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Inside the Debate over Google’s New Privacy Policy

Mar 28, 2012 in Tech . 0 Comment

Inside the Debate over Google’s New Privacy Policy

On March 1, 2012, Google instituted a new privacy policy, which sparked a public debate about individual rights on the web. People enjoy surfing and researching on the Internet, but they don’t necessarily enjoy having their use of the web being tracked and advertisers market and target them. Google makes money by selling user information and behavior data to advertisers. With Google’s new privacy policy, your activity on each of its more than 60 services, including YouTube, Google Maps, Google Books, Picasa, and so on, is automatically shared among all of Google’s products.


On February 22, a letter signed by over thirty state and territory attorneys general was sent to Google. Concerns about sharing user information across Google products were addressed, but Google has ignored complaints on the new changes. The European Union sent a request for Google to postpone making the change as the policy violates an EU law. After a lack of response from Google, on March 5, the French cyber security bureau CNIL began investigating Google’s noncompliance. 


Beyond the global debate, on an individual level, it seems that people are conflicted over Google’s new privacy policy. In a recent survey of over 2,000 Internet users, 91 percent said they always find what they search for, 73 percent said the information on the Internet was accurate and credible, and 66 percent said online information was fair and unbiased. Despite this positive attitude towards the Internet, those surveyed felt that it was an invasion of privacy for search engines to track web behavior and personalize search results. 


Younger Google users are not as bothered by the new privacy policy as those surveyed. For Millenials and those under 30, Google has always kept track of searches, sites visited, and other personal information. The difference now, according to blogger Hashim Fannin, is that Google is going to deploy that information to better cater to its users. Because younger Internet users have accepted Google’s tracking and data mining approach, they have developed strategies for coping. Having multiple personalities online, such as multiple email accounts or social networks, keeps your identity displaced and prevents hackers from accessing all of your accounts in one go. 


Others claim that Google’s privacy policy is the least of our worries with regards to privacy violation. Military surveillance technologies have recently entered the consumer marketplace without any sort of policy for acceptable use. In this Wild West of technology, the police, media, and others with perhaps more criminal intentions have no common laws or prohibitions to keep them from invading privacy. 


President Obama has entered the privacy debate proposing a “privacy bill of rights” to allow consumers more control over their personal information and how it is used online. The most common complaint against personalized advertising is that users do not want their data tracked and analyzed without permission.  


For those who want to limit how their information is used on the Internet, there are a few strategies that can protect you. If you want to maximize your privacy online, you can simply delete search history and cookies and make sure privacy settings are engaged. 

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