Privacy optimize

One policy, one Google experience, even more declarations of evil

As soon as you connect a device to the Internet, you are tracked, cataloged, and targeted with "appropriate" advertising. Is that really evil?

On January 24, 2012, Google made an official announcement concerning a change to the way the company will administer their privacy policies. The basic gist of the blog post outlining the change is that instead of many policies spread out over all of the various Google services, there will be a simpler, unified privacy policy.

While the concept of a single privacy policy sounds mostly harmless to me, the news drew the ire of many and prompted some to renew the seemingly perpetual notion that Google has turned to the dark side and embraced "evil."

To paraphrase a famous ring of power, Google had issued: One Policy to rule them all,

One Policy to find them,

One Policy to bring them all

and in the darkness bind them.

It's a private matter

Now, I freely admit that I don't read privacy policies as a general rule, not because I think privacy is unimportant, but because they are tedious exercises in overwrought legalese.

I have come to terms with the fact that there is no privacy on the Internet and that the "privacy policies" merely serve to codify that fact. As soon as you connect a device to the Internet, every keystroke is tracked, cataloged, and positioned to target you with "appropriate" advertising. In this case, appropriate is from the perspective of the advertiser.

In many minds, this is a terrible thing and constitutes an invasion of privacy that can only be adequately described as evil. A post on the Gizmodo website explains their reasons for declaring Google evil in this way:

"Because Google changed the rules that it defined itself. Google built its reputation, and its multi-billion dollar business, on the promise of its "don't be evil" philosophy. That's been largely interpreted as meaning that Google will always put its users first, an interpretation that Google has cultivated and encouraged...

...This [policy change] crosses that line. It eliminates that fine-grained control, and means that things you could do in relative anonymity today, will be explicitly associated with your name, your face, your phone number come March 1st."

I will argue that, despite what Gizmodo and others may have perceived as standard operating procedure, Google has always served and will continue to always serve, their real clients - advertisers. Google users are data points, nothing more, nothing less. The fact that users could get a good search out of Google is just the bait used to get us into a position to relate our personal data. The sharing of data across all of Google's multitude of services has been happening all along, the company is just acknowledging that fact in a single, "you can't say we didn't tell you" policy.

This does not mean that Google and Google Apps are not useful; it just means using them has a cost. If that cost is more than you are willing to pay, then you can choose not to participate. But I would not base your decision on something as impractical and immeasurable as whether Google is somehow evil.

Has Google's move to consolidate all of the various privacy policies into one simplified policy changed your mind about the company's motives? Has it made you reconsider the pros and cons of using Google Apps, Google+, Google Search, or any of the other Google services? What exactly concerns you about Google sharing your information across its various services?

Here is Google's video explanation of the new privacy policies consolidation:

Also read:

About

Mark Kaelin is a CBS Interactive Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He is the host for the Microsoft Windows and Office blog, the Google in the Enterprise blog, the Five Apps blog and the Big Data Analytics blog.

36 comments
asurvila
asurvila

Some of comments on the Internet related to the topic say "it's OK to be evil". (Do evil that good may come.) If you think it's all normal and even good, it is hardly evil any longer. Yet I conclude there is kind of unrecognized evil. On the broader scale, we have some evil embedded in the very culture and made even fashionable (as pirates who were in reality just robbers, killers, and rapers). And the general explanation to this phenomenon might be (as someone has noted) that people don't care.

n4aof
n4aof

Anyone who puts any information anywhere on the web and thinks it is going to be private is totally delusional.

yodi.collins
yodi.collins

Technology has become so advanced that it has rendered Internet patrons incapable of ignoring targeted advertising? Seriously? Google isn't doing anything that the other online giants haven't been doing all this time; the only difference is they are giving us a courtesy call. Please, the accusations and name-calling are unnecessary. It was in the fine print already, for corn's sake! Big Brother is watching, people. Deal with it.

stykat
stykat

Hence they own a multitude of sites, by being part of one of them you already have to agree with one of the policies and the others are no different. True, like the others said, they can get and store and use information about you without you knowing it, and one can as long as it can find a small gate to get to it.

lehnerus2000
lehnerus2000

I used to have a YouTube account. It got deleted because I wouldn't swap to Gmail.

Han CNX
Han CNX

These privacy issues always stir up the worst in bloggers and self-proclaimed Internet privacy gurus (talking in general, not about the author of this article here which was well balanced.) I don't care, nay, APPRECIATE it when Google knows that when I search for 'Pangolin' I'm more likely to be looking for the next Ubuntu version than the animal. The real concern, to me, is how things get presented to any people I'm connected to on social networks, i.e. my co-workers, friends, my wife, my kids. That has to be bullet proof, and super transparent. Facebook has made great strides here; it still needs some research but I'm very comfortable now in quickly setting the appropriate audience for a particular post or check-in. But yesterday I created a public map on Google Maps (where you add locations and draw some lines and so on) and I had NO IDEA whatsoever if this would be advertised to people in my Google+ circles. Now, I don't even use Google+ really, I signed up for it once to check it out and accumulated a bunch of people in circles who invited me, but I exclusively use Facebook to post about the things I've been up to. There are some people in my Google circles who' I would prefer that they don't get to see the map I created (yes, I know I made it public, but it's something else to have that actively pushed out to people with my name on top of it.) Rather than a transparent and integrated priviacy policy, Google needs actual transparent and integrated pricacy controls in all their products.

codepoke
codepoke

... but this policy aggregation is not one of the reasons. This is a good move by Google.

Gisabun
Gisabun

First they dump on you an account for Google+ [what do you expect when they are losing badly to Facebook] and a Gmail accounts if you don't want them. Wouldn't it be easier if they asked [with check boxes], what kind of account do you want instead of forcing all of them on you. And then they decided to stream line their policies - probably to confuse everyone. It says at one point that if you don't like it, don't use our products. Tell that to the millions who use Google's search engine [even if not logged in, they are probably still getting some information about you]. Block IP addresses to google-analytics.com [74.125.227.48-74.125.227.52]. Should help.

Slayer_
Slayer_

They just say they now have one policy for all products, that sounds good. Did they put something about eternal souls in there or something, why the sudden discussion about them being evil?

michaelmouse
michaelmouse

Once I saw what gaggle did with their profits I knew I didn't want to support their ideology by using their services. SO[PA is a prime example of their hypocrisy. Not to mention that they are left wing wacko liberals. [sorry for the tirade]. I beseech all to boycott gaggle by using other services . Evil is the pc term for google...

charleswdavis6670
charleswdavis6670

Yes, the printed pages. Some dumb Doctors are suing the FDA for using information in their personal e-mails from their work computers.

john
john

Ein Volk Ein Reich Ein Fuhrer .. seriously... if you don't like Google's policy, you can always ask for a refund.

king_salman_heart
king_salman_heart

Well this is interesting. At the end of the day choice is ours. Users can and will vote with their keystrokes and browser address bars. Personally i have two unrelated machines. One is my work computer and other one is for [b]"Naughty Naughty stuff"[/b]. That other machine barely costed me 50 $. Not a big price.

sysxadmin
sysxadmin

I remember seeing people when social networking go started, it was a free for all wild west type of mentality. What people do not realize is this data once populated on someone else's sites is NO longer yours. All social networking media sites are harvested and/or the data will eventually be used as it is being used today. Future employers search these sites looking for YOU and what you have put out for the world to see. I have not and will not use these sites, as the information is not deletable, as with Google I do not use their services they offer. There are many scrappers out there that let you scrap their search logs and never use them.

afrancis99
afrancis99

While I am concerned about privacy, I am not concerned about Google and privacy. Google is relatively transparent compared to other organizations - like Microsoft. An example is that MS cleverly installs it's apps wherever it can - integrated with windows installations and windows update, you might find yourself with all the various Live incarnations without knowing you installed them. You also find with IE that dang bing as your default search resource. I see this as more insidious than Google's sidebar ads and it's very public admission of it's policies (whether you read them or not). What I don't like with Google is the direction they are heading. While simplicity drew so many of us to Google, that simplicity is eroding and they are falling prey to the lure of constant change, perhaps inevitably. The result is change for the sake of change, rather than necessity. Google's didn't make it's numbers this past quarter for the first time - it still made a killing, but it has lost some control of it's numbers. I'm not sure if it is a result of their changes or if the changes are a result of the numbers - but one way or another, they are expanding again, as always to meet the ever rising bar of capitalistic endeavor, to keep turning money into more money, which is impossible to sustain. It may be time to start planning for Google's demise, as they can't remain simple and low key and continue to grow at the same time. Simple and low key is why we like them, and anything more than that makes them not much different than MS. An example of Google's recent inexcusable (legacy product) failures is their new interface for Gmail. It doesn't modernize or improve - it changes. Scrolling and menus are different and from a usability standpoint, they fail. When time after time I have to search to find the scroll bar (laptop doesn't have a mouse wheel), I get upset. It's there, but it's not easy to find. When I finish composing a message and want to send... depending on where I am in the message, the send button may not be RIGHT THERE where it should be. Why should I have to scroll to send my email? If this major interface change fails, what else can we expect from Google? More failures? I hope not. Privacy, when you are dealing with the access we have to resources and the litigious society we live in, is simply not something I expect. If something is private, I keep it to myself. If you don't want ads targeted to your buying habits, don't shop on line.

mckinnej
mckinnej

I switched to them months ago. I've heard it is Bing in the backend, but it works fine. I rarely have problems finding what I'm looking for. Google doesn't offer me anything I can't get somewhere else, without the spying.

tomatsalvair
tomatsalvair

Just as explained in the article, anyone who thinks there's any privacy on the Internet, or even at work on "their" computer, is plain wrong. Larry Ellison once said about "the Cloud" that "there's still a data center out there somewhere." And that data center processes and STORES information. And then the minions slice and dice according to their whims and will, and this data manipulation is done largely to drive revenue. Accept the fact that if you get a service you "pay" for it in some way. Even at work, your company owns your computer and the data that lives on it. Most people don't know that every email they send and receive is archived by their company, and the company knows what web sites they visit, for how long, what pages they view, and what they do. It's the world we live in today, so try to operate intelligently within these parameters. Of course, if you focus on what is true, what is noble, what is right, what is pure, lovely, admirable, etc., you tend to run into far fewer issues.

dcolbert
dcolbert

Gizmodo says: "Because Google changed the rules that it defined itself. Google built its reputation, and its multi-billion dollar business, on the promise of its don't be evil philosophy." This is a stretch, too. Google built its reputation and its multi-billion dollar business on the promise of delivering services and platforms that deliver what they claim they will. The Google suite of web-based services and apps are reliable, efficient platforms that do what they say they're going to do and are mostly free. A search engine that returns the highest quality and most reliable results quickly. A free e-mail service that allows almost unlimited mailbox storage for free. An online office suite that delivers essential data manipulation applications that work and integrate well with leading paid, local office suites - for free. Products with tremendous benefits and significant advantages over all of the competition, generally for free. Each of these products was revolutionary and heads-and-shoulders above all of the competition in their specific target. That is what has allowed Google to succeed, not their motto, "Don't be evil". The only people who care about Google's "Don't Be Evil" mantra are propeller-heads carrying RFID blocking wallets with an ideological difference with how traditional corporate organizations do business - and those people are *not* the ones who drove Google to being a multi-billion dollar organization. It isn't idealistic geeks that drove Google's success - it is pragmatic mass-consumers that did. And pragmatic mass-consumers do not CARE. I bet one in 100 Google platform users is even aware that Google has a corporate motto, "don't be evil" - and if they knew, they would laugh and think, "what does that even really MEAN?!?" The same argument I always used with Microsoft works now with Google. The broad consumer market doesn't care a WHOLE lot about what is going on behind the curtain as long as the things they want work the way they've been told they're going to work. We can extend that to Apple, too - which may be the poster-child Corporation of, "Tell them it is going to work, and deliver it, and they don't really care what else you do". Not that they SHOULDN'T care - maybe they should. But they don't - and Gizmodo, Engadget, Slashdot and other tech-heavy media outlets (possibly including ourselves) seem to have a lot of difficulty accepting that outside of their specialized audience, the rest of the world just doesn't care.

thegreenwizard1
thegreenwizard1

John Fake live in Whatever, Uganda. So who cares if they trace him.

Tyree
Tyree

I don't think Google is evil because it has one privacy policy nor because of the data it collects. They are leaning to the side of evil by how they persuaded people to use their real names on G+, saying there would be no pseudonyms nor anonymity on G+. Now there are pseudonyms, company pages, and children aged 13 - 18. Their actions poke the skeptic in me. We know Google did not cooperate the last time the U.S. government came knocking asking for user data. Of course, that was before the NSA helped Google with the cyberattack on their servers coming out of China. I wonder what the price of that help was/will be.

flood_specialist
flood_specialist

I don't use google anymore since they changed the search functions. Being tied to a search string and then served something I'm not looking for is not for me. I suggest that people stop using them period. Their in your face ads are insulting. Please people, we are not cattle and can do without. Break the ties that bind and watch what happens. Personally, I still like to go out doors and shop in stores for what I'm looking for. After all, supporting locals keeps me employed. Not the internet. It's just a tool, not a way of life as the young of today seem too think it is. All I can say is, "Gizmos" , I laugh as I watch people walk and look down at their hands not noticing whats going on around them. Shute 3 I said....

Professor8
Professor8

The worst part about it is the fraud. They say, "This is our new privacy policy.", when, if they were honest, they'd have to write "This is our new privacy violation policy. We used to violate your privacy in this way and that way and these other ways, but now we're going to be violating your privacy these additional ways... most notably by combining our traditional privacy violation schemes."

chriscollingwood
chriscollingwood

Which only "appeared" once in the voice-over and then it sounded clipped and/or editted to make it sound shorter and less obvious. But that could also just be my new-found web-paranoia...

HapGail_HomeInMd
HapGail_HomeInMd

I really don't need Google, there are so many more search engines

michael.w.newman
michael.w.newman

If a company irritates me with their adverts, my policy is to avoid them at all costs and not buy their products

FreeStanler
FreeStanler

What, exactly, are one of the critical changes that sites like Gizmodo are so upset about? Or is it just general sensation grabbing behaviour. If its purely 'a machine' that sees my emails and directs 'appropriate marketing' I don't really see a loss of privacy.

maxdev
maxdev

And no one can do anything about it. Does this mean they are evil? Only to the extent that a cold heartless organization can be. While it may not overtly propagate any evil intent on the part of Brin and Page, Google is fixated on their survival at all costs. In this they are no different to any of the Fortune 500 companies. Where they are manifest evil is that they have managed to get to where they are through user and advertiser seduction. Initially they have claimed to act in accordance with the honor system and we have all been led to believe this lie. They have show they are quite capable of defining and changing the rules to suite themselves. So what? They own the ecosystem, right? Thing is, the dinosaurs thought the same a few million years ago!

jls65
jls65

Your privacy comes at a cost, wonder how much your worth? To give a personal example, I financed a vehicle from GMAC 6 years ago, part of the application process was to give your email address. At the time i thought "No problem". What a mistake that was! Within 2 weeks i was getting so much email (spam) that i ended my email account and opened a new one, totaly ending the spamed emails all togther. Although GMAC denies any claim of "selling" the email address, they made a point of their codes of personal information privacy yet again. But lets face facts- none of us knows what goes on beyond closed doors. Telephone companies were the first to "sell" out customers personal information, well before the 'net, and now it seems to be Googles turn. Google reminds me of Bart Simpson, with statements like "I'm sorry" to "I promise". I wonder how long it will be 'till a disgruntilled employee comes from that ivory tower and tells it like it is, or perhaps Google should let someone (like the chief editor at Tech Republic) have a tour of Googles head office for a show? Naaaaaaaah! you know they'll never do that! Don't get me wrong, I think that Google has a right to collect some data, as this is a marketing tool that makes them money, and they have a right to do so as this is a company in the free world. But how much info do they realy need? And, if Google intends to make money from me, then where's my cut? Hey, even pros get a cut from the pimps! I'll be honest. I'm no techy like most of you, but i will be looking into other Apps to find a way of Google getting nothing from me. They make it look good on the paper they write, but how much truth is there really.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I provide only the minimum personal information necessary to get what I want from a site. I don't view Google as any more or less than any other organization that provides a service in exchange for viewing advertisements. So far, search hasn't required me to input any information beyond search parameters, and I don't use Google for anything else.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Has Google's move to consolidate all of the various privacy policies into one simplified policy changed your mind about the company's motives? Has it made you reconsider the pros and cons of using Google Apps, Google+, Google Search, or any of the other Google services? This is the important question I want to explore: What exactly concerns you about Google sharing your information across its various services?

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

and so far, we've been satisfied with (without) your money."

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

It's always right there for me. And the send button is usually only a Tab key away...

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

except for the bit about propeller heads and RFID wallets. I see what you're doing there. Maybe the Statue of Liberty will too :D

xkvmman
xkvmman

Obviously you don't conduct real business with email. You can't post personal items, or Ideas and invention concepts, nor your health issues. Would you tell the world out loud what you'd say in an email?

jeb.hoge
jeb.hoge

Gizmodo is more evil than Google, if you go by standards of professional behavior. They're in the business of pageviews so they'll write whatever headlines they think will get people to read them, even if the headline or article is misleading, ill-informed, or just flat out BS. On defense and aviation tech alone, I think 75% of their articles have errors that simple fact-checking would have resolved.