The Web’s reaction? Quite strong, really, due in no small part to the policy change arriving very soon after Google gave priority placement to results from its own social network. Our own Mark Kaelin came down hard on the “evil” side constituency. To my eyes, the policy is mostly a simplification and condensation of the many policies Google already maintained across Gmail, Google search, YouTube, and other apps. There are some individual opt-outs, means to export your data, and, as many have pointed out, an easy universal opt-out: use another company’s services.
Then again, representatives with watchdog organization SafeGov.org say Google’s stated intentions don’t jibe with their written policies. SafeGov’s Jeff Gould told PCWorld that governmental Apps contracts “says the opposite of what they say,” and that Google’s different Apps and privacy divisions are “confused and not in touch with each other.” That’s a charge that sticks pretty easily to Google these days.
Meanwhile, U.S. Reps. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Joe Barton (R-Tex.) have sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission, asking it to look into whether Google’s new policy move, lacking individual service opt-outs, violates the company’s settlement with the FTC over its misguided Buzz rollout. Google’s response, at least for individual users, centers around the fact that many, if not most, Google services can be used without signing into a Google account, and that account holders will know how their data is being used and how to extract it.
If you’re a Google Apps administrator, have you been able to pin down what data generated by your users Google can use, and how? Share your thoughts in the comments.