How much ethical is the Google cookie policy?

1,370 Views Updated: 18 Jan 2019
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Cookies are small files stored on a computer of any user. These files contain bits of information about a website or a client and can be accessed by the web server or the client computer. The presence of this cookie allows the server to provide customized page access to a user as per his needs. This means that the page will contain some script which makes it aware of the information present in the cookie and hence it can carry that information from one visit to that website to another. Google, just like many other organizations uses cookies to collect and store user information. 

Why are Cookies Useful

Cookies are a convenient way to carry information about a user and identify her later. For example, a person creates a username and entered the related password, name, address, etc. along with it. This information is stored with the help of the cookies with the username as the key. In the next session, when the person enters her username, the related info will automatically fill in. This helps to avoid manually filling up all the information every time you visit the website. 

While users of services such as Google can choose to disable the cookies, which means that in that case, the page will not be able to store the information in a cookie, users do not have proper knowledge of activity controls available to them. 

Google Policy on Cookies

The cookies used by Google are for setting preferences, authenticating and ensuring security, navigating websites, suggesting targeted content, engaging in relevant advertising, managing the websites for a better user experience and providing analytics to website owners about the traffic their websites get. 

Google’s privacy policy for cookies states that they use it to collect and store information when a user consumes a Google service like Google Search. This information can be used by them to offer advertising services to their partners or some Google features that may appear on other sites. The analytics cookies provide detailed information to websites about who visited them, how many times, what they did on the website, where did they log in from, etc. It contains personal information about user activities on the internet and their account. Their automated systems can analyze a user’s email to give them tailored ads or spam detection. It is also possible for Google to track a user’s activity on other websites associated with the user’s personal information. 

Privacy Concerns Regarding Google Cookies Policy

There are several concerns regarding the safety of Google’s cookies. While by themselves, they are not a threat to privacy, but the information in them may land in the hands of another party who might misuse it. Anything that users do on their search engine, email and a host of other services is open to access and scrutiny, making a user vulnerable. According to Privacy International, Google’s centrally located data warehouse in the USA houses data of millions of users from around the world and can be accessed by the US government as the company comes under the US law.

While Google claims to take consent while collecting sensitive user information, its policy change done in 2012 enabled the company to share the user data across a wide range of third-party services and websites. This policy is criticized for creating an environment of fear among internet innovators and the normal public. 

Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt commented in 2010 that it is important for governments to be able to identify people. He suggested that artificial intelligence technology coupled with user-generated data can predict their future behavior. Its Double Click feature lets Google track the user’s activities across the web, allowing them to stalk a person all over the internet virtually. Google’s activity control options to give the users the ability to opt out of such a feature. However, the question is more about the ethics of it. The ethical side of Google following someone who may or may not be aware of it does not seem quite right. 

The cookies help Google access a wide range of information from users. There is no clarity on for how long a cookie continues to store information as it keeps renewing itself every time the user uses a Google service. As of 2016, its policy does not clarify anything regarding the web browsing and searching records of any user. 

While making targeted advertising and services more relevant, Google’s cookies do pose serious concerns regarding the personal data being accessed by third parties. The benefits of cookies need to be weighed against privacy concerns. A reconsideration of the default standards for cookies can be done to make it users more comfortable with it. 

Posted by: megha Posts: (1) Opinions: (1) Points: 0 Rank: 0

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