Google’s New Privacy Policy Changes – What They Mean For You

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The “Don’t Be Evil” search engine just made a major change to their privacy policy, representing one of the largest changes they’ve made in the history of their company. Previously, each individual service had its own privacy policy detailing exactly what the company could and couldn’t do with your information. This was smart – people who use Gmail are entitled to a lot more privacy than people who use Google+ because of the nature of the services. The Privacy Policy changes that Google has made essentially put all of the services’ various privacy policies in a blender, making one privacy policy to rule them all, one privacy policy to bind them. Now, the privacy policy for Gmail is the same as for Google+, Google Docs, YouTube, and every other Google service.

What’s the problem, you ask? At a time when Facebook is making privacy more controllable and specifically outlining their privacy policy, Google is taking a blanket approach to their privacy policy. In an increasingly privacy-conscious society, this is going to have severe repercussions from privacy advocates, and that outrage will filter down to ordinary users. This change illustrates Google’s interest in “simplifying” their privacy policy, which essentially means getting away with a lot more than they used to.

A lot of individuals believe that the main crux of this privacy policy relied on Google’s newfound ability to share your data across different services, but I would argue that they are already doing this to some extent. The videos you watch on YouTube may not directly influence the advertisements you see in Gmail, but both affect the advertisements you see in Google Search. It does seem that the level of sharing has been increased. For instance, if you were to search “Zooey Deschanel” in Google, the next time you go to YouTube, you might be recommended a few clips of Zooey on Letterman or from her video blog. Previously, this was blocked by Google’s privacy policy, but no longer.

The real issue will become salient if ever Google updates their privacy policy on the data it shares with a third-party individual, which it could do at any moment. Among the collection of Google services, several of them know your real name, your real address, and they can create a pretty valid profile of the things you like to see and share. If Google ever packaged this data outright and sold it to advertisers, it could mean a huge profit windfall for them and a huge privacy loss for all of its users.