Google will never sell any personal information of its users to third parties, CEO Sundar Pichai has said, amidst growing global concern over the misuse of personal data by some social media giants.
In an opinion piece Tuesday in The New York Times, he also said that privacy cannot be a “luxury good” that is only available to people who can afford to buy premium products and services.
The 46-year-old Indian-origin CEO of Google said he believed that privacy was “one of the most important topics of our time.” People today are rightly concerned about how their information is used and shared, yet they all define privacy in their own ways, he said.
“To make privacy real, we give you clear, meaningful choices around your data. All while staying true to two unequivocal policies: that Google will never sell any personal information to third parties; and that you get to decide how your information is used,” Pichai said.
Pichai said he has seen this first-hand as he talked to people in different parts of the world.
“To the families using the internet through a shared device, privacy might mean privacy from one another. To the small-business owner who wants to start accepting credit card payments, privacy means keeping customer data secure. To the teenager sharing selfies, privacy could mean the ability to delete that data in the future,” Pichai said.
He noted that privacy was personal, which makes it even more vital for companies to give people clear, individual choices around how their data is used.
He said the legislation will help companies like Google to work toward ensuring that privacy protections are available to more people around the world. “But we’re not waiting for it. We have a responsibility to lead. And we’ll do so in the same spirit we always have, by offering products that make privacy a reality for everyone,” Pichai said.
Ideally, privacy legislation would require all businesses to accept responsibility for the impact of their data processing in a way that creates consistent and universal protections for individuals and society as a whole, he said. Google has worked hard to continually earn people’s trust by providing accurate answers and keeping their questions private, he added.
“We’ve stayed focused on the products and features that make privacy a reality — for everyone,” he said in the opinion piece.
“For everyone” is a core philosophy for Google; it’s built into our mission to create products that are universally accessible and useful. That’s why Search works the same for everyone, whether you’re a professor at Harvard or a student in rural Indonesia,” he said.
“Our mission compels us to take the same approach to privacy. For us, that means privacy cannot be a luxury good offered only to people who can afford to buy premium products and services. Privacy must be equally available to everyone in the world,” Pichai underlined.
He noted that even in cases where Google offered a paid product like YouTube Premium, which includes an ads-free experience, the regular version of YouTube has plenty of privacy controls built in. Pichai recalled that last week, Google announced significant new privacy features, including one-click access to privacy settings from all its major products and auto-delete controls that allows one to choose how long the person want data to be saved.
“And to protect your data from security threats, we just introduced a security key built into Android phones that can provide two-factor authentication,” he said.
In the future, Aritificial Intelligence (AI) will provide even more ways to make products more helpful with less data. With increased spending on digital advertising, Google and Facebook have become forces to reckon with as millions of users, especially from emerging markets like India, go online.
But multiple instances of data breaches and user information leaks have brought increased scrutiny on many platforms from regulators and governments across the globe. These companies are now walking a tightrope as they attempt to balance user privacy with increased accountability as governments seek greater disclosures and controls over digital platforms.