Google responds to privacy concerns (Update)

google-privacy

Google plans to make some changes to its privacy policies and there have been some freak outs about it because … well, it’s Google. This cause some panicked headlines about “no opting out” and U.S. senators inquiring about it and Google has officially responded to try and clear up any confusion about its changes.

Basically, Google is consolidating multiple privacy policies surrounding its different projects into one in order to make it easier for users to understand and in order for Google to better deliver services to its users across different services. In the letter below, Google explains why it’s doing what it’s doing and how this will benefit users and make the privacy policy easier to understand. The bullet points of the letter include:

  • We’re still keeping your private information private — we’re not changing the visibility of any information you have stored with Google.

  • We’re still allowing you to do searches, watch videos on YouTube, get driving directions on Google Maps, and perform other tasks without signing into a Google Account.
  • We’re still offering you choice and control through privacy tools like Google Dashboard and Ads Preferences Manager that help you understand and manage your data.
  • We still won’t sell your personal information to advertisers.
  • We’re still offering data liberation if you’d prefer to close your Google Account and take your data elsewhere.

Google has its points and in many ways, what it’s doing is good. It’s great that it’s trying to make privacy policies easier to understand and it should be able to utilize all its services in order to deliver a better product to users. But I think there are also legitimate reasons why regular people and senators could be concerned about the goings on at Google.

While it’s still a quirky and fun company, Google probably has more personal information on us than any other company in the history of mankind. When you combine your search history, YouTube views, Maps requests and more, you can get a tremendous amount of information about people.

All of this data was willingly given to Google in exchange for these services but the average consumer is slowly starting to realize that when you’re not paying for a product, you (or your personal information) are the product. As consumers become more savvy about what this means and as companies like Google make this clear with redone privacy policies, it is then up to the individual to make the choice about if it’s worth it.

I still have some questions about what these changes mean for Android, which requires a Google Account (I’ve messaged Google and will update this post accordingly). This could include your location data and even your financial data with services like Google Wallet and you can be sure this will freak out some senators. Unlike switching web services, it’s extremely difficult for U.S. users to switch their phones mid-contract.

Update: Google got back to me about the impact with Android. Here it is:

Android has always relied on Google’s main privacy policy, so these changes do not give Google any additional access to information from Android devices. You can also choose not to log into an Android device with a Google account and still use it to browse the web, check email, watch YouTube videos, use Google Maps, and download apps.

[Via Google Public Policy blog, Read the letter here, image via ShutterStock, testing]

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