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What Google privacy changes will really mean to you.

Posted by Wachanga.W.W. on Mar 2, 2012 in Social Media |

What’s the current furore about the changes in Google’s privacy policy? Is there a need for concern or is it arising due to fear resulting from lack of information?

Google runs a number of services which users access for free online, the main ones being –   YouTube, Gmail, Blogger, Google TV, Google+ and Web History, which records all searches performed on Google.com. As you continuously use these services, Google profiles you on each service. For instance, when you watch a video on YouTube, Google notes the kind of videos you like and it stores that information. Same applies to what you search for using Google.com.

What they are now seeking to do is to consolidate the separate user profiles in the different services into one single profile. Technically, the new privacy policy does not allow Google to collect more information about its users. It  just allows it to build a richer profile of you based on the information it has already gathered, as you use its different sites and products. This is from the topics you follow on Google+, blogs you write on Blogger, content in your Google emails, videos you have watched from YouTube and so forth. So as Jules Polonetsky, director of the think tank Future of Privacy Forum put it, “Users are not likely to see any difference actually because most of what Google is doing they have been always able to do,”. They were already tracking, personalizing, and tailoring profiles for users based on the different things that you did.,”. Google products like Google Books, Chrome and Google Wallet will however still maintain standalone privacy policies.

All Google users will be required to submit to the new terms. Now, this lack of choice is what the furore is all about and has privacy advocates hitting the roof.  EU and other countries have also threatened to look into it and find a way of penalizing Google.

To give it to Google a little bit also, unlike many other companies including itself, it has vehemently gone out of its way to inform users about these changes. Google argues that the new policy will be beneficial to the users by targeting adverts according to users’ interests. So, if you have been browsing fitness or yoga videos on YouTube, Google now will be able to push to you such videos upon landing on YouTube. In the past as you use your Gmail account, you were able to see advertisements related to your email content on the side adverts. With the new changes, you will be able to see recipe adverts while in your Gmail account, if you have been watching recipe videos in YouTube.

This capability to refine its advertising and target users better, gives Google a huge competitive advantage over its rivals. Google is not alone in this though. There is a huge rush to profile users and gather as much information about them by other companies like Facebook and Linkein also.

Chinka Mui in a Forbes blog sums it up, “these developments mean that we no longer have to worry just about what Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and other social sites do with our data; we have to worry about what they enable others to do, too. And it now seems that others will be able to do a lot.” And I totally agree with him.

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