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Google Consolidates Privacy Policies Across Services 239

parallel_prankster writes "The Washington Post reported Tuesday that Google will require users to allow the company to follow their activities across e-mail, search, YouTube, and other services; a radical shift in strategy that is expected to invite greater scrutiny of its privacy and competitive practices. The information will enable Google to develop a fuller picture of how people use its growing empire of Web sites. Consumers will have no choice but to accept the changes. The policy will take effect March 1 and will also impact Android mobile phone users. 'If you're signed in, we may combine information you've provided from one service with information from other services,' Alma Whitten, Google's director of privacy, product, and engineering, wrote in a blog post." The angle of the Washington Post article is a bit negative; Google sees this as consolidating an absurd number of privacy policies for its various services into a single, unified document. Reader McGruber adds: "Donald E. Graham, the Washington Post's chairman and CEO, joined Facebook's Board of Directors in January 2009. Curiously, the Washington Post article neglects to disclose that."
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Google Consolidates Privacy Policies Across Services

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  • Of course the article is a tad negative, Google's new unprivacy policy sucks. Facebook sucks too, doesn't matter who's president of which corp.

    But I will be nice and point out that this happened at the same time FB's Blakeboy blasted Google [] for being evil.
    • by mr1911 ( 1942298 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @10:51AM (#38818003)
      People need to wake up and realize there is no "free" service. Google provides things that cost them substantial dollars to create and maintain but users do not directly pay for. Your information is what you trade for Google's services. No one is forced or coerced into using Google's services. There are alternatives out there that you can pay for and expect lock your privacy down.

      It is no different than anything else. There is a restaurant in town I will not go to because their service is pitiful. I refuse to support their model with my dollars. If you don't like Google's practices, you are free to take your private information to another email/search/whatever provider.

      Of course most of this is wasted thought, because many of those complaining about Google violating their privacy just updated their location from their phone, posted what they had for breakfast on Facebook, and tweeted details of their morning bowel movement.
      • by Whalou ( 721698 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @10:55AM (#38818035)

        Of course most of this is wasted thought, because many of those complaining about Google violating their privacy just updated their location from their phone, posted what they had for breakfast on Facebook, and tweeted details of their morning bowel movement.

        You must be one of my followers.

      • by wooferhound ( 546132 ) <tim.wooferhound@com> on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @11:08AM (#38818135) Homepage
        You could always Opt-Out
        • by ralphdaugherty ( 225648 ) <> on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @11:34AM (#38818455) Homepage

          I already opt out of everything new they've been doing as possible. However they appear to be determined to alter what I see based on my actions, "helping" me.

          It's already marginal as to what I'm able to opt out of, and it's rapidly getting worse. Their vision of internet utopia doesn't match mine.

          • Facebook, and increasingly Google, ARE personal information vendors. Compiling your personal information and selling it to advertisers, or the promise that they will be able to do this in the future, are the basis for their market cap.

            • by SuperQ ( 431 ) *

              Sweet! Where on Google can I buy (your) personal information?

              • by paanta ( 640245 ) on Thursday January 26, 2012 @09:42AM (#38827699) Homepage
                To me, it's not what they sell now, but what they might be willing to sell in the future. This data persists a long time.

                You can already buy consumer data analytics systems with fancy GIS based interfaces that allow you to click on an individual house and pull up hundreds of records. What type of movies they watch, how old they are, what prescription drugs they do (or might) take, who employs them, what types of purchase they make, psychographic profiles, etc. They pull from hundreds of public and private data sources, then consolidate and geocode *everything*. Bob Jones likes to buy hydroponics supplies and glass pipes, laxatives and My Little Ponies. Sally Fields apparently collects Chia Pets. I suppose it's fine when just advertisers and marketers are using this stuff, but it gets real creepy when it moves beyond that.

                I'm fine with customized ads from Google, but I want it de-identified and siloed as much as possible and not linked across services. Not being a lawyer, I dunno how privacy policies and EULAs translate in this circumstance, but it's easy for me to imagine a hypothetical bankruptcy fire sale of Google assets in which their data was made available to these consumer data warehouses.

                The applications for this stuff are in their infancy, but it's very easy to imagine a scary future. Do I really want my state child protective services cross referencing households with children with households of, I dunno, atheists? Or the DEA looking up all the aforementioned buyers of grow lights? Or my city cross referencing the purchases of plumbing supplies with people who pulled permits to try to find building code violators? Or some loony group like Westboro Baptist Church publishing some kind of index of the best people to target for harassment or worse? Or employers building enormous psychological profiles of all their employees to try to weed out the subversive types?

            • big difference (Score:5, Insightful)

              by TheMeuge ( 645043 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @01:02PM (#38819479)

              You're not correct. And THAT is where the big difference between Google and Facebook lies. Google sells eyes, but the fact of the matter is that they are anonymous eyes, but sold as eyes belonging to people most likely to purchase the product being marketed. However, until you click on that link, all the company knows is that they've been matched to you by the black box of Google magic.

              Facebook, on the other hand, shares information with "partners". They are BY DEFINITION a personal info vendor.

              Google sells ads, and tailors them to the vendor. Facebook sells your data to the vendor directly. BIG difference in privacy implications.

              • Re:big difference (Score:4, Interesting)

                by tripleevenfall ( 1990004 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @01:46PM (#38819975)

                Every sentence in this should be prefaced with "Today". Today that's true, but they are clearly trying to take over the market Facebook has monopolized, and the information is no good without selling it.

                I know Google is beloved by groupthink here, but if people think they wouldn't love to do what Facebook is doing, you're fooling yourselves.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Just treat their services as separate companies. Use different e-mail addresses to register Google+, YouTube, Gmail, whatever else you use. Use that one thing and then close your browser (with 'delete cookies when closing' checked).

            I'm pretty sure they wouldn't use the IP address to identify you, especially with so many people accessing behind work NAT. With dial-up going away, people are holding on to an IP longer, but it's not guaranteed.

            I actually have 2 youtube accounts. One is the one where I watch

        • At least I can use fake names. They've created a really nice email/youtube/google profile of a guy named Hick Dead (until either Google or Congress outlaws that practice)

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Didn't you ever think they are not bothered if they know your real name or not, the adverts they target at Hick Dead are just as relevant to you anyway, assuming that what you view on utube, google or have in your inbox reflect your views and purchasing decisions

      • I don't disagree with the sentiment of your post, but it's more like if your restaurant with pitiful service was the biggest restaurant in town and no other restaurants could ever hope to get a foothold in your town. Every now and again we hear some small guy trying to create a new search engine and then we never hear from them again. Today, unless you are a major corporation with deep pockets, the chances of breaking into the web search business is nearly zero. The other services they provide maybe somewha

        • Okay, so now I'm glad that I kept my email with Yahoo.

          At least it makes it a *little* harder to do the "total profile" if it's cross competitors. Of course I might have to worry about Microsoft pulling this stunt, but that's at least next month's problem, not today's.

          So okay:
          Yahoo Mail, Startpage (Proxied-Or-Something Google search), Youtube. So I can keep the divisions of duties separate.

          If I want "Google's nice targetted ads" I'll think about a "Honeypot" account.

        • Your chance of breaking into the web search business is hardly zero. You can create a crawler, provide a web interface and allow people to search your indexes for as much as you'd like to charge (hopefully you include hosting fees and data warehousing in those figures...) If you want to charge $0 for it, the only barrier to you getting in the search business isn't Google. It's finding funds to power your servers. Google isn't preventing you from doing any of that. Heck, I can go home right now and "bre

          • And absolutely nobody will use it. Which is hardly "breaking in".
            • So, if I open a restaurant down the street and nobody visits my new restaurant it's McDonalds fault because they are the biggest restaurant chain in the world and somehow (simply because of their size?) they are preventing people from visiting your door?

        • Leaving aside established players (Yahoo), and companies with enough clout to get things done (Microsoft) there's at least Baidu(sp?) and Yandex might differ in opinion on the viability of creating search engines and making them popular.

          And, to be quite honest with you, making a crawler and building a search engine around it doesn't take a lot of money if you're not likely to see a lot of traffic, so it is something someone can experiment with, expecting only to see a few thousand users a month. Hell, if

      • The difference is that Restaurants don't (normally!) log you as a customer, match your name on an email lookup, then email you to come back or something.

        The problem with all of this is that email is "private info type 1" to coin a phrase, aka communication you sent to specific people and *no one else*. Youtube is "private info type 2" which is that you secretly relieve stress by watching Chad Vader episodes on YouTube (to pick a harmless example.) I WANT a little separation between those two activities!


        • Of course they log you as a customer... have you ever used your credit card number to buy food? You got logged in their accounts receivable. It may not be your email address, but they can get in contact with you via that number. It may be a layer of abstraction, but technically so is a SPAM filter.

        • >>>It's the world's greatest Blackmail Engine.

          Also government spy resource and censorship: âoeUS government authorities called for the removal of 113 videos from YouTube, including several documenting alleged police brutality which Google refused to take down..... The reason listed for the removal of one You Tube video in one instance is âoegovernment criticismâ. The exact identity or content of the video is not divulged. The report states that the removal requests pertaining to

      • by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968 AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @11:35AM (#38818473) Journal

        Yes but will you now admit that "do no evil" is no different and just as much bullshit as "think different" or "What do you want to do today?" (had to go look that last one up, wow MSFT sucks at catch phrases don't they?) because all three are NOTHING but marketing BS. If Google could make an extra 15% by throwing a random Google user into a pit of horny gorillas i have no doubt we'd be seeing gorilla loving on YouTube before the day was out. it doesn't matter HOW a company starts out once they get to a certain level there is simply too large and powerful an org there to be controlled by some silly catch phrase, no different than how Apple is nothing like that garage that Woz and Jobs hand built the first boards in.

        What scares me isn't this so much as i expected this would be coming, but the quite disturbing 'treat corporations like ballclubs' complete with cheering and booing. These companies aren't FOR you, hell the ballclubs aren't FOR you as khan let slip with his "I only care about season ticket holders" gaffe, so cheering and booing these corps is not only stupid but more than a little dangerous because it gives these corps more power. If congress started investigating Google how many letters do you think would be wrote telling them to /slips blanket over head/ "Leave poor Google alone" do you think? Tens of thousands? Hundreds of thousands? as the economies of the world continue to sour these corps are gonna get nastier folks, once they are used to making X profits they simply aren't gonna settle for X-Y which is why we got the *.A.As pushing SOPA/PIPA because god forbid they don't meet the quarterly earnings reports, so please, judge companies by their douchebag behavior, not some marketing slogan.

        • >>>"quite disturbing 'treat corporations like ballclubs' complete with cheering and booing"

          This is nothing new. In technology it goes all the way back to the Atari versus Commodore versus IBMPC versus Apple battles. Nintendo versus Sega. Or even earlier: Atari versus Intellivision. Or among rednecks: Ford vs. Dodge. Battling over corporations is a favorite passtime.

          "Do no evil"

          doesn't work because most evil is performed by people who think they are doing good. Google execs probably thinks the

        • One of the best posts I've seen in months.

      • by Sancho ( 17056 ) *

        Of course, they'll still get a huge amount of information on you from your friends which use Google, and from any presence you have on the web at all. I eventually decided that the information they could get from my e-mail was minor compared to the benefits of Gmail. This is particularly true since they already got most of my e-mails since my friends used Google.

    • by ralphdaugherty ( 225648 ) <> on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @10:54AM (#38818031) Homepage

      I have to be signed in to be able to disable as much of the personalization crap as possible to have some semblance of the Google that I used to love. Also to subscribe in Youtube and view 18+ videos.

      What I don't want is them changing anything I enter or changing what I see based on anything about me. But they are bound and determined to do exactly that.

      I don't want to be helped. Show me ads relevant to content, but leave me out of it.

      • What I don't want is them changing anything I enter or changing what I see based on anything about me. But they are bound and determined to do exactly that.

        That's my biggest problem with Google search, The words that I type to search are not the words that are used to produce the results. There used to be a link on Google Search that would provide results to your literal input, but I can't find that link anymore. What is the point of doing a search for me if you don't use the input that I provide?

        • Try DuckDuckGo. Yes, it's not Google in so many ways. And their selling point is "We don't track or bubble (filter based on past history) you."
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Google's new unprivacy policy sucks.

      In what way? I'm not saying it doesn't; I have no idea what the issues are or are claimed to be. Just saying that there's one policy now instead of many before doesn't seem to be a problem - in fact it increases the chance that a user can take the time to understand the policy that applies. Does it allow disclosure of data that wasn't permitted before? Or use by staff who wouldn't have had access before? What are the actual changes in policy language that achieve this?

      • by migla ( 1099771 )

        RTFS! I skimmed through the summary and I'm under the impression that they would be intergrating their knowledge about you from their different services better.

        Better for them, to better be able to manipulate you more efficiently.

        They're like Hari Seldon, but more about the individual and (probably) more about making you do stuff they'd like you to do (such as purchasing more of one product or another) than about figuring out where we're all headed. And they're in it to exploit you, unlike Hari Seldon. They

    • by squiggleslash ( 241428 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @11:10AM (#38818157) Homepage Journal

      Alright: the article says two things:

      1. Google is creating a single, simple, privacy policy (GOOD!)
      2. The policy includes provisions that allow Google to share data with Google - that is, if you go to, and then go to, Google will use the information that you put on both sites, consolidate it, and use it to select what ads to show you. (OH NOES! BAAAD!)

      Now, the billion dollar question: the second point is a surprise to me and probably 99% of the people here. Why? Because I pretty much thought Google already did that. I mean, why wouldn't they? When I'm on GMail and Google Maps and Google Plus I have a big bar on the top of the screen reminding me I'm logged into the Google.

      Is it evil? Well, depends really on what they do with that information. If they make an agreement with Blue Cross Blue Shield that anyone searching for the words "Cancer symptoms" will automatically have their name, address, and social security number sent to, then yeah. If, on the other hand, they use it so that serves an ad for "Underworld" because you watched all the vampire shows on Youtube, received email from someone called "", and did a Google images search for "women in black latex catsuits", then so what?

      And there's the rub. We pretty much know what Google does with this information. It's using it to select ads for us to see. I can see how collecting data enables Google to do evil, but I don't think collecting data requires Google do evil. Google can keep the information private, and use it to provide a service that's useful for advertisers and, to some extent, advertisees alike. That's not evil. And to the best of my knowledge (that is, nobody's reported evidence of the contrary) that's what Google does.

      I really don't see this as being anything other than another fake controversy covering a company that's made a lot of enemies lately.

      • They also force new users to open Youtube and Google+ social accounts they don't want. (And then post your activities from Youtube/Google+ to stranger's search results of your name.)

        • by squiggleslash ( 241428 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @12:35PM (#38819195) Homepage Journal

          That's not actually true. There's a box you can uncheck on the initial signup page that allows you to opt out of creating a profile, and, further, even if you create one, you can immediately delete it.

          But yes, Slashdot did report, falsely, that very allegation earlier today, and it rather emphasizes my point: a lot of bogus negative stories about a company that's made a lot of enemies lately.

          Can we limit criticizing Google to things it actually does, for example, it's awful search engine?

      • by gsslay ( 807818 )

        The problem with the argument that Google isn't doing evil with this data, "it's just advertising, what's the problem?", is that you are placing an awful lot of trust in an organisation that has little invested in keeping you happy. When the day comes (as it may) that Google uses your information in a way that you don't like, it will be too late. The data will be out of the bottle. You can leave any time you like, but you can't take it with you.

        This is why anyone with any sense maintains multiple Google

    • by AJH16 ( 940784 )

      I didn't even realize that they weren't already doing this. Honestly, it seems silly to me to not have the same privacy policy across the sites they own and to share data between services. It works out better for them and better for me. As long as they aren't sharing that picture with people I haven't given the data to, I really could care less if they use the data I've given them to make services better for me and more profitable for them. (The two are, after all, generally synonymous when dealing with

  • Great idea (Score:4, Insightful)

    by onyxruby ( 118189 ) <<ten.tsacmoc> <ta> <yburxyno>> on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @10:33AM (#38817881)

    I think this is a great idea for both users and the company. Users have only a single place that they have to go to for their privacy concerns. Likewise for the company they only have to have corporate counsel review one privacy policy instead of several. The company saves money and the consumer saves hassle.

    Note that I'm only talking about the idea of consolidating the privacy policies themselves. I am not talking about the merit of whether or not the privacy policy is a good one or not.

    • Re:Great idea (Score:5, Insightful)

      by fast turtle ( 1118037 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @10:45AM (#38817965) Journal

      The explanation as given makes an awful lot of sense. Simply put, as they've purchased many of the products they're offering, they've had mulitple privacy statements. All that is happening now is that they're finally consolidating those items into "Google" tm itself, thus they can finally simplify and consolidate many of the privacy statements into a single version, which in my mind is a "Good Thing" as I'll be able to follow any changes to those services I use on a daily basis.

      One thing I've always figured is that Google was using any and all of the information they have collected on me to target their ads to me so this actually pleases me because I don't have to look all over the place for each services privacy statement to know what they actually collect and how they use it. It is important to note that as they've said, some products/services have regulatory compliance issues, thus they will retain individual privacy statements in order to comply with those regulations.

    • Re:Great idea (Score:4, Insightful)

      by wjousts ( 1529427 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @11:11AM (#38818177)
      I don't think a single privacy policy is the problem. Clearly that'll be a good thing. I think what people are objecting to is that the policy in question will mix your data from each of those Google services together which (somewhat surprisingly) they don't currently do. So now your search history will be linked to your e-mail and to your YouTube viewing. [Some] people are uncomfortable with that.
  • Hmm (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anrego ( 830717 ) * on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @10:36AM (#38817905)

    I actually assumed they already did this (used your email to determine what ads you saw on search and such).

    Either way, personally it doesn’t bug me too much. If they were selling the information it might.. but as long as they keep it in house and it’s all being processed by automated algorithms I’ve got no qualms.

    That’s not to say I don’t recognize other people might have issues with this, and I definitely don’t subscribe to the whole “if you have nothing to hide” nonsense. This is just my personal view. Some people want privacy and they don’t (nor should they) need a reason.

    • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

      I thought they did that regardless of you being signed in or not.. maybe that's the way they used to do it? with cookies, but perhaps that would have soon been illegal in some locales, whereas using your signed in information is not?

      the question again is does the tracking end when you log out.

      • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Informative)

        by swillden ( 191260 ) <> on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @11:06AM (#38818119) Homepage Journal

        I thought they did that regardless of you being signed in or not.. maybe that's the way they used to do it? with cookies, but perhaps that would have soon been illegal in some locales, whereas using your signed in information is not?

        the question again is does the tracking end when you log out.

        The privacy policy is pretty clear, I think. Yes they use cookies to track you even when you're not signed in, and they try to connect that with you when you do sign in. If you want to ensure Google never tracks you, you can opt out using their privacy tools. That will install a "do not track" cookie which will cause Google to discard all of that data, except where they aggregate it into statistics that are in no way connectable to you. Unfortunately, various actions can cause that "do not track" cookie to be lost, so if you want to be really sure install Google's "keep my opt outs" extension, which will ensure the cookie is always present.

      • Re:Hmm (Score:4, Informative)

        by wooferhound ( 546132 ) <tim.wooferhound@com> on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @11:21AM (#38818275) Homepage

        the question again is does the tracking end when you log out.

        Yes, Google tracks you all over the place
        But you can Opt-Out

        • by PhxBlue ( 562201 )
          Why is it not opt-in? And why are we seemingly giving Google a pass for something that's opt-out when we'd hold any other company's balls in the fire for it?
  • The amazing thing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AdrianKemp ( 1988748 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @10:38AM (#38817927)

    is that people are surprised or even upset about this.

    Google is an ad company, nothing more. Of course they're going to grub for every last iota of personal information they can -- it's what they do.

    • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

      Why shouldn't they be. In some countries, you know, outside of the US. Cross-product tracking is still...illegal, and requires written or verbal permission before a change like this can happen.

      • Why shouldn't they be?:

        legally (current terms of service, not the new one):

        By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit...

        Google makes no effort to hide the fact that they use your information to sell ads, anyone who finds it objectionable that they continue to do so was a fool to sign up in the first place. They've done nothing wrong by finding further use for the data that you have already willingly given to them (with the full knowledge that they are using to that end).

        Google is providing a service that has some worth tied to it (

        • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

          That's nice. But legally since google operates in Canada, and Germany. They're still bound by the privacy laws of both countries, and in turn the EU privacy laws. In Canada, modifying the privacy terms requires that they contact you directly not by 'notification' by directly via your contact information which is provided. Otherwise the changes are considered null and void. Further, specific individual tracking across sites has further stipulations which have to be agreed to which the user may be allowe

          • As a Canadian I'm interested in what law school you attended. You seem to have concrete answers to issues that are still played out in courts here; whatever school it was clearly either has a time machine or needs to play the lottery more.

  • Consumers will have no choice but to accept the changes.

    ... Or use a competitor... Or sign out before searching... etc...

    Sheesh. You and other sheeple will have no choice, but the rest of us will be just fine.

    • by Tim C ( 15259 )
      Sure I have a choice - I can buy myself out of my mobile phone contract and pay the early termination fees (which is the monthly tariff times the number of months left on the contract, several hundred pounds) and get a non-Android based phone, or I can put up with it.

      Not much of a choice if you ask me.
      • Why do you need to do that? I have an Android phone, and the only thing connected to Google on it that I use is the Market (and there are ones like the Amazon Market that I could use instead, so even that's optional). Everything else was pretty easy to replace.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @10:57AM (#38818055)

    In a shock revelation this morning, journalists from McGruber "but I haven't told you where my interests lie" Inc. have uncovered credible information that doctors - professionals who spend much of their time administering advice, medication and surgery to sick people - also make money from providing these services. A spokesperson for doctors has been consulted to ask her why it is that all sentences uttered by doctors do not include a clear and explicit statement of this obvious conflict of interest.

    Professor of Internet Argument Steve Meretzky at the University of Life states, "We have no idea why doctors have gone so long without admitting this. It opens them up to immediate defeat by ad hominem and a warm, smug glow on the face of the other party." The Professor then suggested that the warm, smug glow could be reinterpreted by doctors as a sign of illness and used to sell patients more unnecessary healthcare.

    Rep. Simon Schama (DR., Washingwa), promises to next week propose a bill requiring all doctors to explain to their patients how jobs work. "You can trust me," he explains, "because made a campaign promise during the last election that I would only accept campaign contributions from the media industry, but not the medical industry."

    We look forward to updating readers on progress in the legislature.

  • by swillden ( 191260 ) <> on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @10:59AM (#38818065) Homepage Journal

    This isn't a change in Google's policy, or practice. Google has long collected information about all of its users, and used that information for targeted advertising. Those of us who think about things realized long ago that Google has tremendous visibility into our on-line activities and is smart enough to be able to extract a lot of information about us. All that's happening here is that Google is making this fact more visible to users by condensing dozens of long privacy policy documents written in legalese into one short, understandable document. According to their blog entry, Google is also going to be doing a lot of advertising to make sure that everyone is aware of the policy document.

    In the short term, I think Google is going to suffer from a lot of backlash from users who are frightened by the explanation of what Google collects about them, but I think this is a really positive move by Google and I hope it spurs other on-line service providers to follow suit. If you're going to collect and use personal information about people, telling them what you're collecting and how you're using it, and doing so in a way that is easy to understand is the right thing to do. Spending money on a media blitz to make sure that everyone knows how you're watching them is going above and beyond.

    Google's policy document also contains a link to Google's privacy tools, which make it easy for users to see what Google is tracking about them and to opt out if they don't want to be tracked. It's potentially risky for Google to advertise that to large numbers of people, but again it's the right thing to do. Google's theory is that when given the ability to make an informed choice, people will see enough value in the search personalization and even targeted advertising that they'll be okay with it.

    I guess the truly selfless thing to do would be to make all of Google's tracking opt-in, rather than opt-out, but that's probably too much to hope for -- and it may even be that the world is better off this way, because if Google is right about the value of mass personalization we'd probably never know because hardly anyone will opt in. This way, it's possible that large numbers of people will opt out, but not the majority. In any case, making it all opt in would almost certainly be very damaging to Google's business. The current approach is significantly less risky, but still enables people to limit their privacy exposure if they wish.

    [Disclaimer: I'm a Google engineer. I work on the security of systems that process payments to/from Google, though, not on anything related to personal information tracking or privacy (other than I do work really hard to make sure users' payment instruments are well-protected, even from me). These opinions are my own, and based on Google's public statements not on inside information.]

    • by swillden ( 191260 ) <> on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @11:15AM (#38818213) Homepage Journal

      Oh, I was also going to mention that only two points in the policy document surprised me, and both in a good way.

      The first is that Google does not aggregate DoubleClick tracking data with all of the rest, unless you specifically opt-in to that tracking. Personally, I think Google's personalization is useful enough to me that I will probably track down that opt-in setting and turn it on, but I'm surprised that it's not on by default.

      The second thing is that while I'd always believed that Google kept all of the data in-house, and didn't sell any of it, I hadn't ever seen a commitment in writing to that effect. After starting work for Google early last year I quickly realized that the company would have to change dramatically before they'd ever sell user information, because there's a strong sentiment -- arrogance probably isn't too strong a word -- that no one else would use it as effectively as Google, so selling it would be a waste. There's also a strong sentiment that no one else would be as responsible with it.

      Anyway, it's nice to see Google commit to not selling user data. I'd like to see a similar commitment from Facebook.

      • Selling,'s just a matter of money and semantics.

        Information sharing

        Google only shares personal information with other companies or individuals outside of Google in the following limited circumstances:

        We have your consent. We require opt-in consent for the sharing of any sensitive personal information.

        We provide such information to our subsidiaries, affiliated companies or other trusted businesses or persons for the purpose of processing personal information on our behalf. We require that these parties agree to process such information based on our instructions and in compliance with this Privacy Policy and any other appropriate confidentiality and security measures.

        We have a good faith belief that access, use, preservation or disclosure of such information is reasonably necessary to (a) satisfy any applicable law, regulation, legal process or enforceable governmental request, (b) enforce applicable Terms of Service, including investigation of potential violations thereof, (c) detect, prevent, or otherwise address fraud, security or technical issues, or (d) protect against harm to the rights, property or safety of Google

        Make sure you read anything before clicking Yes.

        • Selling,'s just a matter of money and semantics.

          It's far more than semantics... and money changes hands either way. The difference is that Google holds the subsidiaries, affiliates, etc., to Google's privacy policy. So Google continues to take responsibility for the way the data is used.

    • Spending money on a media blitz to make sure that everyone knows how you're watching them is going above and beyond.

      Hmmm, now I'm suspicious... wait a minute...

      [Disclaimer: I'm a Google engineer.

      Ah, now I get it.

      • by swillden ( 191260 ) <> on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @11:33AM (#38818449) Homepage Journal

        Spending money on a media blitz to make sure that everyone knows how you're watching them is going above and beyond.

        Hmmm, now I'm suspicious... wait a minute...

        What makes you suspicious?

        Actually, I know what makes you suspicious, and it's a common problem for Google. Everyone thinks that no corporation can ever do anything that appears good for the public and costly to the company unless there's some hidden profit motive. Since Google not infrequently does things that are good for the public and costly to the company with no hidden profit motive other than building long-term goodwill, people get intensely suspicious, certain that there must be more than meets the eye... and since the company is clearly trying to hide whatever that something is, it must be something really nefarious.

        But the truth is simpler: Thought Google screws up from time to time, it generally does try to be a good citizen, and up front about its motives and methods.

        [Disclaimer: I'm a Google engineer.

        Ah, now I get it.

        That doesn't mean what you think it means. Like most engineers (and especially security engineers), I'm fairly suspicious of corporate skullduggery, and protective of on-line privacy. Like most Google engineers, I'm capable enough that I could easily work elsewhere if I felt like my talents were being put to evil uses. And as a recent hire, it's not like I have much of my net worth tied up in Google stock (I have a few shares that were given to me as a signing bonus), so I really have no motivation to shill for the company, even if I were dumb enough to think my posts on slashdot could affect the stock price.

        So, again, what I post is the simple truth as I see it. There's no doubt that I have a positive bias towards Google, but that bias arises not from the fact that they deposit my bi-weekly paycheck, but because I see a lot of what Google does from the inside -- and it impresses me.

    • I guess the truly selfless thing to do would be to make all of Google's tracking opt-in, rather than opt-out, but that's probably too much to hope for -- and it may even be that the world is better off this way, because if Google is right about the value of mass personalization we'd probably never know because hardly anyone will opt in.

      and if they're not? I see not a single serious problem this solves. it just puts people into little bowls where they no longer can get a clear picture of what the rest of the

      • no. missing out on additional profits you could have had by being a fucking whore is not the same as suffering damage. that's not even a nice try, and shame on you for even attempting to pull that one.

        Choosing to unilaterally change the business approach in a way that would reduce revenue would be considered "damage" to the business. What would the actual impact be? I'm sure someone in Google could tell you, but I don't know, so let's just assume the decrease in effectiveness of Google's targeted ads would decrease Google's revenues by 20%, based purely on reduced click-through (Google's primary business model is such that Google only gets paid if you click on the ad). That would be damage. Further,

    • [Disclaimer: I'm a Google engineer.

      AaaaHaaaa! []

      I should get a bonus for the youtube link!

  • As long as they don't tell my boss what kinds of porn I'm looking up at work on my phone, I couldn't care less. ;P
  • quoth "Consumers will have no choice but to accept the changes."


    No, not really. Stop with the bullshit hyperbole. Consumers have a choice whether or not to accept the changes.

  • Hard to get outraged when I was under the assumption that Google already did this. Why wouldn't I think that any time I was logged in with my google account (shared with search, gmail, android, youtube) they they weren't collecting data in the same bin?

    Same with Facebook. How many websites have the facebook "like" buttons? When you're signed in to facebook, they are watching everything else you do. Again, I assume it all goes into one big bin of information about me.

    Scary to type that out, but not a new

  • by SpinyNorman ( 33776 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @11:26AM (#38818347)

    Don't use Google for everything.

    Probably the most personal information you're giving away is via search and e-mail, and they're the simplest ones to get from different providers. e.g. keep using gmail, but switch to Bing for search, or keep using Google search and switch to someone else for web mail.

    For video there's no real choice other than Google, so just make sure that you're not logged in if you're viewing something you don't want to be tracked and associated with your other Google services.

    I'm a bit surprised at some of the comments along the lines of "no biggie - I assumed they were doing this already.... This really does make a difference. For example if you previously limited your Google stuff you wouldn't mind your girlfriend/children/co-workers or whoever seeing as suggested search completions, but weren't so careful on youtube, now you have to worry about that... You'll be getting google search completions popping up on your screen based on your youtube viewing habits! Not so harmless, eh?

    • So, use Google for all the above-board stuff, and use other services for the nefarious or disgraceful porn searching?

      Bing might gain some traffic, but not the traffic they want to thump their own chest about...

    • That's not so. If you have an Android phone, which Google includes in this new policy, you are giving away your location, who you call, what you search for via the phone, etc. etc. If you phone has the facebook app, then Google also has access to all of that data.

      The courts just said that the police can't use a gps device without a court order. Google just change their privacy policy to allow them to track you via your phone wherever you go.

      • Sounds like a great reason not to choose an Android based phone.

        Google mail + Microsoft/Bing search + Apple iPhone seems the way to go for privacy, and arguably gives you the best of each cataegory, especially since Google search seems now to be emphasizing social media / personal search vs generic web search.

    • Google's new policy also coordinates your user id with your ip address, so even if you don't log in before going to YouTube, they can still tell it's you by cross referencing the IP address to when you are logged in.

      • They certainly could be doing that, but they seem to be claiming to only track/group your logged-in activity, so until that changes I expect they're only doing cross-service IP based preference correlation in an anonymized fashion.... The regulatory blowback of tracking stuff your explicitly claiming not to track would seem to risky for them to do it.

  • by Webmoth ( 75878 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @11:49AM (#38818615) Homepage

    That's not a privacy policy! That's a voyeurism policy.

  • by Dcnjoe60 ( 682885 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @12:29PM (#38819121)

    Cell phone companies lock you into multi-year contracts. Since Google is including Android in all of this and tells people if they don't like it, don't use the service, does that mean I can cancel my cell phone contract without early termination fees? Otherwise, my carrier is forcing me to divulge information that was not part of my original agreement with the carrier!

  • by eepok ( 545733 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @12:59PM (#38819439) Homepage

    I accept that Google tracks what I'm doing while logged into one of their systems and I've installed their plugin to make sure they don't track me when I'm *not*. But I was never under the impression that everything will be combined into a single identity and I don't trust that they would ONLY use such information for targeted advertising both now and in the future.

    I don't want what I watch on Youtube associated with my email. I don't want documents I open in Google documents to have a history with my digital self. This is too close to a single, universal, Internet Identification program and we have stated many, many times that we do NOT want this. We have separated persona for different reasons for specific reasons. OUR reasons.

    I don't want Google's "your world search" giving me biased results because I'm subscribed to a couple newsgroups or because I watched 3 back to back videos from the same band on Youtube.

    Google has gone too far. When they merged GoogleAccounts with Youtube, I cancelled my Youtube account and never went back to the proper site. Last night, I started backing up everything in my Gmail account with Thunderbird and pulled everything from my Google Docs account. As of today, I'm not turning on my Asus Transformer (Android) until there's a friendly Ubuntu Tablet Edition installer.

    I'm open to suggestions about where to go from here. I need online webmail that will "Do no Google."

    Who has suggestions?

    • by DogDude ( 805747 )
      I'm open to suggestions about where to go from here. I need online webmail that will "Do no Google."

      Pay for email.
  • by John Hasler ( 414242 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @01:30PM (#38819787) Homepage

    Bullshit. No one has to have a Google account.

    • what if someone else is on gmail and refuses to switch?

      it's not like google only gets to see their sent mail, you know.

    • Android phone contracts.

      Visits to any site with google analytics at home, work and from mobile.

      Use of youtube, including embedded videos.

      Use of google docs at work.

      No, you really can't use the internet without coming into contact with Google.

  • by circletimessquare ( 444983 ) <circletimessquare&gmail,com> on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @03:29PM (#38821255) Homepage Journal

    who in the slashdot organization has google stock, because every story on this site about google invariably spins positive for google

    google is the new microsoft. it really is

    yet the standard prejudices here on slashdot about microsoft and google on this site seem to be stuck in 2001

    (now mod me troll for not towing the slashdot party line)

    • also, consider this: google is supposed to be the web company. full of young, talented people. now look at the sites they churn out. you will not find a single piece of loving crafting, or elegant code, or even just something that looks like it has been made by people with eyes in the head. sterile, mediocre crap, an endless swamp of "products" of it, fawned over by (hopefully sterile) mediocre people. I'm fucking sick of it. I am amazed it took me so long to realize it and finally loose patience, too.


  • by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @05:20PM (#38822481) Homepage Journal

    Only having one policy will make it easier. It's not like it allows then to get something they can't already.

You can measure a programmer's perspective by noting his attitude on the continuing viability of FORTRAN. -- Alan Perlis