USA TODAY on Android’s Privacy Implications

by on February 12, 2009 · 10 comments

Monday’s USA TODAY ran a long article discussing the tracking capabilities of the T-Mobile G1 smartphone, which is currently the only mobile device available that ships with Google’s Android operating system. I have a different take on the G1 phone, as I explain in a letter to the editor that appeared in today’s USA TODAY:

USA TODAY’s story on the G1 phone, which describes Google’s “surveillance” capabilities, does not do justice to the relationship that online service providers need to maintain with their users (“Feel like someone’s watching you?,” Cover story, Money, Monday).

Google cannot freely use the data it collects from owners of its G1 phone. Far from it, the G1’s privacy policy describes clearly what Google can and cannot do with user information. And the policy is legally binding. Google has everything to lose and nothing to gain from a data breach.

A single privacy flub can send consumers fleeing from not only the G1 but also from Google’s other online services. This is why Google maintains robust privacy safeguards.

Google’s innovations in search, mail and other applications have helped make the Web a far more accessible and useful resource. Online users need to be careful with their information, but hyping privacy fears is unwarranted.

To be sure, using the G1 phone is not without risks, and some especially risk-averse individuals might want to steer clear of Android entirely. But when you consider the privacy risks many of us live with every day, Android’s privacy risks don’t seem all that great. In fact, the ubiquitous personal computer is probably the most vulnerable device owned by the average person–Internet architect Vint Cerf  has estimated that up to 1 in 4 PCs worldwide is infected with malware. The G1 may be a marketer’s goldmine, but that doesn’t mean it can’t also offer strong privacy assurances.

Previous post:

Next post: