Google's new privacy policy may make them evil

Today, Google announced on their Official Blog that they have redesigned their privacy policies for their services (numbering well over 70), and are looking to unify the bulk of them under one privacy policy. It's actually great news. Under the newly announced policy, Google services can share information gathered about you with other Google services.

The policy is generally innocent, but there's a specific paragraph that could be used for good, or not so good purposes:

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.

The great

Under the new policy, data you have anywhere stored on your Google Account will still appear under Dashboard, but any of the services in the Google world can interact with this data without notifying you.

For example, when you look up a location on Google Maps and are signed into your Google Account, when you later go to YouTube you could be shown relevant videos to the location you searched on the homepage. Google gives the example that they could give you a meeting reminder on Google Calendar due to your Google Latitude location, or the company can offer spelling suggestions in search based on your contacts usernames.

All of these are useful things, and will enhance Google's services over time. Google isn't unifying some products, though, with Wallet, Books, Chrome and Chrome OS having their own seperate policies still. Simply put, the new policy makes understanding the privacy rules very simple. They've even been cut right down and can be read through in less than 15 minutes now.

The not so great

Despite this, we need to look at what Google's really doing here but not saying. We've seen the company pushing integration across services lately, such as the desperate push of Google+ search results in the companys redesigned search pages. What does it mean we'll see the company attempting to share in the future?

Google already has the rights to read your email for advertising in Gmail, but the new privacy rules mean that it can extend this information past the walled garden of your inbox. Technically, if you were talking about getting married with your friends in an email, Google could show you videos on YouTube that are related to weddings next time you visit, and sponsored stories on Google.com could be wedding related too. This could get you in trouble, especially if your fiance-to-be didn't know yet.

That's an extreme example, but with Google's wide variety of services, they can now share data between sites about where you were today, what you purchased, who you talked to, what you watched, what you searched and who you were with. It definitely seems like the company wants to know everything.

It particularly comes into question with Android, where the privacy policy is also being merged under the umbrella. Android can constantly record your location and associated data, and now many Google services may have unfettered access to this, without being required to tell you if they're doing so. 

"You went to the sex shop this morning in town? Great! Maybe you'll like these related toys?" could become a reality. The privacy policy doesn't state that Google will need to notify you or ask for your permission to use any data they gather on their services now. Nor does it say if they'll provide an opt-out.

The enterprise

These changes give new levels of information access to system administrators, too. They will now have access to any service you access and that data belongs to them. Where you travel with your work Android device could now have job implications. What you view at home, while accidentally being logged into your Enterprise Google Apps account could mean you have an awkward conversation with your boss.

Unification is great, if you can disable it or are aware of it. The power should be in the users hands to link the data accounts together, or they should be aware of the implications of their actions. Organizations need to be able to break the link between search history and YouTube's reccomendations if they choose.

It's too early to say now if this is Google's plan, or even if the company is considering this, but the policy is so loosely worded it could be an option.

The reality of free

Sure, we can get all up in arms about this, and start grabbing our torches and pitchforks and storming the Google castle doors, but the choice is really down to the user in this situation. Will the privacy policy upset users? Probably. Will users leave? Probably not.

Users love free services, and many of us are willing to just hand over information without batting an eyelid if it means that it's free. The more technical minded among us may shout "Google is evil" and "abandon ship" but the average user really doesn't understand the implications of such a change (nor do they care), and will click the "I agree" option to just get to their inbox, or watch that YouTube video.

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38 Comments

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"The more technical minded among us may shout "Google is evil" and "abandon ship" but the average user really doesn't understand the implications of such a change (nor do they care)"

Quite patronising. Don't know if you intended this but it comes across as "any technically minded person knows Google are evil". This really isn't the case.

After reading the posts here, I see a lot of the same people who always post here who have this idiotic idea that no one has any right to privacy. Just incredibly stupid.

I hope one day this invasion of privacy comes back to bite you. And it probably will.

The comments saying nothing is for free, are ridiculous. Google makes money off of everyone using their services through the stupid ads on their webpages. They have no right to invade our privacy.

The ads on google.com are really starting to tick me off also. Notice how when you type a word in to search, you try to click the first search result found, and Google has it timed perfectly, so that an ad pops up right where the mouse cursor is soon as you go to click the button. So instead of clicking the link that was below the cursor, you end up clicking the ad. That should be illegal.

A simple answer is to only sign in to your account when you need to. You don't need to sign in to do general web searches, or general you tube searches.

I would bet the UK will not stand for this, and most likely will have a hefty fine for Google until they stop doing it.

I do have a gmail account, but this is getting ridiculous anymore. It used to be Microsoft, but now Google is the king of spyware. Its not that easy to just change to a different email provider either, if all your website logins are using gmail.

I for one welcome this.
I use Google's services as just that. If i log in to YouTube i expect it to already know information on me from Google+ etc.

Although this is all free, I still think you should be able to opt out, like you can opt out of your search history being saved in Google Search. (not that it matters, the data is probably still used by Google anyway).

For now I have the setting "Tell sites I don't want to be tracked" enabled in Firefox, and everything appears to still work fine enough.

Neobond said,
Although this is all free, I still think you should be able to opt out, like you can opt out of your search history being saved in Google Search. (not that it matters, the data is probably still used by Google anyway).

For now I have the setting "Tell sites I don't want to be tracked" enabled in Firefox, and everything appears to still work fine enough.

services like google, facebook and youtube are no longer safe to use

When I do a Google search, I see personal searches does by friends. I know I can hide what my friends searched for but how to I hide from others what I have searched for?

Brian Miller said,
When I do a Google search, I see personal searches does by friends. I know I can hide what my friends searched for but how to I hide from others what I have searched for?

How did you hide what they searched for?

I'm not scared. I have nothing to hide.

to be honest I think its the same as it always has been. They just reworked the design of the privicy settings. Nothing more nothing less.

People, Owen. time to gget out of your basements and get some fresh air.

CMG_90 said,
I'm not scared. I have nothing to hide.

to be honest I think its the same as it always has been. They just reworked the design of the privicy settings. Nothing more nothing less.

People, Owen. time to gget out of your basements and get some fresh air.

We can only dream, of being as brave as you. /s

But c'mon, privacy settings affect everyone. It may affect you in places you would not have expect. It's never really clear, that how it may affect us, as individuals.
Hence, the paranoia.

Cant wait for my google account's other services to be linked with google ads. Abuse my privacy + make money out of it.

Really not happy about this ****

Varemenos said,
Cant wait for my google account's other services to be linked with google ads. Abuse my privacy + make money out of it.

Really not happy about this ****

Then leave . . .

Varemenos said,
Cant wait for my google account's other services to be linked with google ads. Abuse my privacy + make money out of it.

Really not happy about this ****

Uhhhh, you didn't read how it works at all did you? Because that's not how it works. They're using information that they -already have- across their network to better tailor the ads that you're already getting to be more relevant to you. So for an end user nothing changes except the ads may become more relevant. How this is outrageous I have no idea.

i just read about this and im not happy at all. im an "avid" android user but if this goes through i may make the switch to the iphone or wp7. does anybody remember the carrierIQ debate not soo long ago?

Yes.. I remember that and carrierIQ is installed on iPhone as well. It's not Android problem at all.

Sure, it doesn't feel happy about reading. That's what the author intended to do. But, if you think other services like Microsoft or Facebook are any better, then you are probably wrong. At the end of the day, the only way that to keep privacy in internet is by not using internet at all.

Google isn't collecting any more information than before, they are simply spelling out what the likely were already doing. If you didn't know this, you do now, only thanks to their unified privacy policy.

I don't think people remember what "evil" is anymore. They spell it out in one place. If they REALLY wanted to be evil, they'd obscure their intentions across multiple policies with minimal info.

Google was already doing this stuff. Now they are telling you about it. Just remember that all of their services are free for a reason.

To be honest, I prefer my ads to be accurately targeted to my desires rather than showing random crap, so I don't really care about these privacy changes. If Google is using my data, personal or not, to improve their services then I'm for it, especially because I use their services frequently as part of my life

I am agreeing with this. I don't want random ads showing. And, that's probably why I have this ads-blindness. I want the one that is useful and the one I am looking. That way Ads will become more like an ads and less like a spam.

I am not worrying about the sex toys like Owen, btw.

Scorpus said,
To be honest, I prefer my ads to be accurately targeted to my desires rather than showing random crap, so I don't really care about these privacy changes. If Google is using my data, personal or not, to improve their services then I'm for it, especially because I use their services frequently as part of my life

Agreed, I hate intrusive ads that try to grab your attention to sell you something you don't want. A little text link on the side that says "Hey you like this, maybe you'll like THIS" is much more preferable.

I think the main issue, however, is that some Google might maliciously use this data they have on you for other purposes. Or rather, that they COULD do this, not that they will.

Kushan said,

Agreed, I hate intrusive ads that try to grab your attention to sell you something you don't want. A little text link on the side that says "Hey you like this, maybe you'll like THIS" is much more preferable.

I think the main issue, however, is that some Google might maliciously use this data they have on you for other purposes. Or rather, that they COULD do this, not that they will.


I personally dont mind ads, its been part of the internet for many years. but what does fear me is the amount of information Google has on individuals and the US government having the right to request any data on any person worldwide.

I don't think this will change the way I use google or gmail at all. Facebook have been doing similar things by displaying advertisements that link in with your google searches. Nothing on the internet is private anymore, people just need to realise and accept that.

This is the real business of Google people.
Are little consumer-end products, email, calender and youtube are all just advertising money makers.
The amount of people who don't understand this surprises me.

Wombatt said,
This is the real business of Google people.
Are little consumer-end products, email, calender and youtube are all just advertising money makers.
The amount of people who don't understand this surprises me.

The amount of people that don't understand that it's free and they can leave RIGHT NOW surprises me . . .

farmeunit said,

The amount of people that don't understand that it's free and they can leave RIGHT NOW surprises me . . .

Very true!
Although, once you have bitten I'm sure they still keep files on you!

Wombatt said,
This is the real business of Google people.
Are little consumer-end products, email, calender and youtube are all just advertising money makers.
The amount of people who don't understand this surprises me.

It must also be remembered that to Google, we are not the customer. We are the product being sold to their real customers, the advertisers who use their services.

If this was Microsoft, the Anti-Trust kids would be up in arms.. But because it's Google, "nahh, it's cool".

Xerax said,
If this was Microsoft, the Anti-Trust kids would be up in arms.. But because it's Google, "nahh, it's cool".

Quite the contrary. Lots of people are applying the same flawed and woefully uneducated thought to Google as they were to Microsoft back in the day.

Basically all Google is doing is making what they already do more efficient and it in no way results in harvesting more information from users. The only impact that it has on users of multiple google products is that the adverts are equally relevant across all services. Oddly however, even though all that information is clearly outlined, people will still scream their heads off about the imagined invasion of their privacy.

Xerax said,
If this was Microsoft, the Anti-Trust kids would be up in arms.. But because it's Google, "nahh, it's cool".

Wow.. Congrats man. Exactly my thought.

Xerax said,
If this was Microsoft, the Anti-Trust kids would be up in arms.. But because it's Google, "nahh, it's cool".

Google is now the king spyware. It used to be Microsoft, but not anymore, its not even close.