Google Raises Fresh Privacy Concerns with Smartphone Move

Google Raises Fresh Privacy Concerns with Smartphone Move

Google, Inc. is moving into cell phone production–a potential concern for consumers bothered by the Internet behemoth’s treatment of user data, including an instance in which Google failed to disclose that it did not abide by its privacy policy with Safari browser users.

That situation saw Google criticized by privacy advocates including Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also slapped Google with a record $22.5 million fine for misrepresentation and “violating an earlier privacy settlement” in that instance.

But Google’s move into actual hardware production – a smartphone being made together with Google-owned Motorola – arguably raises new concerns regarding the company’s market dominance and its handling of user data, which has previously not been in line with its stated policies and terms.

Currently, a range of companies have access to the Google Android system that such a smartphone would run on. 

However, with Google moving into the hardware business contrary to its prior stated intentions, it seems likely that Google would at least consider restricting the use of Android from these other companies, leaving fans of the Android system with only one option to access it – Google/Motorola. 

Critics say that given Google’s bad reputation on both privacy matters directly and transparency regarding its privacy policies and practices, that could result in consumers’ privacy being protected and respected to a far lesser degree than consumers might expect based on the more privacy-conscientious image Google seeks to cultivate. 

That is especially so given that according to technology research company Gartner, Inc., Android activations accounted for 72 percent of all smartphone activations in the third quarter of 2012. 

According to Obama adviser and Google Chairman Eric Schmidt, more than 1.3 million Android devices are activated every day, assuring Android – and Google, which with the Motorola move could shut others out from use of the Android system – a huge share of the smartphone market.

Google employees donated over $735,000 to President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, and also heavily supported Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign.