It turns out that big tech companies may not be as committed to your privacy as their PR departments would have you believe – go figure.
The latest example of this reality appears to be Google, who was revealed last week by MarketWatch to have data-mining practices that employees say that they sometimes “don’t understand and can’t describe”.
The report cited a class action lawsuit alleging that Google “violated promises not to collect data of those using the browser without signing into their Google accounts”. Documents recently became unsealed in the case, offering a look into how privacy is discussed internally at Google.
In the lawsuit, one unnamed employee seemed to make it clear that Google’s privacy policies are opaque, stating: “I don’t have the faintest idea what Google has on me. The fact what we can’t explain what we have […] on users is probably our biggest challenge.”
“Users have a right to know,” one employee said. Another commented: “The reasons we provide are so high level and abstract that they don’t make sense to people.” A third employee said: “Consent is no longer consent if you think of ads as a product.”
Additional employees seemed to solidify the ethos within the company. A former employee who recently left the company said: “I am more than willing to believe this is how executives talked to each other.”
“Even people I was organizationally close to, knew well, and respected, were finding ways to justify that stuff to themselves,” they said about the company’s privacy teams. “The individual contributors [on Google’s privacy teams] are always idealistic people. Some of these quotes [from the case] look to me like things that idealistic people would say; others look like things management would say when the idealistic people aren’t around.”
When asked by MarketWatch, Google responded to the report by stating that “privacy controls have long been built into our services and we encourage our teams to constantly discuss or consider ideas to improve them.”
As the report notes, ads are a material revenue generator for Google, making up $209.5 billion in sales for the company in its 2021 fiscal year.