Search engines: Google and others have found a lot to dislike in our privacy
The search engines that are helping consumers to decide how much to trust them are doing so on their own terms, said Ramesh Tiwari, a privacy expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
“In the privacy policies of many Internet companies, it’s very difficult to understand what is being protected by them, and why,” he said.
“We need to know who is being given the information that we’re asking for.”
Google does not explicitly say it collects personal information on users, but Tiwary said the company has done a good job of explaining what it does do with that information.
He also said that it is not a good idea to rely on the privacy statements of the companies you use to make purchasing decisions, especially if they contain vague language that could be misinterpreted.
The search engines are a big part of the consumer decision making process, he said, and they are the ones who are responsible for setting and enforcing privacy rules.
“They are not a place where you can just go and say, ‘I don’t want to be part of this company’s privacy rules and policies,'” he said of search engines.
The companies are also not perfect, said Tiwarian, but they do a good enough job.
“There’s some things that they’re good at, but some of them are quite flawed, and that’s one of the reasons why people want to go with a search engine,” he added.
The Internet companies have been criticized for not being transparent about what information they collect about consumers, and for not disclosing any of the information they are collecting to third parties.
Privacy advocates have argued that these concerns are legitimate, since consumers are free to choose to opt out of the data collection practices of search engine providers.
“Privacy is a human right, not a contractual right,” said Tewari.
“It’s a human rights issue, and it’s not something that the search engines have to live up to,” he continued.
“The search engine companies have to do a lot better than they have.”