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Google ignores EU warning and implements privacy policy

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Despite warnings that the change may violate European laws over the use of data Google has today implemented its new cross-service privacy policy.

For the past month the online advertising powerhouse has been informing service users of the forthcoming change on their sites. In an email message sent to users of gmail they described the change as “getting rid of over 60 different privacy policies across Google and replacing them with one that’s a lot shorter and easier to read”.

The new worldwide policy also allows Google to share information the company has collected across its range of services from GMail to YouTube and Android phones. CNIL, the French equivalent of the Information Commissioner’s Office, has objected to the changes because it is “deeply concerned about the combination of personal data across services”. By continuing to use any of Google’s services from today surfers have given Google permission to use their data as outlined in the new policy. CNIL says the document is too complex to be understood even by “trained privacy professionals”.

In reality however despite email prompts and popups from Google the proportion of normal service users who read the entire 2,200 word document is likely to be very slim as is the case for all privacy policies and software licence agreements.

Whilst merging their privacy policies into a single document may well help both Google and users see exactly how data is used and check up on their compliance with data protection law, another real benefit to Google is that they can now use behavioural data collected in one product to effect another. An example alluded to by Google on their Privacy Policy site is that they would be better able to establish the intended meaning of a search query, so a user who watches Pink videos on YouTube is more likely to have results relating to the singer returned when they search on Google.co.uk. This should improve user experience and also enable Google to better target the advertising they display, increasing their revenue per user.

As a user of many Google services, who most certainly hadn’t read all their individual privacy policies, I assumed my data was already being used in this way. After all when I am logging into multiple services provided by the same company under a single account why shouldn’t they share information about my behaviour between these services.

I currently don’t pay a penny to use any Google services and although advertising on YouTube has become more intrusive recently, viewing increasingly relevant and therefore useful advertising in exchange for receiving a suite of free services is a fair swap in my opinion.

(google handcuffs image source: http://www.efytimes.com/admin/useradmin/photo/Google-Privacy-Policy-uppdate.jpg)

Discussion 1 comment

  • Keith Horwood

    I was trying to explain this to my Nan today. She had seen a scare story in the news and panicked! It was impressive that she knew about this though…

    March 1, 2012 at 7:58 pm

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