Yet, two providers of services for those suffering depression — Lifeline Australia and Black Dog Institute — have had no hesitation in signing up with the search giant to provide information about the condition to Australians.
In fact, two people from these organisations — Rachel Bowes, head of Crisis Services and Quality at Lifeline Australia, and Jill Newby, Associate Professor at Black Dog Institute — had no qualms about co-authoring a post on the official Google blog to flog the service.
The new tool, launched in March, would enable people to take a self-test to see if they are suffering from depression.
But in the light of the numerous privacy issues that have surfaced with Google, should these institutions have endorsed such a company to provide what is intensely personal data?
GOOGLE MOTTOS: A HISTORY— MGK Hockey 1234 (@mightygodking) 28 March 2018
1999: Don't Be Evil
2003: Try Your Hardest To Not Be Evil
2008: Make A Reasonable Effort To Avoid Being Evil
2013: What Is Evil, Really, When You Get Down To It, I Mean Really
2018: *just a series of high-pitched giggles*
Google's statement said nothing about privacy or security of data. Not a word.
So I emailed the company's Communications and Public Affairs manager Camilla Ibrahim, in whose name the release was sent, the following query: "How does this information stay private? Is it also going to be used for targeting online advertising as Google does with all search queries?"
Ibrahim shied away from providing an answer that could be quoted and attributed to either her, or the company itself. An answer was provided on background – something companies and people do to provide themselves plausible deniability.
Given that I decided not to use it. I cannot, in good faith, write things like, "iTWire understands..." using material which I am unsure about.
I wrote back to Ibrahim, saying: "You can either give a quote for use, or else say there is no response. I do not accept backgrounding of this kind." Nearly a month has gone by, but there has been no further statement from the company.
Anyone who needs help can contact the following source:
Lifeline 13 11 14 and www.lifeline.org.au/