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Friday, 10 May 2019 11:42

Google's Sundar Pichai on privacy – pure comedy gold

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Google's Sundar Pichai on privacy – pure comedy gold Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

After a week of hard labour, the obvious instinct of a worker is to look for some light relief. Thankfully, one need not look very far this week, for Google chief executive Pichai Sundararajan — who now goes by the Westernised name Sundar Pichai — has been waxing voluble on privacy, a topic which provides much comedic relief when tackled by Google executives.

When Pichai or any other of the worthies from the executive cupboard at Google talk about values, privacy, mission statements and the like, it is better than comedy. And it is free too!

One cannot but marvel at the disconnect that people like Pichai have with the world at large and the notion they hold that people will believe what they say, even though the same talk has been given over and over again and been shown to be nothing but lies.

In fact, Pichai, in an op-ed for The New York Times — for which one must thank the newspaper — even takes a potshot at Apple, with the claim that "For us... privacy cannot be a luxury good offered only to people who can afford to buy premium products and services. Privacy must be equally available to everyone in the world." This stuff is priceless.

There are so many gems in the drivel that this man has written that this writer was in stitches after reading the op-ed; writing this, is really difficult for one has to stop after every paragraph to guffaw out loud.

But I digress. Pichai starts with one of the great statements of our time: "Many words have been written about privacy over the past year, including in these pages. I believe it’s one of the most important topics of our time." Now that Pichai said it, it has to be true.

Here's another of those statements: "Even in cases where we offer a paid product like YouTube Premium, which includes an ads-free experience, the regular version of YouTube has plenty of privacy controls built in." (Emphasis mine). We all know exactly how much privacy there is on YouTube, not to mention the type of racist, terrorist and sexist content that resides on the site. But then if Pichai offered that perspective, he would stop sounding like Moses on the Mount.

The jewel in the crown surely has to be this one: "To make privacy real, we give you clear, meaningful choices around your data. All while staying true to two unequivocal policies: that Google will never sell any personal information to third parties; and that you get to decide how your information is used." This from a company that has been fined so many times by the European Union for anti-competitive and anti-privacy actions that one has lost count of how many billions of dollars it owes Brussels.

This is the same company that rapaciously slurps up personal data from anyone who uses any of its products and then sells it to the highest bidder. I wonder if Pichai even believes his own words or whether he was in some kind of yogic trance when he wrote this.

The very same entity that tracks your location even when you turn location tracking off.

Regarding the mountains and mountains of data that Google collects — and which police use to track anyone and everyone they want — Pichai offers another Orwellian statement: "...a small subset of data helps serve ads that are relevant and that provide the revenue that keeps Google products free and accessible. That revenue also sustains a broad community of content creators, which in turn helps keep content on the Web free for everyone." What a noble company! How could anyone have misjudged this abode of saints for anything else?

That Google's bosses are disconnected from reality was made clear back in September last year when a video recorded at the company shortly after the 2016 US presidential election was leaked online. You can read all about it here if you missed it.

Remember this is the same Pichai who negotiated a way for Google to re-enter China and host a censored search engine. The same man who made the claim that you can uninstall any application from an Android phone. The way he put it was: "If you prefer other apps — or browsers, or search engines — to the preloaded ones, you can easily disable or delete them, and choose other apps instead, including apps made by some of the 1.6 million Europeans who make a living as app developers." To call this untrue would be an understatement.

So why bother to write this drivel when you should be aware that nobody is going to believe it? Had the NYT run it in the fiction section, that would have made sense.

But such is the arrogance of people like Pichai that he, and those of his ilk, still believe that they can parrot the same nonsense over and over again and the hoi polloi will lap it up. When you have a couple of hundred million in the bank, it does tend to make reality an altogether difficult thing to comprehend. It makes me really curious – exactly what was this man smoking before putting finger to computer/laptop keyboard?

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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