As you are all well aware, privacy is at the forefront of every conversation that we are having right now when it comes to technology. What shouldn’t surprise you is that it also keeps coming up at the developer conferences. First F8, and now Google I/O. But when it comes to privacy, Google is in a very unique situation as they are one of the world’s leading collectors of information about you. It’s reasons like this that I often say that tech giants are bigger than the government. I mean, who knows more about your personal life than Google or Facebook? Not the government. Sure, they have your Social Security Number and know where you live, but Google knows where you are right this minute. And Facebook knows what you had for breakfast. Think about that for a moment.
A new survey found that about 91% of Americans believe that they have now lost control over how companies collect their information. But as a whole, we aren’t really willing to do anything about it. I would make the argument that many folks don’t necessarily know what they’re giving away to these companies. But by putting out a statement about privacy, in a way that makes sense to consumers, it will help to narrow the privacy gap.
What does all of this have to do with I/O? Well, a structured theme that was presented was around privacy. While we know that Incognito mode has been part of Chrome since 2008, Google now has plans to expand it. If you’re not familiar with Incognito, it’s a privacy tool that allows you to access the internet while also preventing Chrome from maintaining a record of what you searched for and which sites you visit. This is only limiting Google from knowing what you’re looking at. Your internet service provider and many other companies (like your employer) will still know, so don’t think you’re really fooling anyone. But now Google is making this a feature in a number of their apps.
Another way that Google is improving its privacy settings is to make them more visible. As of the conference, you will be able to access your account from your profile photo. Tapping on your profile photo at the top right corner inside Google apps such as Search and Chrome will include a drop-down menu where you can access relevant privacy controls. From this menu, you can engage Incognito mode or adjust your auto-delete settings.
I can’t reiterate enough why this is so important. If tech giants want our business, then they’re going to have to step up their privacy game. Google hasn’t been in the media in a bad way, but that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be held accountable for the information that they have. I think we as consumers, underestimate, how much knowledge a company like Google has of us. I don’t know why it’s taken so long for these companies to come forward, but I’m happy to see that it’s starting to make an impact. It’s that old saying – one bad apple spoils the bunch. This case is no different. But maybe it’s a good thing.