Google soon to merge all user data collected across its websites


English: Google Logo officially released on Ma...

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Google has recently announced its controversial plan to merge all user data collected across its websites into one profile, which would then be used to target users with advertising and services and to further alter Google search results.

User data from Google products – including Gmail, Youtube, Google+, Google Maps, and even Android mobile – will be collated and treated as a single set of data to be used for various targeted services and revenue-generating schemes.

The Guardian reports that “users will have no way to opt out of being tracked across the board when the search company unifies its privacy policy and terms of service for all its online offerings, including search, Gmail and Google+. The move is being criticised by privacy advocates and could attract greater scrutiny from anti-trust regulators.”

Google’s director of privacy, product and engineering, Alma Whitten, wrote in a blogpost: “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.”

“Our recently launched personal search feature is a good example of the cool things Google can do when we combine information across products. Our search box now gives you great answers not just from the web, but your personal stuff too.”

“We can make search better—figuring out what you really mean when you type in Apple, Jaguar or Pink. We can provide more relevant ads too.”

The changes take place on March 1st, and users will be unable to opt out of the changes.

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

Google can store cookies on people’s computers to see which Web sites they visit or use its popular maps program to estimate their location. It can collect information about users when they activate an Android mobile phone, sign into their accounts online or enter search terms. For the first time, this data will be collated across its services into one user profile .

“There is no way anyone expected this,” said Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, a privacy advocacy group. “There is no way a user can comprehend the implication of Google collecting across platforms for information about your health, political opinions and financial concerns.”

 Twitter, Facebook and Myspace have launched a tool called Don’t Be Evil – which is Google’s motto – that claims to neutralise any attempt by the search engine to skew results towards its Google+ service.

Mat Honan from Gizmodo wrote: “It means that things you could do in relative anonymity today, will be explicitly associated with your name, your face, your phone number.

“If you use Google’s services, you have to agree to this new privacy policy. It is an explicit reversal of its previous policies.”

An interested TED talk on Google is posted below. In it, Eli Pariser speaks about how Google is literally changing the way we view and use the internet, and not necessarily for the better.

 

 

 

 

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