Google Plans to Unify Their 60+ Privacy Policies Into One Profile

January 26, 2012

Earlier this week, Google announced that it will be compressing over 60 of its different product-specific privacy policies and terms of service into a single user profile.  This news was announced on a blog post on the Official Google Blog by the company’s very own Privacy Director for Products and Engineering, Alma Whitten. As stated, the reason for this coming change will serve as ‘a way for Google to offer a better user experience.’

“Our new Privacy Policy makes clear that, if you’re signed in, we may combine information you’ve provided from one service with information from other services,” explained Whitten. “In short, we’ll treat you as a single user across all our products, which will mean a simpler, more intuitive Google experience.”

One effect of this consolidation will mean that Google will be able to target Google Offers according to the location you are using your Android phone. As such, they get to present ads influenced by the data found in entries on Google Calendar.

With this user data unification, Google will no longer need the different privacy policies it has maintained for more than 60 of its products. This means it now only has one product, which is you (their consumer). As such, it only needs to maintain one privacy policy and terms of service document that explains how your data is used to improve services it provides and also to serve ads.

While many of its competitors do not enjoy this idea, Google users have different opinions on this new change. Many are even questioning the motive of this decision. In fact, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) wrote in a blog post on Tuesday:

I am troubled that these changes appear to allow greater use by Google of consumers’ information but do not give consumers the ability to opt out of such new uses of their data. The lack of opt-out means users cannot pick and choose which data they want integrated into their Google profiles. Private email messages might contain any number of personal, embarrassing, or otherwise damaging information, and Google’s attempts to amplify and contextualize this information through targeted ads, Maps suggestions, or Calendar reminders could have negative consequences for users.”

In another phone interview, Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC)’s consumer protection fellow, David Jacobs, acknowledged how this consolidation and simplification of the privacy policy might be beneficial. However, this new change will decrease the ability of users to be in control on how their personal data is used.

“Before, you could choose to disclose information with one Google service and not with another,” Jacobs said. “And this information wouldn’t all be combined into a single profile of who you are. Now that’s no longer the case.”

According to Jacobs, the inclusion of data from Android smartphones is the most significant change; with regards to user expectations.

Many are also turning to Twitter to post a 140-character update of how they feel about this new change in Google. One of them is Security Researcher Matt Blaze, who said:

“‘Be Evil’ is a simplified and easier to understand version of ‘Don’t be Evil'”

Android and Me founder, Taylor has some pretty sound ideas as to how this Privacy Policy unification will affect Android.

In short, Google will know more about who you are and what you do online. So far, it appears people are reacting to the changes in two ways. Either people are creeped out by all the information Google is collecting or they are embracing the universal data policies that will enable more human-centric interactions with their connected devices,” he shares.

 

How about you dear reader, what do you feel about this Privacy Policy unification?

 

You can read more about this new privacy policy from Google’s official blog.

Comments