Google's New Privacy Settings: Is There Anything Private About Them?
Some think so.
Effective Thursday, Google has changed its privacy settings, replacing over 60 different privacy policies across Google with one policy that, according to a statement released by the search engine giant, is âshorter and easier to read.â
According to Google, the policy will make it easier to utilize different Google products such as Gmail, Youtube and the Google search engine, share and collaborate on online documents and posts and tailor search results based on interests expressed by your past history on Google products.
However, the policy has caused controversy among users who think that having tailored search results and advertisements, based on information Google has collected on them, is a privacy invasion.
Professor Karen North, the Director of USCâs Annenberg Program on Online Communities (APOC) breaks down the issue.
âEverything owned or partnered with Google, anything that Google has control of is now under a blanket policy,â North said.
That means when you agree to Googleâs policy, Google can use keywords from its host of products like Google Calendar, Google+, G-Mail, and affiliates like Blogger, to find out where youâre going, what youâre planning, what youâre blogging---essentially, what youâre thinking.
âSome people consider it a violation of privacy,â North said.
Instead of birthdays and kittens, North poses a more serious concern: âWhat if someone was looking for a job and searches about Breast Cancer on Google because their friend was recently diagnosed? An employer might see that and think that the potential employee had breast cancer and decide not to hire them.â
For North, the biggest issue with the new policy is that users canât opt out of it to keep their data stored on separate Google sites unconnected.
âTake a person privately searching for [adult videos] for example. That person wouldnât want that data to be shared,â North said.
While users can get around the problem by choosing not to login to Google products, North points out that they would then not be able to save their favorites when browsing YouTube or Google.
Google is in competition with Facebook for selling information to advertising companies, said North.
âHistorically, Google always has had aggregated data, taking what people search and translating it into what they are looking for but, in a sense, Google [has been] agnostic when it comes to who you are when it compiles its data,â said North. âFacebook however, is contextual. It takes into account who you and your friends are and what your friends search for as well.â
In order for Google to stay competitive with Facebook and sell data to advertisers, Google is looking to add contextual data to its matrix, to make itself more appealing to advertisers.
âYou can do a lot of targeting if you can infiltrate what people want to do, what theyâre looking for, personal information that adds context, personal data,â said North.
It is through advertising money that Google is able to make its host of products free for the estimated 1 billion unique visitors who visit the site each month, according to one estimate by comScore last summer.
Googleâs Code of Conduct starts with the preface "Don't be evil." And âGooglersâ around the world can only hope that it takes those words to heart, as its access to them inches closer.
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