On the face of it, this simplification seems a step in the right direction.
Fundamental user impact
From 1 March, all user data collected on Google’s many platforms will be collated and used by Google across all of its products, and there is no “opt out” option for users.
Google’s blog post reads: “[...] we may combine information you’ve provided from one service with information from other services. In short, we’ll treat you as a single user across all our products [...]”
Grand-scale data mining operation
For the user, this means that everything and anything done on Gmail, Google search, YouTube, Google Maps, Google+ or any Google’s other services will be tracked and centrally analysed to build an accurate profile of the user’s interests. A profile which will aid the Internet giant to display more relevant ads to the user and further increase profits.
Google can also store cookies on people’s computers to see which web sites they visit or use its popular Google Maps program to estimate their location.
Even mobile phones based on Google’s popular Android operating system will be including in the grand-scale data mining operation.
Consumer group concerns: “Frustrating and a little frightening”
Consumer advocates have responded to Google’s announcement with great concern as users don’t expect their data to be shared between seemingly unrelated websites such as Gmail and YouTube.
The Washington Post quoted Common Sense Media chief executive James Steyer as saying: “Google’s new privacy announcement is frustrating and a little frightening,”
“Even if the company believes that tracking users across all platforms improves their services, consumers should still have the option to opt out — especially the kids and teens who are avid users of YouTube, Gmail and Google Search.”
That philosophy, said Mat Honan, writing on the technology news site Gizmodo, had “been largely interpreted as meaning that Google will always put its users first, an interpretation that Google has cultivated and encouraged. Google has built a very lucrative company on the reputation of user respect.”
“And now it’s pulling the stakes out, collapsing it. It gives you a few weeks to pull your data out, using its data-liberation service, but if you want to use Google services, you have to agree to these rules,” Honan wrote.
“There is no way a user can comprehend the implication of Google collecting across platforms for information about your health, political opinions and financial concerns,” Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, a privacy advocacy group, was quoted by the Washington Post as saying.
The latest move by the Internet giant comes after Google recently disappointed Wall Street investors for the first time in several quarters, and as the company is facing antitrust investigations of its business practices both in the U.S. and Europe.
Obscure search rankings
These investigations also probe whether Google may have manipulated search rankings in favour of its own services. Obscure search rankings which hinder growth of innovative smaller and medium-sized enterprises are the subject of a campaign for greater search engine transparency, “Have I been penalized..?”, which is spearheaded by One News Page. For more information, please visit the campaign website.
By Marc Pinter-Krainer,
One News Page