What Google has to say:
“We’ve been tidying up a little, making our privacy policies and terms more consistent, easier to read and easier to understand. You see while privacy policies, ours included, may not be the most popular read on the internet, we think they’re important. So instead of over 60 policies for different Google products and features we’re introducing just one with fewer words, simpler explanations and less legal gloop to wade through.”
So What Does this Really Mean?
Simply put Google is condensing its privacy policies of its 70 products and from the 1st March replacing them with just the one. Fusing these together means that they are no longer coupled with the individual free services but to the Google accounts themselves. They will then share the collective data that you provide, through the use of their services, but most importantly they claim not with any third parties.
Why are they doing this?
The big question I can hear you asking is why are they doing this? There are many ideas floating around with the one gaining the most momentum being that they are in a losing battle with the social giant Facebook. This is the part where you are thinking how can these two internet powerhouses be competing since they offer different services? Hang on in a second and I will explain:
For all of the services Google provides, its free business model would cease to exist without its symbiotic relationship with ad providers. Now these ad providers rely on personal digital data which is key to increase their revenue. The more personal data they can acquire on an individual, the healthier position they find themselves in to target and attract potential customers. Is this starting to make sense? If you have a look at Google’s Ads Preferences Manager you will find Google has built a basic profile of you based solely upon your searches. This profile however isn’t reliable, what happens if you are using your laptop for work related purposes or a friend/partner has been using it for the last couple of days? You will probably find that you have been classified as being the wrong sex, age and your general interests are way off the mark. However just for arguments sake let’s say that Google has built a profile that is 100% correct, it only has information on the above factors. Juxtapose this with Facebook and you will find in contrast, it not only correctly knows your sex, age and interests but in addition who your friends are, where you are located at any given time, your social life and personal thoughts though the use of statuses.
We have already seen Google try and fail to compete with Facebook with the launch of Google+ and with the merging of their privacy policies this could be the next step to attempt to shift the power and regain control of the online advertising world.
There are others that argue that Google is doing nothing wrong and this was the next logical step for them to take. Instead of having multiple different products stretched across the board Google are bringing these together to provide a better service. Take Facebook for example if you were to strip it down to its fundamental components you would be left with the social, photo and gaming elements. The only difference here is that Facebook started out its journey as a single unit, while Google is in the process of doing so.
Advantages of unified policy:
Google claim this move will only improve your overall search experience. Over time this shared compilation of data will be used by Google to show results and ads that are relevant and personal to yourself. If you take the word ‘Jaguar’ for example and type it into the search engine you will be confronted with search results for both the car and animal alike. This sort of gray area which is currently presented will be greatly eliminated with the new policy. In addition there is also the fact that the policy itself is easier to understand. Merging 70 policies into one single policy consisting of only 2,046 words leaves less room for misinterpretation. There are those that will be happy to agree to one single policy and then be free to use Google freely without the need to agree to a multitude of various policies for each and every service.
Disadvantages of unified policy:
If you like many others have been using Google’s services for the past few years and are uncomfortable with the convergence of the policies which you feel will violate your privacy then short of closing your account you cannot opt out of the new changes. For those of you ‘lucky’ enough to own an Android phone that makes it compulsory to create a Google account in order to function you will see your private data not only shared across of the Google services but also through the hardware platforms (phones, laptops, computers and tablets). This is quite a scary thought considering the nature of data that these devices will now collectively assemble including your contact books and your email through Gmail.
Personally I feel this is not as big a deal as people are making it out to be. Yes I do agree with those of you out there that say it should be ultimately up to the user to choose which of these services allow access to the aggregated data, but if you are really not happy with the new changes then you have the choice to delete your account and stop using these services…and let’s face it they are free after all and you are not being made to use them.
Over the last few months we have seen parallel situations among companies including TomTom, which has set up a partnership with Motaquote to track our driving in exchange for lower insurance premiums. There is also Amazons latest browser named Silk which collects your web history in exchange for potentially enhanced loading times. Think about the amount of personal data that is already given away so freely by users online on a daily basis using social media sites and signing up to new websites using their email and personal contact information. This trend is likely to continue for the foreseeable future and while the majority of you may not agree with the direction it is currently taking you have to ask yourself is it really all that bad?