I don’t know how many readers of this article were fans of IT Crowd, the British comedy series from the late 2000s, following three staff members who work in the IT department of a fictitious company. The show is responsible for phrases that are now well and truly part of our vernacular, such as ‘Have you tried turning it off and on again?’ But one of my favourite episodes of the show relate to Google. It’s where Jen says, ‘If you type Google into Google, you can break the internet.’ Of course that can’t happen and Jen’s co-workers, Moss and Roy, knew this all along.
Recently in Australia, Google is in the news for all the wrong reasons. A case brought about by the ACCC aims to inform the general public exactly what Google does with its data. The company collects data from its search engines, active Gmail users, Android phone users and countless hours of YouTube1 views. Most of us are aware that Google sell our information to advertisers. But the case against Google also alleges that the company breached consumer law by misleading its Android phone users in relation to the location settings. Users were under the impression that by switching off the location history, data would not be forwarded to Google. This however, appears to be erroneous. The ACCC alleges that even when the location settings were off, Google was still tracking its smartphone users2.
Whatever the outcome of the case, no one can argue with the fact that Google is leveraging its data. However, there’s a very clear lesson here in relation to the data stored and collected by businesses. When the data relates to real people living real lives, how your business manages the data is extremely critical. It is an asset, it needs to be carefully maintained and leveraged appropriately.
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