Google has ditched its 60+ individual privacy policies in favour of a single policy that it says is ‘a lot shorter and easier to read’. Great for time-saving, but I have serious questions about how my data will be shared.
Google claims that the new single policy ‘covers multiple products and features, reflecting our desire to create one beautifully simple and intuitive experience across Google’.
But, just as I’ve never believed in one-size-fits-all clothing (it either swamps you or cuts off your circulation), nor do I believe in a single policy for Google’s ever-expanding range of products and services.
As a technology journalist I’m familiar with most, but not all, of Google’s product portfolio; these include social networking site Google+, YouTube and webmail service Gmail.
For me, there’s a world of difference between an email I’ve sent to a friend and a video I’ve chosen to share – one I’d prefer to keep private, the other is designed for sharing. How can a single policy meet both these needs?
Merging data blurs boundaries
This degree of data-sharing makes me uncomfortable, and I’m not alone. Interviewed by the BBC, a campaigner for the Open Rights Group, Peter Bradwell, said:
‘Does this simplicity come at the expense of strong boundaries between Google products? Will details that users thought might be private on one be revealed in unexpected ways on another?’
This is of particular concern when it comes to one of Google’s lesser-known products, Doubleclick. This is Google’s advertising network, which tracks products you’ve looked at online and covers about 80% of the web. It’s used to serve you targeted advertisements.
Currently, Doubleclick data isn’t merged with the rest, but if it were your search results would reflect practically every site that you visit.
Google’s umbrella spreads far and wide