Photo: Theresa Thompson via Flickr
On Monday Google celebrated its 12th birthday. And what a twelve years it’s been.Despite occasional blunders, Google has taken over the world of search. But it wasn’t a drama-free upbringing.
The single greatest issue facing Google is online privacy. It knows everything we search, email, chat, download, watch, etc. By tracing Internet behaviour, it can predict our future actions and know how we think. And with new products and services, the company is only collecting more information about everyone who uses the Internet. Understandably, critics have condemned Google for probing way too far in personal affairs.
Google caused worldwide scandals when it released two products: Google Buzz and Google Street View. Google Buzz is a tool that allows you to share links, photos, videos and other information with contacts. The problem is that when it was first released, Google Buzz showed a list of users’ most frequently emailed. If you were having an affair that involved email love letters, you would have been exposed.
Google Street view caused another problem. With its detailed panoramic views of streets, it revealed glimpses into private homes and intimate street centres. The Google Camera captured people leaving health care centres and professionals exiting strip clubs.
Google made big mistakes with these products. But the company’s reaction on both occasions was decisive, swift and accommodating. Google revamped Google buzz privacy settings and launched a campaign to educate users on their choices. On Street View it blotched out faces, building interiors, and other revealing details and setup a system where users can request the removal of compromising pictures.
But perhaps even more impressive is the company’s determination to stay one step ahead of issues, anticipating them before they even start. Google’s active privacy centre educates users about how it collects and uses personal information and provides advice to users on how they can stay safe online.
In light of controversy, Google has made smart PR decisions. Anticipating issues. Responding to users’ concerns. Communicating with the public. These are the ingredients for a successful public relations campaign. And this one is integral to Google’s success. As it continues to experiment with new services and products, including Google Me – a social network – that will be launched later in the year – the company is bound to face additional challenges. But so far, they’ve cleaned up some pretty big messes with ease. Not bad for a just-turned pre-teen company.
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