The ethics of privacy in the tech world seems to gets buzz and news coverage only when (a) there isn’t a big product release +/- 2 weeks and (b) if there’s a major data security failure. One question I might ask is whose responsibility is privacy in the digital world? Is it up to the consumer, the product developer, or the government? I’d argue that it’s two-fold. It’s imperative that product developers recognize and take into consideration the impact of privacy features on the consumer and society at large. Taking a state consequentialist viewpoint, a new product developer should recognize how their product contributes to the social harmony of the state. Consider a plurality of outcomes, but the gist should be does my action result in the greatest good for the greatest number of constituents?
So what’s to be done? I’d argue that it’s up to the product management team and marketers that approve site content to do a few things. First, and foremost, protect your data. There’s no reason your data should be accessible by 3rd parties or ever sold to unauthorized groups. Site data should never be used maliciously to segment users in a way that diminishes their online experience in any manner. It should be possible for users to understand how their data is used if they are interested. Google provides an incredibly valuable service to billions of users and their site is most effective when users give up data privacy. The bigger and better their algorithms get, the more they can target relevant ads and sites to you during each search query. If you don’t give up data, you’re back to the world of askjeeves.com where you’re totally reliant on users to understand what site you’re looking for. So, the net take-away is that Google is in a sticky situation. They need users to give up their web data (and enjoy doing it) while ensuring it’s safe and mostly private.