WARNING: New Google Privacy Policy Effective Tomorrow

Posted by · February 29, 2012 3:32 pm

Despite facing considerable criticism at both the consumer and regulatory levels, Google appears poised to move full speed ahead with the implementation of its controversial new privacy policy on Thursday, March 1st. Postured by Google as a step toward greater simplicity by making its policies and terms “more consistent, easier to read and easier to understand,” the new privacy policy is perceived by many to actually be a unilateral power grab by the Web giant.

Google 的貼牌冰箱(Google refrigerator)By consolidating the policies of more than 60 different Google-owned services (including YouTube, Android and many others) into a one-size-fits-all policy—with no option to opt out—that will allow Google to gather and consolidate user information from across all services without express consent from their users. As I surmised when the news of the new policy first broke, Google is taking the liberty to use as it pleases the information which, we must assume, was intentionally provided to some services but not others—all in exchange for a user policy that people can actually read and understand.

In other words, the new policy isn’t a mere simplification of the rules that existed prior, but a set of new policies and terms to which users did not agree when they created their Google Accounts. Included among the most disconcerting changes are Google’s decisions to grant itself the power to track user location, send cookies that monitor web activity to devices and collect “device-specific information”.

Therefore, given Google’s resolve to move forward in the face of vast disapproval—including the announcement of an investigation to ensure the new policy’s consistency with an old FTC agreement—there comes a point where the conversation must transition from what can’t be done to what can be done to minimize any negative consequences of the new policy.

Thankfully, a recent report in the Digital Journal gives users some recourse. Most importantly, the report encourages users to heed the advice of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), an online privacy watchdog, and the Daily Mail to delete their web history before Google’s new policy becomes effective.

“Search data can reveal particularly sensitive information about you, including facts about your location, interests, age, sexual orientation, religion, health concerns, and more,” the EFF warns.

For those who wish to do so, the report provided the following steps to delete one’s browsing history:

1. Go to the Google homepage and sign into your account.

2. Click the dropdown menu next to your name in the upper-right hand corner of your screen.

3. Click accounts settings

4. Find the “Services section”

5. Under “Services” there is a sub-section that reads “View, enable, disable web history.” Click the link next to it that reads: “Go to Web History.”

6. Click on “Remove all Web History”

When you click on “Remove all Web History,” a message appears that says ” Web History is Paused.” What this means is that while Google will continue gathering and storing information about your web history it will make all data anonymous, that is, Google will not associate your Web History information with your online accounts and will therefore be unable to send you customized search results.

Google’s ability to gather personalized information about you by assigning data to your Gmail and YouTube accounts will remain “Paused” till you click “Resume.”

The American Civil Liberties Union has also given concerned users a chance to speak directly to Google and other “stewards of our digital lives” by signing their petition (found here).