Google says it doesn't sell users' personal info as privacy concerns grow

Jessica Fenol, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 06 2021 12:42 PM

The logo of Google is seen at the high profile startups and high tech leaders gathering, Viva Tech,in Paris, France May 16, 2019. Charles Platiau, Reuters/File Photo

MANILA - Google said Thursday it does not sell user data and that information on its platforms such as Gmail, Google Drive or photos remain private. 

The tech titan issued the statement as more users raised concerns on how their data is being used and collected.

In 2020, at least 81 percent of consumers had become "more concerned" with how companies use their data, Google project manager for Privacy and Data Protection Greg Fair told Asia Pacific reporters in a virtual press briefing. 

Searches for "online privacy" also rose over 50 percent in the same year, Fair said, citing in-house data.

"We recognize that data and transparency are of utmost importance to our customers and as expectations about privacy evolve. We at Google continue to ensure that people are aware of what data is collected, how it is used, and how they can stay in control," Fair said.

"No one at Google reads or scans emails...We never use sensitive information to personalize ads. We never use the contents of your email, photos… to tailor ads to users," Fair said. 

NO SENSITIVE INFO USED IN PERSONALIZING ADS

Although ads are crucial in helping Google provide its services for free, Fair said they don't make money on ads that were not "clicked."

"Privacy continues to be a top priority for us. We never sell personal info. We keep your data private in every point in showing you ads," he said. 

Fair said Google uses "anonymized data" to understand patterns such as those from Google Maps to analyze traffic conditions, for example. Users are also always in control of their data, he said.

While using Search, only ads related to a person's history are shown. Sensitive information such as health, race, religion or sexual orientation are also "never" used in personalizing ads, Google said.

Ads are also labeled properly as ads or sponsored for transparency, it added. 

When asked whether or not Google listens to conversations since some users claim to see ads of brands or things that they have just spoken, Fair said “it’s likely ads from another ad provider. Google does not run all the ads on the internet.” 

BUILT-IN PROTECTION

Security and privacy tools are also embedded on Google products such as the Google Assistant that won't interact unless instructed to do so by saying "Hey Google." 

Users can also turn off microphones and cameras while on-screen indicators add transparency for when these tools are being used.

Activity history on Google Assistant can also be deleted or viewed through voice command or the My Activity tool.

Google said it has also phased out third-party cookies.

Its web products are also powered by the latest technologies including privacy-preserving APIs which will prevent individual tracking while still providing results for advertisers, it said.

Internet use surged in the Philippines when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the disease forced millions to study and work at home as well as to perform daily tasks such as shopping and finance online. 

However, fraudsters have also taken advantage of the e-commerce and online use growth as pandemic-related scams have also proliferated on the internet.

Google earlier said it has blocked some 99 million COVID-19 related ads in 2020.

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