Google’s New Privacy Policy: Benefit or Threat to Users?

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(Image: Stock.xchng)
(Image: Stock.xchng)

WORLD

  • Google streamlines 60+ privacy plans into one
  • EU and privacy groups oppose Google sharing user information across multiple Google-owned sites
  • Google aims to improve user experience across its platforms

Google is proceeding with much-publicized plans to streamline 60+ privacy policies into one overarching policy that covers various Google platforms and services. This change will allow Google to compile and share an individual’s browsing data and web history across various Google-owned sites (e.g: Blogger, gmail, Youtube, Google +) once logged into Google.

User information was not previously shared across different services.

Combining user data into one profile should enable Google to more easily track users’ interests and online activities, and create targeted advertisements accordingly. Beyond increasing its advertising efficiency, Google claims that the privacy policy changes will facilitate cross-navigation between services and allow for more relevant and user-specific Google search results.

La Commission Nationale de l'Informatique et des Liberties (CNIL), a French data protection monitor, was asked by the EU’s Article 29 Working Party – a group of EU data protection authorities – to investigate how closely Google’s changes comply with new, tighter legislation on European data protection.

The EU asked Google to delay its policy changes until the investigation was completed, but has had little success. As Google is the dominant search engine used in the EU with 90% market share, its decisions are far-reaching in Europe.

Privacy Groups Speak Out

Privacy groups worldwide are also opposed to Google’s changes. For instance, the Trans Atlantic Consumer Dialog group called for suspension of the new policy plan, stating that it was “unfair and unwise” for Google to “change the terms of the bargain.” In particular because users provide information across various services for different reasons and in different contexts, and are unlikely to fully understand the implications of the policy change.

Google sent out an email statement claiming that it had already informed data protection agencies of its decision, with little concern raised.

Google also published a letter by Peter Fleischer, Google’s Global Privacy Counsel, in response to the EU. The letter said Google had done its part by informing authenticated users of the policy changes, and included information about the changes both on its homepage and in search engines for non-authenticated users.

Fleischer cited the main reason for the change as making its services and privacy policies more user-friendly.

The controversy continues regardless. Particularly controversial is the fact that Google users cannot opt out of the new service plan without discontinuing use of Google products altogether.

Fortunately, users can minimize some of their identifiable information by going to specific pages. They may also opt to stay logged out when conducting searches, which means any information gathered will be anonymous.

Technology experts also recommend clearing out browser history once a week to remove cookies.

Key Facts – Google (Zimbio.com)

  • Google has been around for 15 years; Andy Bechtolsheim, co-founder of Sun Microsystems, was Google’s first funder, providing around $100,000.
  • Google holds approximately 90% of the global search engine market share.
  • Ads bring in 80% of Google’s daily revenue.
  • Over 6 billion users access Google on a daily basis.
  • Worldwide, Google boasts the largest network of translators.

By Christelle Agboka for
Christelle Agboka is a freelance journalist based in Kingston, Ontario, who covers business and economy news.

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