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Does Google Think User Privacy is a Game?

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Google has released a three-minute video that uses a board game to explain its system for processing government requests for user data.

It’s a cute video that uses hand-painted wooden figurines to represent Google employees and lawmakers, playing cards to represent Gmail users, and a big red button that represents the action it takes in informing users about government data requests.

There is nothing wrong with simplifying technology in order to explain it to a wider audience. But some have been critical of the adorable way it is representing a very serious privacy issue. (Even the crowdfunded video explainer on the NSA, narrated by Lost star Evangeline Lilly, took a more dramatic and serious approach.)

“It’s great to see Google engaging in this conversation. But this is a grown-up issue that needs grown-up solutions. Talking to us like we’re in kindergarten isn’t going to cut it,” Robert Sorokanich of Gizmodo wrote.

The video appears on Google’s “Take Action” page as a supplement to its Transparency Report. According to its ninth report, released on Thursday, government requests for user data are up 120 percent since releasing its first transparency report in 2009.

There is no doubt that Google is taking steps in order to assure users it will protect their data. Last week, Google announced that it would use an encrypted HTTPS connection every time a Gmail user checks or sends an email. But it’s sending a mixed message: the video just doesn’t reflect the gravity of the privacy issues at hand.

As a web host and hosted email provider, taking user privacy seriously could be an advantage. Users don’t want to be talked down to – they want real information presented in a simple way. Consider that in your approach to educating users on their privacy and security.

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