Will Google Succeed in Its Privacy Policy Overhaul?

On January 24th, Google announced a sweeping overhaul to its privacy policies that will take effect March 1, 2012. Rather than maintaining 60+ distinct privacy policies for its various properties, Google has created a single, unified privacy policy that will provide what Google describes as a ” beautifully simple and intuitive experience” across all of the company’s sites.

The company should be commended for rolling out these changes in a completely transparent way: it has advertised the changes across its properties, and given users over a month to review the changes prior to them taking effect. Google’s educational site does an admirable job of outlining the motivation for the changes. However, this does little to address concerns the updated privacy policy will provide Google an all-too-powerful window into our lives.

Importantly, the change in the privacy policy broadens the scope of how Google can use information gathered from its users:

We use the information we collect from all of our services to provide, maintain, protect and improve them, to develop new ones, and to protect Google and our users. We also use this information to offer you tailored content – like giving you more relevant search results and ads.

The new policy allows Google, for the first time ever, to freely share information between its various sites so it can create a more accurate model of users’ interests and, thus, target ads more accurately. Short of deleting your Google account, there is no way to opt out of the forthcoming privacy changes.

Google’s announcement has already generated a substantial backlash among users and lawmakers alike, forcing the company to defend the upcoming privacy policy changes.

Many users would rather give up a bit more privacy than give up Google. How about you?


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