What does “Don’t Be Evil” mean?

There has been much talk recently about the new Google privacy policy.  “Search data can reveal particularly sensitive information about you, including facts about your location, interests, age, sexual orientation, religion, health concerns, and more,” warns the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit organization based in San Francisco and an advocate for online privacy.   One of the articles in the digitaljournal provides instructions on how to delete your data before the new policy goes into effect.   I’ve always been way over on the copyleft side of the copyright discussion.   And,  I’ve been excited about the advent of “free” tools in the cloud and generally prefer open source tools to proprietary tools, when it makes sense.    But,  the new virtual data bucket that Google would be compiling about me, is of great concern.   So far, the data mining has primarily been annoying.    I send a gmail message to my running team and the next day just below the header on my  inbox is an advertisement for running shoes.    It’s my understanding that Google won’t be collecting new data from their tools and services, including YouTube, search, gmail, calendar, Android phones etc.   It’s just that they will be combining all of this data into one bucket so that the data can be connected and aggregated to create more complex and detailed profiles about users.   They are saying that this will allow them to better direct their services and information to meet  user’s needs.   In reality, it will allow provide more targeted marketing opportunities for Google advertising clients.    A lot of people are saying that they don’t really care, that Google is not the only online service to be gathering data, and that this is just part of the price for being a digital citizen.    And,  you do have the opportunity to clear your history, and to opt out of google services and tools.   So, they are essentially asking you to give up your right to privacy as a condition for using their services.   On NPR last night, one of the panelists asked, ” How is that different from a corporation asking a customer to give up other rights?    What if a corporation asked you to give up your right to vote if you bought a product or service from them?”   Maybe this all sounds a bit paranoid, but I’m growing increasingly concerned, and uncomfortable, about a mega corporation like Google having access to private information.  For me, “Don’t Be Evil” means respecting my rights to privacy.  As an educator, I recognize that Google has separate privacy policies for apps in education, but I’m growing increasingly uncomfortable with asking students to participate in this very public space, without a full understanding of the consequences for privacy.   

University of Portland

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