Google’s original motto, “Don’t be evil”, hasn’t exactly seemed to be at the forefront of their minds the past few years. After privacy concerns were raised in 2009, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said, “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.” This sort of “the innocent don’t need privacy” argument has been used to erode the rights of individuals for far too long, and it was disappointing to see Google using it.
He also stated, in 2010, that “true transparency and no anonymity” was the way forward for the internet. Obviously, we don’t agree.
However, events of late suggest that Google are trying to re-align themselves with what’s right in terms of the privacy of web users.
Last week, the company filed its formal opposition to a federal criminal procedure change that would let judges issue warrants for remote hacking and surveillance, even for areas outside their judicial districts, including in foreign countries.
As well as stating that the issue would be better addressed by Congress, Google lawyer Richard Salgado stated that, “the proposed change threatens to undermine the privacy rights and computer security of Internet users”.
Although federal judges have allowed such tactics in the past, most judges have rejected the actions on Fourth Amendment grounds. To allow these sorts of tactics across the board would constitute an incredible blow to worldwide online privacy.
So are Google really changing their colours? The cynics amongst us might claim that the change could negatively affect Google and their working practices, hence their interest now. Yet regardless of their reasoning, it’s good to have the weight of such a huge company pushing back against the government in a matter like this.
Time will tell how things play out.