CEO Pichai Asserts Google is Transparent on User Data

January 11, 2019

When I think of Android, I do not automatically think “transparent”. Maybe you do? Great.

You read every word of every user agreement, right? Apparently, that’s what Sundar Pichai, Google’s CEO, thinks. TechCrunch reports, “Google’s CEO Thinks Android Users Know How Much Their Phones Are Tracking Them.” When brought before the House Judiciary committee on matters of transparency and accountability, Pichai stated, “For Google services, you have a choice of what information is collected, and we make it transparent.” However, writes reporter Sarah Parez:

“The reality is that most people don’t read user agreements in full, and aren’t fully aware of what data their phones and apps are able to access. Even on Apple’s platform, known to be fairly privacy-forward, apps have been collecting user data — including location — and selling it to third parties, as noted by a recent New York Times investigation. Google’s defense on the data collection front is similar to Facebook’s — that is, Pichai responded that Google provides tools that put users in control. But do they actually use them? … The 160 million users [who had navigated to ‘My Account settings’ in the previous month] sounds like a large number, but at Google’s scale, where numerous products have over a billion users apiece, it’s not as big as it seems. In addition, it has become clear that simply opting out of Google’s data collection methods is not always enough. For example, earlier this year, it was discovered that Google was continuing to track users’ location even when users had explicitly turned the Location History setting off — a clear indication they did not want their data collected or shared.”

Indeed. When pressed, Pichai admitted Google’s UI could be simplified to make it easier to find these settings, and pledged the company is working on it. But we wonder—is Google being completely transparent about its stance on transparency?

Cynthia Murrell, January 11, 2019


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