My First Encounter With Google’s New Privacy Policy

Posted by · February 1, 2012 4:29 pm
Google 的貼牌冰箱(Google refrigerator)

Image by Aray Chen via Flickr

Last summer when we were back in the Midwest, we took my phone into the local Verizon store, and I got a Droid. I’m still not sure whether I like it or not; for one thing, we don’t have a Verizon tower out here in the boondocks, so any calls we make go through another carrier. It’s not that they cost anything extra, but it’s not part of Verizon’s network, so we don’t always get the best reception, and I can’t always get the pictures my kids send me. Anyway, when we were getting the new phone, I had to give them an email address. One of the cool things about the way Verizon does things is that I don’t have to worry about a SIM card; when I back up the phone, they keep all of my contacts for me, so if the phone gets run over, I at least have all of that stuff.

So the young man we were dealing with had me create a Gmail account. “Okay, fine,” I thought. I have my email address that works, and everyone who I want to get mail from knows what it is, so I don’t think I’ve ever given the address to anyone, and I know I’ve never looked at it. Getting back to the phone itself, I use it mostly as a phone, and I’ve taken a few pictures and I send text messages — but that’s really about it. I don’t need most of the stuff I know I can do. I don’t play games on it, I don’t keep track of appointments, and I don’t do banking with it.

So I really didn’t think much about it when I saw the article in the Washington Post about the changes Google made to its privacy policy, until we were talking about something else that’s creepy and all of a sudden, my phone told me I had a text message, and since it was about 1 a.m. where the kids are, I looked. But it wasn’t a text message; it was three emails (!) from Google. I didn’t even know I had email set up on the phone, and one of them actually tells how to set it up. Anyway, I started to tell my other half about how I’ve been getting emails from our bank telling me I can get money back if I shop at places like Starbucks and Eddie Bauer and Dillard’s — all businesses that we’ve been to in the last month or so.

And that’s just plain creepy, because if you read the article, it means that if I use Gmail to be on the receiving end of the offers from the bank, and use the bank’s nice little app that keeps me from digging my card out of my wallet, that Google can pretty much track me everywhere I go (I know — they can track the phone anyway) and also see just about everything I do. Now maybe I’m being a little paranoid, but is it possible that they’re also looking at the pictures of the grandkids? And seeing the texts that talk about their birthdays and when we’re going to visit next? And then they’ll start sending me ads that say “take the kids to Six Flags when you’re there in July — just show this little image and get $2 off on each $47 children’s ticket” or something like that?

Don’t believe me? Okay… but don’t say I didn’t warn you. Google may say it doesn’t do evil and all that, but it’s a short step from being able to do a thing and actually doing it “just this once.”

PS: Since I’ve mentioned traveling, here’s another reason we never book on American Airlines.