The privacy changes announced by Google this week highlight the classic dilemma of the digital age: Are you willing to give companies a clearer picture of yourself, and what you do, in exchange for the promise of a better online experience?

Here’s how the company explains it: “The main change is for users with Google Accounts. 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. In short, we’ll treat you as a single user across all our products, which will mean a simpler, more intuitive Google experience.”

For more background, here are the company’s new terms of service, and its new unified privacy policy, both taking effect March 1.

Not everyone is happy about the changes. In Washington, D.C., where Google is coming under increased regulatory scrutiny, the Washington Post reported on the changes on Page A1 this morning under the headline, “Google announces privacy changes across products; users can’t opt out.”

“Google’s new privacy announcement is frustrating and a little frightening,” Common Sense Media chief executive James Steyer told the paper. “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.”

How do you feel about Google’s changes? Vote in our poll below.

Comments

  • http://www.dainbinder.com Dain Binder

    Dear Washington Post, I have never heard of a person being able to opt out of an online privacy policy.

    • Peter H

      Dain – Are you just arguing with their semantics (ie, it would be more correct to say opt out of tracking rather than opt out of a privacy policy)?   Or are you saying you have not seen any opt out features.  If the former, agree.  If the latter, there are many, such as http://www.bluekai.com/consumers_optout.php

      • http://www.dainbinder.com Dain Binder

        Hi Peter, I am not. I have not seen an opt out option for an account I have signed up for. The item you point to is for anonymous data not for having an account and directly using a service with that firm. You can opt out of Google’s target advertising to a degree as well. That option should be available for any ad network.

        • Peter H.

          Ah – I agree, I also haven’t seen opt out for services where you sign in.  That to me seems almost reasonable — “being tracked is a part of using this service.”  

          What feels odd however is Google is combining your data between registered services (Google+) and more anonymous services like search.  I just hope their In Cognito windows in Chrome really work when I want to search on Bieber and not get targeted for Proactive for the rest of my life ;)

          • http://www.dainbinder.com Dain Binder

            LOL! That was great. I am no expert, but I think incognito will protect you for the most part. Although, I read someplace that Google uses IP addresses as one of their indicators which ingonito would not hide. I have not been able to officially validate that though.

            It is interesting and I agree the information flow is opening up, but I bet if you ask the average Joe they would think that Google was already doing this type of cross product information sharing. Google is “Google”.

            I trust Google and for me this is a benefit. I know many don’t and that is a valid stance. My primary concern with privacy is that the information collected by the company is choose to use is not shared with the outside world. Google is not doing that so I am good.

      • http://www.dainbinder.com Dain Binder

        Hi Peter, I am not. I have not seen an opt out option for an account I have signed up for. The item you point to is for anonymous data not for having an account and directly using a service with that firm. You can opt out of Google’s target advertising to a degree as well. That option should be available for any ad network.

  • Guest

    I can have a youtube account and opt-out of them tracking me across gmail.  It’s called Yahoo or hotmail or comcast or …    Google may have a stranglehold on search/ads market, but certainly I am not compelled by any market forces to use gmail.  That’s the ultimate opt-out and it’s completely in my control.

    • http://techmansworld.blogspot.com/ MHazell

      So you would go Hotmail? I use that. In fact, I created my Google Account using my Hotmail address. They don’t care.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_XWC6Z7FQ5R7EMIISPAXRTMLNYU Foot faults are illegal!

    My understanding is that you must be signed in to your Google account for them to track you across their apps. That seems simple enough to avoid. Why would I stay signed in during normal browsing anyway? Still, it should be possible to get Google search results without having them tuned to my past behavior, developers want to know what a “generic” user sees after all, not be fed some preconceived notion of what we are looking for.

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