Google privacy policy in computer-speak; please help!
January 29, 2012 7:21 PM   Subscribe

Is the new Google privacy policy reasonable or should I take further steps to protect my information?

When logging into my gmail account, I received an announcement that Google is going to be changing its privacy policy for account users, starting March 2012. Google innocuously recommends that users read the new "shorter and easier to read" policy and displays three short blurbs; if I was in a rush, I could easily assume that these blurbs were the new policy. In fact you must travel to the policy page to then read the more detailed new privacy policy. I know I may sound overly suspicious, but I know very little about the technology that I admittedly depend on quite a bit for personal and professional use. For those who fully understand the implications of the new google policy, is there anything unusual about it? Any privacy setting recommendations for someone concerned with personal information being accessed by Google?
posted by sb3 to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
I'm a pretty huge privacy nerd, and personally their new policy doesn't bother me. The bulk of the change seems to be that your activity across multiple Google products can now be combined into one behavior profile, rather than the N individual product-specific profiles they had before. It's still trivially easy (via options and plugins) to go untracked if you want and they haven't tried to lock me into any of their products yet (I can POP all my email, download my docs in bulk, etc.), so I'm not yet worried about this one.
posted by introp at 7:26 PM on January 29, 2012 [5 favorites]

When I look at the Ads Preferences, it tells me "You currently do not have an ‘id’ cookie" and asks if I want to opt in. I don't see any ads anyway, since I use Adblock. At least they aren't using my personal information to sell me stuff. They're not going to do anything sinister with your information, especially if you opt out of most of their tracking services.
posted by lali at 8:09 PM on January 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I too am a privacy semi-freak. I do not have a Facebook account because of their privacy policy and the way they track my information. What Google seems to have done here is take all their individual policies and make one policy across as many of their products as they can. They will combine information across products, but will not change anything else really. I think it is all part and parcel of the bigger change at Google that I personally don't like which is to have all their products meld into one platform basically Google+ with a lot of features. I do not like the new look mail nor some of the "new looks" at their other products, but that is certainly personal preference and me being a pretty old guy, change in user interface is painful.

The short of it is if you weren't worried about the individual product privacy policy, no need to worry about this one in my opinion.
posted by AugustWest at 8:41 PM on January 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Another vote for "not really a big deal".

If you're really concerned about personal information being accessed by Google, you shouldn't be using Google. They're not accessing anything other than what you give them, and this doesn't change that.

The privacy policy is basically saying, from what I can tell, that Google will share your information and behavior with...Google. Instead of having one (internal) profile for your YouTube behavior, and one for your Google-the-search-engine behavior, and one for Google Maps, there's going to be one profile and it'll have your Youtube, search engine, and Maps usage all neatly associated with each other. Truthfully, I'm surprised that it's taken them this long to unify it all.
posted by MeghanC at 8:54 PM on January 29, 2012

I just stay logged out unless I need to read email etc. It's a bit of a pain logging in but that way, in theory, google isn't tracking everything I do.
posted by fshgrl at 9:01 PM on January 29, 2012

Google is tracking you many places, including this very page, with Google Analytics.
posted by caclwmr4 at 9:34 PM on January 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Its google. They are good people. What they are doing is combining all of their fine print stuff into a single document, that covers all of their services, instead of each individually. They will never sell your information to 3rd parties as well.
posted by NotSoSiniSter at 10:29 PM on January 29, 2012

My solution a couple years ago to 'but I don't WANT people tracking my stuff!' was to start using RequestPolicy with Firefox. It's EXTREMELY restrictive and requires an alarming amount of 'hey are you okay if YouTube connects to YouTube's image server?' type questions when you start, but now that I have it more or less figured out I really enjoy it. It does mean a lot of sites I visit start out looking VERY weird because of how websites these days use cross-server interactions, but I'm fine with that. I imagine something like AdBlock works in a similar way.

Bonus: RP 'blocks' google analytics by forbidding a website (in this example, MetaFilter) from connecting to GA.
posted by Heretical at 11:18 PM on January 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

caclwmr4: "Google is tracking you many places, including this very page, with Google Analytics."

Unless of course, you opt out. (See also. Available for Android and iOS as well.)
posted by IndigoRain at 12:23 AM on January 30, 2012 [4 favorites]

(Probably worth mentioning that the new simplified privacy policy doesn't clearly state the google data retention policy, at least on the page they sent me to.)
posted by devnull at 1:24 AM on January 30, 2012

I was wondering if there's any expiration of data. For instance, can I assume that all of my websearches can be mined at some point in the future? and tied to every phone # I've connected to? and transcriptions and audio of every voicemail on google voice?
posted by spbmp at 6:13 PM on January 31, 2012

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