Why should you read Google’s new privacy policy?

January 27th, 2012

Instead of having several privacy policies for multiple products Google (YouTube to Orkut), users’ data will now be governed with just one policy across its products.

In a company blog post, Google privacy director Alma Whitten writes, “If you’re signed in, we may combine information you’ve provided from one service with information from other services. In short, we’ll treat you as a single user across all our products, which will mean a simpler, more intuitive Google experience.”

The point that is underlined by Google is that for all those who want to use Google’s services, (which are free), it will be mandatory to accept the new guidelines. Google collects user’s information in 2 ways: details that user reveals while signing up for an account and how user uses Google services everyday. So, if you spend an hour signed in to a Google account searching the web for diets and weight loss programmes, the next time you log into YouTube or Google+, you might see recommendations for videos, ads, links etc featuring local gymming centres, dieticians, along with ads for weight loss merchandise and the nearest place to buy them. In short, Google collected your details and web habits, streamlined it for the marketers and sold it to relevant bidders who want you as their customers.

And it is not just Google. Facebook and every other popular internet service stores as much information as possible about their users so they can sell more advertising at higher rates to marketers looking to target people interested in specific products.

All signs point towards the fact that Google wants to compete with Facebook that already uses targeted recommendations on its sidebar advertisements. Ever wonder why after you “liked” that rock band’s fan page, ads began popping up with every log-in about their concerts and band t-shirts? The network is closely watching your interests.

When Google says — “Our new Privacy Policy makes clear that, if you’re signed in, we may combine information you’ve provided from one service with information from other services. In short, we’ll treat you as a single user across all our products, which will mean a simpler, more intuitive Google experience ” — users should read it as is that come March, what they do on one Google-owned site will affect what content they see on another Google-owned site.

Privacy advocates argue that if Google is meant to be a service designed to help users then why doesn’t it include a choice to opt out? Others point that user data, which sell for up to $5,000 (nearly Rs 2.5 lakh) a head to marketers, is critical for Google that missed earnings expectations for the fourth quarter.

For now, Google refuses to react on the backlash it has been gathering with its new privacy policies.

PS: Those who are wondering what is the closest thing to opt-out? Answer is, remain logged off from a particular account while browsing the web, or in extreme case, cancel the account.

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