To summarize the new policy, Google may combine information that you’ve provided in one service with information provided in other Google services, thus treating you as a single user across all Google products. Because of this merge and de-compartmentalization of data, Google users are becoming less and less anonymous, and all your user data history will now be explicitly cross-referenced. Google says this step will create a more seamless “user experience.”
Google is strongly defending the new policy despite its recent spar with Microsoft and criticism from some members of Congress. Based on Google’s assertiveness, it seems like the policy will pummel through all the controversy and roll out without any changes, and Google account holders might just have to either face the music or switch to other services.
- The new policy gives users a more unified Google experience. (Conversely, there is no unified way to “turn it off.”)
Because Google applications will “know” you better, they can customize one Google account based on information from other accounts. For example, when you search for “cooking a great steak” on the Google search engine, you could find videos related to “cooking a great steak” when you sign onto YouTube.
Unfortunately, despite Google’s intentions of making a more “unified” user experience, there is no unified way to turn this feature off. One way to withhold this information from Google is to be logged off your account when using these applications, with the tradeoff that you cannot do functions that signed-in users can. Another (but more intensive) way is to go to each Google application and fiddle around with the history preferences. You can edit or turn off your search history, switch the Gmail chat window to “off the record,” or use Incognito mode on Chrome. Google provides a page that provides the privacy control tools available to users.
- Google Ads, which are already personalized for each user, will become even more personalized and unified.
Because the information that they collect from you is more unified, they are able to use this data to create a more three-dimensional user. Even though Google insists that a “vast majority of the product personalization is unrelated to ads” and more about making the services better, they do not deny that the new policy will enhance ad-customization. Think about Android users who use both Google Latitude and Google Wallet– Google can now know where you like to go and spend your money, and use that to boost ad-customization.
Fortunately, if you like, you can turn this feature off with two clicks of a button.
- Google does not share data information with third parties without your permission.
Yes, Google shares your data across all its accounts. And yes, they make a lot of money from advertisers because advertisers know that Google can target audiences pretty well. But Google does not give user information to any third party. We can all sleep soundly.
- Android Users will experience the most tradeoffs.
Android Mobile and Tablet users can still use their devices and withhold all data by staying signed off from their Google account on their device– they can make calls, browse the Web and use the pre-installed applications. But the tradeoff to doing so is that users will not be able to use their Gmail, chat functions, and download any application from the Android Market on their Android device– making their smartphone, well, not very smart.
So Android users can either sign in and utilize all the device can offer but know that Google would be collecting the information, OR they can sign off their account but limit the functionality of their device. They make the choice. Luckily, if Android users do choose to sign in on their devices, they can turn off the Google Latitude function and make themselves slightly more anonymous.
On the whole, Google is trying to be as upfront and as transparent as they can be about this change. They’ve created a blog just for their public policy and filled the news media with rebuttals in an effort to buffer the controversy.
My ultimate advice for users who want to know just how much information Google has on them is to log-on to Google Dashboard, an app that allows users to see all the data associated with their account and provides links to control their personal settings. Hopefully this will give you a better idea of, and more control over, your Google privacy in the World Wide Web.
Share your thoughts on this issue. Does this deter you from using Google products? How do you think this will affect the PR industry in paid media?