Google Announces Privacy Changes Across Products; USERS CAN'T OPT OUT
Google privacy director Alma Whitten, who explained the changes in a company blog post released in the afternoon, said the company will “treat you as a single user across all our products, which will mean a simpler, more intuitive Google experience.”
What is Google doing?: In a nutshell, Google is taking information from almost all of your Google services — including Gmail, Picasa, YouTube and search — and integrating the data so that they can learn more about you. (Information from Google Books, Google Wallet and Google Chrome will not be integrated, partly for legal reasons.)
Can they do that?: Not under the company’s current privacy policies, but Google is introducing a new, unified policy that you can’t opt-out of.
Why is Google doing this?: Google says it will be able to do a lot more “cool things” when it combines information across products. There’s “so much more that Google can do to help you” if you share your information with them.
Give me an example.: From Whitten’s blog post: Google will be able to “provide reminders that you’re going to be late for a meeting based on your location, your calendar and an understanding of what traffic is like that day.”
Interesting. Tell me more:Also from Whitten: Google will be able to “ensure that our spelling suggestions, even for your friends’ names, are accurate because you’ve typed them before.”
When do the changes take effect?:March 1.
Can I opt-out?: No.
So what do I do if I don’t like the policy?: You can close your account. Google has provided information on how to take all of your personal information off of Google by closing your Google Account, which would erase your Gmail, Google+ and other accounts.
But I have a lot of data saved on Gmail/Picasa/etc...: Google says it is committed to “data liberation” and that it will allow you to take your information elsewhere if you want to. The company said it would provide directions on how to do this in the help sections for its various services.
I don’t have a Google Account, but use Google search. Am I affected?: No. The new policy only applies to people who have a Google Account linked to services such as Gmail, Picasa or YouTube and are signed in.
What if I have account but am not signed in?: Google can only integrate your information if you are signed in. For example, if you’re signed in to your Gmail account on one tab, and then decide to look up a clip on YouTube on another tab without signing out of your e-mail, the data will be integrated. If you sign out or look up a YouTube clip on a different browser, the data won’t be integrated.
I have an Android phone. How does this affect me?: Because you have to sign in to your Google account to do anything except for browse the Web and make phone calls, Google will be able to track practically anything you do on your phone.
What do privacy advocates have to say about the new policy?: Check back in with us a little later and we’ll let you know.