Google is not Facebook. We know that. Nevertheless, two if its executives repeatedly reiterated this fact when pressed with the most important question today: How safe is the user's data with the company? The executives said that the company has strong policies which are constantly reviewed. However, they shied away from pointing to any specific policy that has been, or is in the process of being reviewed in light of the Facebook slip. Users, the executives, underlined, have access to how their data is being used. They also have opt-out choices.
On the sidelines of 'Grow with Google', an event in Singapore last week, Business Today's Goutam Das spoke to Karim Temsamani, President, Asia-Pacific Operations, Google, and Arjun Narayan, the company's Head of Trust & Safety, based in the company's Asia-Pacific headquarters in Singapore.
Here's what they had to say:
On the humongous amount of user information Google has and if this data is secure:
Karim Temsamani: We take the information of our users incredibly seriously and we do a lot of work around it. We have an incredible safety record in terms of protecting the information of our users. From an user's perspective, you want transparency, control, and choice. We provide all of this through My Accounts, where one can see all of the information Google has about him or her. You can make choices as regards to that information and can control it - you can decide not to share some of the information; you can download all of your data if you want to have access to it; you can decide not to provide your location. There is a reason why we may want to have that at an aggregate level to be able to provide better services. For example, your location on Google Maps. The location is extremely useful if through the Assistant (the company's virtual personal assistant) we were to tell you that there is heavy traffic today and you should leave 15 minutes earlier or you will miss your meeting. Should you as an user not want that information? Most of the anonymous data that we keep on our systems is to ensure that the results we serve users are more relevant and useful for them.
On third party developers on Google Play (the company's app store) accessing user information:
Karim Temsamani: There is a tremendous amount of activity on Google Play with developers asking permission with regards to user data they can access. We have very strong policies with regard to the data of users. We don't accept developers wanting to access data if it doesn't make sense in the context of their app.
On the Facebook development, and if there were policies Google is reviewing:
Arjun Narayan: I am not going to speculate about other companies. I will talk about what we do. At Google, we have maintained very high standards. We have adequate safeguards and we constantly re-evaluate our safeguards. From a philosophical standpoint, we value user trust and we do not take that lightly because we know that is extremely important for our ecosystem to thrive. We have the policies, safeguards, and enforcement in place. Then, from an user choice perspective, we provide choice. Users have access to how their data is being used, they also have opt-outs available.
On whether all users know about these choices:
Arjun Narayan: There is never enough when it comes to educating our users. There is always more we can do in this space. We want to make sure our community is aware of these options.