Don’t Be Creepy

by Mike Wendy on March 16, 2012

The story headline – Google in New Privacy Probes – seems to be a recurring theme for the company.  Recidivists have a way of doing the same things over and over.  Just ask Scott Cleland, who has well documented Google’s privacy slip-ups (by his count, 35 privacy scandals).

This is a classic line within the story:

“We will of course cooperate with any officials who have questions,” a Google spokeswoman said. “But it’s important to remember that we didn’t anticipate this would happen, and we have been removing these advertising cookies from Safari browsers.” (Emphasis added)

In other words, “Everything would have been alright if you just hadn’t caught us.”  Sounds like something Blago would have said after getting nailed trying to sell the President’s vacant Senate seat a couple years back.

This activity leads me to the question of regulation (as I have written about here the other day).  Should Google get some, that is?

This is becoming a harder question to answer with each new revelation of purported Google transgression.

Many of my colleagues – myself included – urge that high tech markets and its consumers are better protected through the advance of technology, industry best practices, consumer education tools, competition, and present law enforcement tools that address real, not conjectured, consumer harm.

Oh, and I forgot one other – reputation management.

Looks like Google has become especially incognizant to this last tool, because they’re doing a crummy job of looking “not evil” recently.

I’ve pulled back on my use of Google of late.  Changed my search engine defaults.  Reduced usage of Gmail and Google’s cloud, among other of its web services. I’ve done this because, like one ex-Googler recently expressed, the company “creeps me out.”

Perception so often becomes its own reality.  That’s what reputation management is all about.  Managing that so your company not only looks good, but is good, too.  Google should focus on this last prong of self-regulation or, not only will people leave its services, regulators will shackle it to the past, killing any innovation the behemoth has left.

Google’s new mantra should be – “Don’t be creepy.”

It seems they have some work to do to get there.

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