Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG), Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FB) and Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) are three large tech companies that have had their share of run-ins with regulators over personal privacy issues while these companies compile their reams of personal data for the sake of advertisers and marketers. In the past, these companies have treated these privacy issues as something to be fixed. But is it possible that securing privacy could be considered a flaw and not a feature by a company? And could a company actually admit that collection of data for the sake of privacy is the goal? Well, whether Google intended it or not, it showed its hand recently in Australia.
The story goes like this: An Australian software developer, Dan Nolan, noted in a blog post that he discovered that he gets a collection of personal information about a Google Play user who buys one of his apps, and that actually bothered him. “If you bought the app on Google Play (even if you cancelled the order) I have your email address, your suburb, and in many instances your full name. Each Google Play order is treated as a Google Wallet transaction and as such software developers get all of the information (sans exact address) for an order of an app that they would get from the order of something physical.”
When an Australian reporter followed up on this, it reported that this collection and sharing of personal information was a flaw in Google Wallet. However, a Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) official consulted with the reporter and actually requested that the reporter put quotation marks around the word flaw. As in, someone may call this a flaw, but we at Google don’t see it as such. We see it as a feature of Google Wallet that has benefits.
What is the rationale behind this “feature”?
Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) officials claim this collection of personal information as a feature that serves a couple of purposes. First, sharing this information can benefit the developer and third-party advertisers and marketers to help them sell to customers that buy certain types of products or from a specific company. But the second reason, Google claims, is to help collection of taxes – Google had to alert the seller the origin of the sale to determine the proper tax rates to be paid in the respective countries of the transaction. Unlike in the Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) App Store, where purchases are made from Apple, the Google Play store processes transactions between the buyers and the developers, so location is necessary.
What do you think? Do you buy that this is a feature and not a flaw by Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG)? What are your thoughts about data collection and the practice of data sharing in the tech world? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.
DISCLOSURE: I own no positions in any stock mentoned.
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