Two important words you didn’t hear during Google I/O

(Image: YouTube live stream)

Two words you didn’t hear at Google I/O today: security and privacy.

Google I/O 2018

For reasons unknown to us, there wasn’t a single highlight, feature, app, or functionality that revolved around security or privacy.

The transcript showed just one reference, which was one speaker inviting attendees to learn more about the security in Android P at a “security session.” But that was it.

It’s bizarre, given that at Google I/O, the company’s annual developer conference, Android always takes a front and center position. Given how vocal Google was earlier this year about how focused it was on privacy and security in the upcoming Android P operating system, you’d think that there would be plenty to talk about.

Not the case, as it turns out.

It was even rumored that Google CEO Sundar Pichai was going to “send a message” to the company’s billion-plus users about how it cares about people’s privacy. Just days earlier, Microsoft’s chief executive Satya Nadella said privacy was a “human right.”

We asked Google for comment prior to publication, but did not hear back. (We’ll look forward to the belated boilerplate response about how Google “cares” about security and “values” privacy.)

You’d think in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which embroiled Silicon Valley frenemy Facebook earlier this year, Google would’ve taken a strong position against the companies who use and abuse your personal data for money or influence.

The reality is that Google can’t throw stones from the glass house it’s in.

Facebook may have taken a beating in the past few months after 87 million users had their data collected by a shady firm linked with the Trump campaign — even if its recent earnings shrugged off the data slurping scandal — but nobody is looking at the social networking giant’s nearest rival.

Google makes far more money off its users than Facebook has, and arguably collects more user data than any other company and most governments — including browsing histories, location data, emails, and your calendar. Its ads were abused by the Russians during the 2016 presidential election campaign. And the company has been hit by privacy scandal after privacy scandal in the past few years, ranging from sizable, like tracking users without their permission, to significant, like Android apps tracking children.

That’s prompted some to ask, “How safe is Google?” The answer is — at least in the long-run — “probably not very.”

Google, for its part, was probably wise to keep its mouth shut.

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Zack Whittaker can be reached securely on Signal and WhatsApp at 646-755–8849, and his PGP fingerprint for email is: 4D0E 92F2 E36A EC51 DAAE 5D97 CB8C 15FA EB6C EEA5.

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