If you look closely enough, you’ll see that Google’s new policy is actually very unGoogle.
What’s the new policy?
On the face of it, the policy is innocuous enough. Google says they are merely amalgamating their 60 or so individual privacy policies (one for each product) into one simplified, streamlined policy that covers all of their properties: from the search engine to YouTube via Gmail and AdWords.
However, this amalgamation also means that they can now trade data between these products in a way they’ve previously been unable to. Most controversially, they can now feed more data into the AdWords and AdSense packages that comprise 97% of Google’s revenue.
Why is it UnGoogle?
On the eve of the policy coming into effect, French regulators CNIL, on behalf of the EU, declared the policy to be “unlawful” as well as calling it unfair. The reason being that the policy doesn’t go into enough detail about what data the company will collect on its users, and how that will be shared amongst its various products.
And although users are given the option of opting out of data tracking (see below), this is arguably not made sufficiently clear, or instructions on how to do so given sufficient prominence.
The EU statement also pointed out that given the lack of information in the policy on what data will be collected and how, Google’s actual practices come into question. By not providing enough information, we are left to only guess at what goes on behind the scenes, which may involve further contravention of European data protection legislation.
Given that Google has managed to climb its way to official Web Overlord status without too many eyelids being batted thanks to a benign reputation, this shadiness over data protection and privacy is alarming. The company’s famed motto – “don’t be evil” is looking a little smudged these days; as is its reputation for being a champion of openness and transparency online – key to the brand’s success.
This blurring of privacy lines could be incredibly damaging for Google. Following the announcement of the new policy, and in the wake of numerous anti-trust suits brought against the company in both Europe and America over privacy issues related to Google’s data collection for its Street View service, Microsoft have launched a hard hitting ad campaign openly criticising Google on privacy issues in a bid to win users over to Bing.
What can you do about it?
You can opt out of data tracking. From your Google account, go to www.google.com/history and hit ‘pause’. If your only option is ‘turn on web history’ you’re already in the clear.
It should be noted that these are strictly opt out and only apparent to those determined to look for them.
What do you think? Is Google’s new policy UnGoogle? Is it time to switch to Bing?
This is a guest post by Nick Lewis. Nick specialises in copywriting and SEO for Brighton digital agency Bozboz