Google has announced that effective 1 March 2012 it will consolidate all 60 of its privacy policies into one and will share information across all of its services. This has many of the privacy paranoid in a tizzy. Among the more amusing concerns expressed are:
- “I don’t want my bakery shop owner to know what kind of medicines I buy from the nearby medical store”
- “Private email messages might contain any number of personal, embarrassing, or otherwise damaging information, and Google’s attempts to amplify and contextualize this information through targeted ads, Maps suggestions, or Calendar reminders could have negative consequences for users.” — Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.)
- “Google will know more about you than your wife does”
You get the point, the typical reactions. The truth is, the information that is shared from the different Google sources is just as protected as it always has been. What is changed is that all of the Google services now share information among each other.
If your e-mails include such private information that you are seriously worried about interception, you should be using some form of encryption. If you are worried about what is divulged on your social media page then you are just plain delusional, it is divulged and you should not be posting dummy. If you truly believe that your browsing history is completely private now you are most likely mistaken. If you are that concerned about privacy you should probably stay off of the Internet.
I for one welcome Google continuing to improve its business model. I greatly enjoy having such a great search engine available for free. Anything that can be done to improve my ability to find even more information so quickly is fine with me. When I think back to the time when it took days, even weeks, in the university library to find just one piece of information that I can now find in minutes I am continually amazed.
Is Still Here
BTW, the important part of Google’s new privacy statement is what information they share. It reads as follows:
Information we share
We do not share personal information with companies, organizations and individuals outside of Google unless one of the following circumstances apply:
We will share personal information with companies, organizations or individuals outside of Google when we have your consent to do so. We require opt-in consent for the sharing of any sensitive personal information.
- With domain administrators
If your Google Account is managed for you by a domain administrator (for example, for Google Apps users) then your domain administrator and resellers who provide user support to your organization will have access to your Google Account information (including your email and other data). Your domain administrator may be able to:
view statistics regarding your account, like statistics regarding applications you install.
change your account password.
suspend or terminate your account access.
access or retain information stored as part of your account.
receive your account information in order to satisfy applicable law, regulation, legal process or enforceable governmental request.
restrict your ability to delete or edit information or privacy settings.
We will share personal information with companies, organizations or individuals outside of Google if we have a good-faith belief that access, use, preservation or disclosure of the information is reasonably necessary to:
meet any applicable law, regulation, legal process or enforceable governmental request.
enforce applicable Terms of Service, including investigation of potential violations.
detect, prevent, or otherwise address fraud, security or technical issues.
protect against harm to the rights, property or safety of Google, our users or the public as required or permitted by law.
We may share aggregated, non-personally identifiable information publicly and with our partners – like publishers, advertisers or connected sites. For example, we may share information publicly to show trends about the general use of our services.