Does this stuff matter? Depends on who you ask

If you use any of Google's services that require a username and password you've probably seen a little heading inserted by the company noting "We’re changing our privacy policy and terms. This stuff matters." Did you click on the link to learn more? Do you think this stuff matters?

The gist of this new policy change is that Google wants you, the user, to agree to one privacy policy for a wide range of Google services and products (think Gmail, YouTube, Google+) so that the company can pool the data you provide and "treat you as a single user across all [their] products." The company claims that this streamlining of permissions is a move towards "[their] desire to create one beautifully simple and intuitive experience across Google.” Sounds great, right?

Well, some folks are a little spooked about all this data-sharing. After all, the aggregation of all of this personal data could end up forming one of the largest databases in the world of its type (with Facebook a main competitor). We ought not forget that Google's main and most lucrative business model is targeted advertising. So, while it may end up that our experience across the Google suite is enhanced, with programs and apps learning from each other about us, we'll also certainly be subjected to even more precisely targeted advertising.

And then there's the thorny issue of not being able to opt out. You have two options: 1) say OK and keep using Google services in "always-signed-in" mode; 2) Export your data from Google services and accounts, delete it from Google's servers, move on to another service. You can't tell Google to maintain the current personal information firewall between services.

Google claims that there nothing untoward about its new move. Critics claim there are some major privacy implications. Yet another commenter seems to think that maybe its not so big a deal, seeing as Google already "knows more about [him] than [his] wife."

Sources consulted for this post:









(This post was completed with the assistance of Dominika Gergeley '13.)

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