Google is facing criticism from civil liberties advocates after it launched its “security zones” program that critics say allows the company to spy on the Internet.
The technology giant announced its latest security initiative at its developer conference Monday, in which it unveiled a new version of its “Google Apps Security” platform, which it says is a way to provide a secure experience for customers.
The company said it is “building on our long history of providing privacy-enhancing technology to businesses” to provide security for “all of our customers.”
The Google Apps Security platform is a separate product, and the company declined to share how much money the platform is generating.
“This new security initiative builds on our longstanding work with Google to create a better security experience for all of our users,” Google said in a statement.
“We will continue to work closely with security experts around the world to make sure Google’s new security measures are as secure as possible.”
Privacy experts say that the new security system will create an uneven playing field for Internet users, which means Google can see all their personal data, including information they send to Google, and what they type on their Google Accounts.
“What you get from Google Apps is a platform that allows them to track your searches, your email and your browsing history,” says Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who revealed classified documents on the company’s spying program.
“And so what you’re essentially getting is an intelligence gathering platform that can track you.”
Snowden said Google should not be allowed to do this.
“If you have a company that has this kind of power, and then you do that without proper safeguards, that’s something very, very troubling.”
“Google has shown its contempt for people’s privacy and they are not only violating the Fourth Amendment, they are abusing the privacy of the very people they are spying on,” he added.
Snowden added that the privacy issues are not unique to Google.
“There’s nothing about Google’s data-mining that’s secret.
“But there’s nothing in there that says it’s not public.”
The new security policy does say that “the data collected by Google Apps may be shared with third parties for purposes of improving the security and reliability of Google Apps,” but it does not detail the kinds of data the companies can share with third-parties, such as tracking the content of communications.
“We’ll continue to engage with security researchers, and we will continue work with governments and the private sector to better understand the vulnerabilities and how to best address them,” the company said.
The program is part of a broader initiative to address privacy concerns over Google’s “data collection, use, and storage.”
Google has previously said it would disclose more information about its data collection programs, but has been mum on specifics.
Privacy advocates are also concerned that the program will allow Google to track what people search on their devices, and potentially even what they send, in an effort to improve Google’s ad products.
“They could be reading your emails, they could be spying on you, they might be tracking what you watch, they’re monitoring what you post on social media, they may even be doing some kind of profiling,” Snowden told CNN.
“The government should not have the power to do that.”