You’ve probably read this a million times but I’m going to say it anyways: “Fall is upon us!!” But with fall officially here, colder weather, and a quarantine that doesn’t seem to be ending anytime soon; one things definitely on everybody’s mind. No, not Thanksgiving. Privacy. Ok, it might not be on your mind, but it is on mine. Over the past couple of weeks, Our tech overlords have come under some scrutiny because of the fact that they are new age monopolies who don’t take responsibility for the fallout of their actions.
Now, while Google, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Twitter take some heat from our government, there is something that no is mentioning throughout our entire virtual learning and virtual working experience. What about OUR privacy!! Google has been pushing its suite of internet based products like classrooms, drive, and meet to schools all over the country. Google is notoriously known for collecting data on people and students aren’t excused from that. Europe has actually been battling back and forth with Google for years now. One of the first countries I personally read about was Germany who was pursuing a lawsuit against both Google and Microsoft for data collection on their students & citizens. Some of you might read this and say “shocker” and that’s the correct response. Officials in the US have been warning School officials about Google’s shady data collection practices in schools. Many European countries are slapping Google with heavy fines for breaking privacy laws and Europe is looking towards the US to see what our governments response is to this growing threat.
I mean, what do you care right? You have nothing to hide? You’ve never done anything wrong and who cares if some random employee at Google see’s that one photo that you never show anyone because you forgot to put makeup on! Well, ignorance is bliss. I say that because things are not so simple. The answer to why you should care can be found in a simple web crawl about Google’s terms and conditions for Google Drive, Photos, Docs, Sheets, etc. Now, the exact wording may be a little off, but it goes something like this: Google reserves the right to reuse & redistribute your content as they see fit. Now, a lawyer or tech company will tell you that this is just random lingo in their terms and conditions that allows them to distribute their service. But this is a complete lie. Google is a data collection company. If Google is bold enough to read through your email for things like bills, services, item purchases, etc; then they are definitely collecting data on everything you upload. I have also heard stories, just stories, of Google stealing and reusing ideas that were saved in document formats on personal Google Drives.
Over the years, our government has always taken a “wait, see, react” approach to our nations nuanced industrialization. This has unfortunately allowed companies to go unchecked and has led to the issues we have today. Similar to Microsoft's lawsuit in 2001, Google is currently being tried under its search engine monopolization. What does this mean? Well, Google pays companies, like Apple, to be their products main search engine. This of course pushes any other competition out of the way. “Wait! There’s other search engines?” Totally! There’s tons of them actually (and I’m not talking about Microsoft's Bing). Google’s search engine is currently being compared to Duck Duck Go which is a privacy focused search engine. How do they differ? Google collects data based on your searches. This helps to curate content for you and deliver what content they feel is the most appropriate. This is what leads to misinformation BTW. Everyone’s Google searches are different and the same topic may bring up different results. The second part of Googles scheme is their data collection for ad revenue. They use the data they collect to target you with specialized ads. Then, there’s Duck Duck Go whose searches are a little less biased as it doesn’t store data on you. Then, in terms of ads, Duck Duck Go utilizes an ad system based on what a person is searching for. So if you simply type in “dishwasher,” you’re going to see ads for different brands of dishwashers. However, Duck Duck Go doesn’t use any form of data collection in terms of who they think you are and what she be advertised to you.
Section 230 is a piece of Internet legislation that was incorporated into the Communications Decency Act of 1996. Most important to note about Section 230 is that it provides Internet based companies with a Good Samaritan clause that protects them from civil liability. This was created mainly because our government didn't know how to treat Internet based companies and didn't understand whether they (the companies themselves) should be liable for user created content (examples: Facebook & Twitter). This law is why internet companies get away with allowing disinformation and hate speech to exist on their platforms.
Want to learn more about Section 230?
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