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Op-Ed: Google says ‘data is sunlight, not oil’ — Odd mixed metaphor

With the heavy scrutiny now being placed by regulators on internet privacy, particularly in the European Union, and a $57 million fine, Google’s desire to emphasize positives is understandable. The trouble is that this upbeat approach comes in context with some serious global privacy problems. Google, as the big gorilla in the playpen, is front and centre of all the issues.
Mixed metaphors, a user’s guide
The market news is sending too many mixed messages, and mixing metaphors aren’t helping. The “sunlight not oil” comment is based on Google’s desire to distance itself from the many negatives of the oil analogy. (Data is being touted as the new oil industry, a gigantic cash cow that everyone uses. Nothing like very unoriginal metaphors to deliver a response.) Sunlight, says Google, regenerates while being used.
OK, but:
* Sunlight also has an odd habit of casting light. In the case of data, it can cast light where people don’t want light.
Privacy, in the legal sense, is really what you want to be private and out of the glare of public or other scrutiny, as much or more than any regulatory definition. You can sue for disclosure of data which you don’t want disclosed, simply because you don’t want it disclosed.
* You can sell sunlight in the form of solar power, too. To whom that data is sold, and what that data is, isn’t particularly clear. Google isn’t the only offender, but Google is also the high profile player whose actions and legal position dictates to the market.
* The world is in the middle of a virtual cyber war, where data also translates in to currency across a huge bandwidth of possible uses, legal and illegal. The black market for data is big, and has multiple risks built in for users. Exactly how sunny the outlook is for these issues is debatable.
The consumer perspective
Sunny minded internet users are pretty hard to find when the topic is security. Far too many people have been spoofed, phished, scammed and spammed. Privacy is a very real, very important issue. The utterly useless, astonishingly smug, global internet security culture is no help, either.
People have had, and have, a lot to worry about. “Upbeat” isn’t the right spin for this market. “Practical, alert and aware” would be a much better look for Google, and the world. Honesty, and genuine efforts to help users with these issues will go a long way further than metaphors.

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Written By

Editor-at-Large based in Sydney, Australia.

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