New Google Privacy Policy

Google has announced that it’s changing its privacy policy as of March 1st, and folks are going to have to go with it or opt out of Google altogether (that’s how one of my colleagues is responding).

According to Google, their plan is all good, and it is what regulators want.  (I’m not sure that just because internet regulators want something that it is good, but what do I know?)

Personally, I think it sounds kind of creepy.  For example, the post on the official Google blog says:

What does this mean in practice? The main change is for users with Google Accounts. 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.

Intuitive is good, right?  But wait, there’s more:

Our recently launched personal search feature is a good example of the cool things Google can do when we combine information across products. Our search box now gives you great answers not just from the web, but your personal stuff too. So if I search for restaurants in Munich, I might see Google+ posts or photos that people have shared with me, or that are in my albums. Today we can also do things like make it easy for you to read a memo from Google Docs right in your Gmail, or add someone from your Gmail contacts to a meeting in Google Calendar. (emphasis mine)

This sounds like the guys at Google want to play cyberpunk.

They admit that they are going to be creeping into our personal spaces like some ubiquitous internet spy, but they promise that they are still the good guys:

…what we’re not changing. We remain committed to data liberation, so if you want to take your information elsewhere you can. We don’t sell your personal information, nor do we share it externally without your permission except in very limited circumstances like a valid court order. We try hard to be transparent about the information we collect, and to give you meaningful choices about how it is used—for example our Ads Preferences Manager enables you to edit the interest categories we advertise against or turn off certain Google ads altogether. And we continue to design privacy controls, like Google+’s circles, into our products from the ground up.

The last sentence of this post is the most important.  I encourage everyone to read it, think about it and share it.

Whether you’re a new Google user or an old hand, please do take the time to read our new privacy policy and terms, learn more about the changes we’re making and understand the controls we offer.

…and may the force be with you.

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