Explained: Privacy washing 1

Explained: Privacy washing

Posted Monday, Nov 27, 2023 by Jeff Safire

Google’s recently been accused of “privacy washing”, despite claiming it’s a privacy-focused company. But what is privacy washing?

By Pieter Arntz Nov 22, 2023

Image of Pixels leaking from building

Question: Who said the sentence below?

“Privacy is at the heart of everything we do.”

Answer: Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Alphabet and its largest subsidiary Google. And if you look at the recent actions Google has announced, you’d be tempted to take his word for it:

But at the same time, Google is under fire because some of its actions seem half-baked. Allegedly Google’s option to “browse privately” is nothing more than a word play.

Let’s be fair. Google makes lots and lots of money by knowing what we are looking for. And to achieve that goal it needs to gather as much information as possible about us. Maybe not specifically about us as a person, but at least about us as a group.

Data are the most coveted currency of our era, and technology giants like Facebook, Google, and Amazon are considered the behemoths of the data gathering industry. If they don’t already, they want to know everything about each and every one of us.

We’re not all equally valued though. Certain milestones in a person’s life prompt major changes in buying patterns, whether that’s becoming a parent, moving home, getting married, buying a car, or going through a divorce. Some of the most personal and secretive troves of data rank as the most expensive.

In a recent blog, privacy company Proton explained how Google is spending millions lobbying and actively fighting against privacy laws that would protect you from online surveillance.

Proton used the expression, “privacy washing” which compares Google’s disparity between actions and words to those of the world’s largest environmental polluters who portray themselves as eco-conscious, known as “green washing.“

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This article first appeared at Malwarebytes LABS on November 22, 2023.

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