During a meeting last week with Google's Co-Founder Sergey Brin I asked him about a question posed by several of our blog readers: Should we trust Google with our personal information?
Brin told NPR that he can't see any reason that people shouldn't trust Google. He points out that his company successfully fought back the Department of Justice's attempts in 2006 to subpoena user search records in connection to a DOJ effort defending the Children's Online Protection Act.
Brin says that, frankly, Google isn't that interested in the nitty gritty of everyone's life.
"The kinds of things we do is we aggregate things. So we'll compute we got five percent more searches today than yesterday. And we're even able to deduce things such as Google flu trends, which is able to predict or estimate how many flu cases there might be in a particular state at a given time based on search query trends."
Of course, Google is the company that has as its unofficial company motto, "Don't be evil."
That isn't enough for Cindy Cohen, a staff attorney at the online civil liberties group Electronic Frontier Foundation. She doesn't doubt Brin's sincerity. But, Cohen says, "Even if you believe that the Google of today would never, ever do the wrong, I don't think it's wise to assume that the Google of tomorrow will be the same."
Cohen says EFF wants Google to put in writing terms for privacy around its Google book searches. Right now the EFF is suing Google over privacy issues related to Google's book scanning efforts.
Brin wouldn't say what they plan to do about the EFF law suit. But he did say that he doesn't think the way to protect user privacy is to go after individual companies.
"We would love to have clearer laws. There are things like the Electronic Communications Privacy Act which are somewhat outdated and could definitely use updating. We're definitely big fans of bigger, better privacy protections."
Brin also said he believes people are actually more at risk of losing control over their personal information through paper records than through online information.