Mar 042012
 
 March 4, 2012  Business, Online

Google unveiled its new policy on protecting personal information, to a chorus of disapproval last week. As alarm grows over how much data we are handing over to large companies that mine it for profit, Joss Wright (Fresnel research fellow at Oxford University) and Tom Chatfield (writer and commentator on digital culture) lock horns over how worried we should be.

Read their exchange on The Guardian.

The timing of their exchange is opportune, as I had just been mulling over what governments can – or should – do when corporations turn around and provide a flat-out “no” to requests or recommendations to protect privacy. It is not just the Google situation that triggered that thought process, as the Nexopia review also raises similar questions. While we may commend corporations for steps in the right direction or improved transparency, what do we do when it’s not enough? Certainly as consumers, we can make individual choices not to use a service (as I elected to do this week when I stopped using Gmail), but can governments really permit corporations to “just say no” to deleting user profiles permanently or do they need to assert their authority and insist that companies that do business within their borders comply with privacy laws?

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