Alma Whitten took an impossible job in 2010. The task she was tasked to was ensuring Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) users’ privacy for a company that thrives on the violation of said privacy. Oddly and irony aside, she hasn’t left the position based on the impossibility of the task, but rather, to retire. It’s difficult to fault someone who realizes that they have enough money to live out their days; someone who would prefer to enjoy their hard-earned and well-deserved gains rather than tread the waters of contradiction. Make no mistake, Google’s Privacy Director’s primary job is to make sure they don’t get caught.
Ms. Whitten took the helm during a storm of controversy, on the heels of Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG)’s “accidental” privacy infringements. Namely, Wi-Spy and Buzz. The former, for those that don’t remember, saw Google’s Street View cars also collecting data from each and every WiFi spot they passed. They paid a few million in a class action suit and agreed to host a privacy week for their employees. The latter publicly pre-populated people’s networks with their closest friends, as drawn from who they emailed most in Gmail. Oops, another class action suit with a few more millions outgoing.
Privacy is nothing more than a misnomer in this inter-connected age. Ms. Whitten knows it and is leaving.
But take some comfort from Alma’s stay at Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG). She’s a large part of why Google is not employing (to the best of our knowledge) their facial recognition technology that would make the TSA’s body scans blush with admiration.
“We have the technology — lots of people have the technology, and some companies are already doing it,” Whitten has said. “But we don’t know how we can build in transparency and control over it.”
That’s a small relief. In a recent statement Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) spoke of her retirement:
“During her 10 years at Google, Alma has done so much to improve our products and protect our users,” said Google in a statement. “The privacy and security teams, and everyone else at Google, will continue this hard work to ensure that our users’ data is kept safe and secure.
Whitten will be replaced by Lawrence You, an engineer who has been with the company for eight years. I would write further about him but his last name causes pronoun problems.
I say You, you read YOU.