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Google’s New Privacy Policy: What’s the Big Deal?

On March 1, 2012, a new privacy policy goes into effect that affects all Google, Gmail, Google Apps, and all other properties’ users. Considering how ubiquitous Google is in many peoples’ lives, both personal and professional, the policy change was bound to cause a stir. That’s why Google got out in front of the mess: I think we can all agree that Google has been more than straightforward about its revised privacy policy, from the numerous emails Gmail users received, to notices on the Google search page, to blog posts, to smoke signals – every possible way Google could get its word out there, it did. So, I know we’re all well aware that there has been a change to the policies espoused by the search engine – but how many of us actually read about it? Probably not many. Let’s graze the surface then, shall we?

What’s All the Fuss About, Anyways?

So, what’s the fuss? If Facebook’s issues have taught us anything, it’s that you cannot  change your privacy settings without backlash. But, specifically, what’s the big deal about Google’s new policy? It has many people concerned about the privacy of their information – almost giving them the feeling that big brother is watching, which I think Google actually understands. However, the search giant brings it all back to “user experience,” as in, we’re only watching your every move while you’re signed in to better your experience as a user. In the FAQ about the policy, Google notes, “Second, the new policy reflects our efforts to create one beautifully simple, intuitive user experience across Google. It makes clear that, if you have a Google Account and are signed in, we may combine information you’ve provided from one service with information from other services. In short, we can treat you as a single user across all our products.”

The Policy

The policy itself evolved out of Google’s 60 + policies governing its different services. Now, everything has one policy, so it’s easier to understand and keep track of what you’re agreeing to as a user. Where people get worried is, as Google says in its email to users:  “Our new policy covers multiple products and features, reflecting our desire to create one beautifully simple and intuitive experience across Google.” So, every Google product you use will be tracking what you do. Though the search engine turned social media giant has said that you can 1. Sign out and not be tracked or 2. Turn off tracking (here’s exactly how Google says to do it, also in the FAQ: “You still have choice and control. You don’t need to sign in to use many of our services, including Search, Maps and YouTube. If you’re signed in, you can still edit or turn off your Search history, switch Gmail chat to “off the record,” control the way Google tailors ads to your interests, use Incognito mode on Chrome,”), the idea there is still a little frightening. Plus (no pun intended there), with Social Search just having been introduced (which left many a person in the tech world flummoxed), this privacy policy change comes at a difficult time for Google. Not only that, but multiple anti-trust allegations aren’t going away anytime soon, and to be truthful, Google seems to only be adding fuel to the fire.

The slightly voyeuristic new policy covers all Google properties allows Google to streamline your experience across all properties. As the email users received states, the search engine wants an email you received about something to impact your use of Youtube, Gmail, etc. Also, Google will remember the contact information of the people with whom you interact, and will remember this across all properties.

To sum up – the privacy change essentially indicates that Google will start tracking users’ behavior on all of its different platforms, not just during searches. This has made many people uncomfortable, since the search engine will essentially be obtaining a bird’s eye view of everything you as a user do on the web (through Google, at least – which is  probably most things, if you’re like me).

More Information

Looking to learn more about Google, Search Engine Optimization, or anything else in the interactive marketing world? Check back with our blog, which covers SEO, social media marketing, and more, on a regular basis for free tips, updates and news covered. Call EverSpark Interactive at 770-481-1766 if you have questions that are more specific to your business’s interactive marketing needs.

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