It turns out that big tech companies may not be as committed to your privacy as their PR departments would have you believe – go figure.
The latest example of this reality appears to be Google, who was revealed last week by MarketWatch to have data-mining practices that employees say that they sometimes “don’t understand and can’t describe”.
The report cited a class-action lawsuit alleging that Google “violated promises not to collect data of those using the browser without signing into their Google accounts”. Documents recently became unsealed in the case, offering a look into how privacy is discussed internally at Google.
In the lawsuit, one unnamed employee seemed to make it clear that Google’s privacy policies are opaque, stating:
I don’t have the faintest idea what Google has on me. The fact what we can’t explain what we have […] on users is probably our biggest challenge.
“Users have a right to know,” one employee said. Another commented: “The reasons we provide are so high level and abstract that they don’t make sense to people.” A third employee said: “Consent is no longer consent if you think of ads as a product.”
Additional employees seemed to solidify the ethos within the company. A former employee who recently left the company said: “I am more than willing to believe this is how executives talked to each other.”
“Even people I was organizationally close to, knew well, and respected, were finding ways to justify that stuff to themselves,” they said about the company’s privacy teams. “The individual contributors [on Google’s privacy teams] are always idealistic people. Some of these quotes [from the case] look to me like things that idealistic people would say; others look like things management would say when the idealistic people aren’t around.”