By Rom Feria
Google just released their new, low-cost, smart-phone, the Pixel 3A, that costs a little more than half Apple’s iPhone XR. The new Pixel 3A has the best camera for low-light photography (but not for video and other types of scenes), coupled with the performance of a 2016 iPhone, but it comes with a headphone jack! This, however, is not about the Pixel 3A, but the new features that the new Android operating system will bring — privacy! Couple this with theNew York Times op-ed by Google’s Sundar Pichaion privacy — then you might believe that Google is changing its colors.
On the op-ed, Pichai highlights the good that Google has done with the personal data that it has collected from users. Google does not sell the collected data directly to advertisers and/or third-party, including partners (very much unlike Facebook), why would they? It is like giving their competitive advantage away to competitors. That being said, Google’s sole objective is to collect more relevant data to continuously increase the accuracy of the online persona they have on you, which increases your value to advertisers. Yes, typical surveillance capitalist!
> 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. — Sundar Pichai
Pichai continues on privacy, and attacks Apple, without mentioning the company, for making privacy a tentpole of their products and making it part of the products’ premium price. Apple has been pushing for privacy before privacy was in the vocabulary of Pichai at Google (when did you first hear Pichai pitch privacy as an important part of the company since he started at Google?)! Is it Apple’s fault for providing privacy to consumers who can afford their product? Is it Google’s fault for not providing it to the masses because doing so means they won’t be able to get users’ data? What do you think?
Google announced that their next Android operating system will have more privacy features baked-in, but turned off by default! Question — how many users are familiar with the privacy settings on their Android devices? Your location and web history can be auto-deleted every three months, at least. If Pichai is serious about privacy, why not a week or less? C’mon!
Google’s web browser, Chrome, will come with a feature to block ad trackers, something that Apple’s Safari does with its Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP). Chrome will let users to set this, as compared to being off by default on Safari. Question — will Chrome block Google’s ad trackers — one of their primary source of data that is important to advertisers? I HIGHLY DOUBT IT.
You may take the bait and believe that Google values privacy more than any other company, Apple included. These new privacy oriented features will come on their next Android operating system version — a version that will not be pushed to millions of other devices. Research on how many smartphones will get this new Android OS — and check their prices — yes, most are PREMIUM devices, at costs similar or higher than the most affordable iPhone available on the Apple store today! Now, who says privacy is not a luxury good?
With all these talk from Pichai about the company’s push at privacy, Google releases their Google Nest Hub Max, their home assistant with a screen. Now it comes with a camera that does facial recognition and tracking, with an always-on microphone, too! How private can this be? Your bet is as good as mine.
> “That data will never be used for ads personalisation,” said Mr Chandra, before being corrected by a member of Google’s public relations team. “We can never say never,” he added hastily, “but the commitment we are making is, it is not being used.” — talking about Google Nest and its collected data
Until Sundar Pichai announces that they will no longer surveil users and pivot their business away from collecting data and selling user attention and behaviour to advertisers, only then will their privacy push becomes believable.