If you’re a Google user, you’ve likely received an email regarding the upcoming privacy changes the company is on the verge of making. Even if you’re not into Google, the news of these controversial updates has been all over the web and causing quite a stir. If these rumblings have you concerned and wondering what it all means for your personal privacy, let us help you break it down.
So, what’s going on? Essentially, Google is condensing its current 70 separate privacy policies into one policy to govern many of its products. The basic idea behind the new rules is to give the company more leeway to combine all your Google products – Gmail, Picasa, Google+, YouTube, etc. – in the future. It will also be integrating all your information from these services to learn more about you and your online habits.
What do you mean they’ll learn more about my habits? Under their new, all-encompassing policy, Google can track your calendar appointments (made via your Google calendar, of course) and location data, search preferences, contacts, and personal habits based on Gmail chatter, and track device information and search queries, to name a few.
But, why would they want that info? To create a targeted, individual Internet experience for each customer. The folks over at Mashable put it this way: “Not searching for a gym membership in January? Google will remove those ads from your search. Email a friend about adopting a puppy? You might see ads for animal shelters in your area. Your friend Jon doesn’t have an ‘h’ in his name? Google Docs will remember this, too. By syncing your Google products, the ads you see and your search results will be customized. Google will be different for each individual.”
What if they sell my information? Google claims that it will never sell your information to advertisers. They do, however, use the information to place the ads that they purchase. Their official policy, which can be viewed online here, states that this data collection is not something new and that they are not collecting more data about their customers. According to the company, “Our new policy simply makes it clear that we use data to refine and improve your experience on Google across the services you sign in to use. This is something we’ve already been doing and we plan to continue doing in the future so we can provide a simpler, more intuitive experience.”
In a way, this change could certainly make the search experience more convenient. However, it’s understandably off-putting in many ways. These changes will roll out on March 1st. If you have more questions, check out Google’s policy FAQ page.