing third-party cookie access to not allowing it. However, developers can simply reconfigure their cookies to opt out this new policy and we should expect all trackers to do so immediately.

For a cookie policy to have meaningful effect on cross-site tracking, you also need to partition storage available to third-parties, such as LocalStorage, IndexedDB, ServiceWorkers, and cache. Safari is the only major browser to have such partitioning and we shipped it in 2013.

Nick Heer:

It looks like something spooked Facebook and Google. Instead of ignoring the privacy implications inherent to their business models, they both decided to reposition themselves as privacy-forward companies. Facebook did so by having an op-ed from its CEO published in a national newspaper, and by trying to redefine privacy itself. Google’s strategy has, so far, been similar.

Jack Wellborn:

The use and presentation of this bulleted structure would have a glancing reader coming away with the impression that Apple merits the most skepticism and that Google is doing the most for their privacy. Even close readers could easily come away thinking that the companies are effectively no different when it comes to their privacy.

Whether you trust these companies in the long run or not, the false equivalency rewards the worst privacy offenses happening right now.

Ben Thompson:

Google, on the other hand, didn’t just admit it collects data, it highlighted how that collection makes Google more helpful. Google didn’t just admit that its goal is to be the Aggregator of information for every customer on earth, it bragged about that fact. And Google certainly didn’t engage in any self-effacing comments about how technology could be used for both good and bad: the entire keynote was arguing that technology is not only good, it is going to get better, and Google will lead the way.

David Sparks:

When these lines were first drawn years ago, there was a lot more digital ink being spilled on the wisdom of Apple’s position. You don’t hear as much about it lately.

So how is Apple doing? From my experience, Apple still is lagging, but not as much as I worried it might.

Ron Amadeo (via David Heinemeier Hansson):

Migrating to a Google Account means turning all your Nest data over to Google—data that previously had been kept separate.


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