Google responds to new privacy policy concerns

Just a couple of days after Google announced a major change to its current privacy policy, the company is facing severe criticism. From now on, it will be sharing a greater quantum of user data across its own services something that has greatly antagonized privacy advocates and a few official data-protection agencies.

The international search engine giant has announced to place 60 of its services (excluding Google Books, Google Chrome and Google Wallet owing to different technical and regulatory issues.) under a common privacy policy to let it share data between them once the changes come into effect. Any Google account member – to sign in to services like Gmail, personalized search and YouTube – must abide by the policy. And those, who don’t wish to have their Google-related data shared, can opt to shut their accounts.

There are diverse opinions about the company’s open stance about the changes. Vivian Reding, the European Commissioner for Justice and the EC vice president, at forefront of the Internet privacy & data protection laws, described it a move in the right direction from Google, adding that even before the Commission deciding on the new European law, the company made the first move in the direction of new rules regarding privacy.

But not granting the right of choosing what data is shared between services has drawn criticism. Privacy groups feel it’s imperative that users should have control over the kind of information they wish to have shared between the various services that Google offers. What else does the new Google policy entail, and how it’s going to affect the overall user experience?

Google, as has been reported, is drawing information from Gmail, YouTube, Picasa and search, integrating the data to grasp more about users. Google can collect and is in a position to integrate almost anything in its ecosystem: search preferences, calendar appointments, location data, personal habits, contacts etc based on device information, search queries and Gmail chatter, to name a few.

Under its current policies for some of the Google properties, it can ‘combine the information that you submit under your account with data from other Google services or third parties to offer you with an enhanced experience and to better the quality of its services. The respective privacy policies for both YouTube and search history now also has the same premise. Now Google has made its ability of combining information across its services more explicit.

In an effort to clear up the misconceptions about the new privacy policies, Google’s Policy Manager Betsy Masiello clarifies in a post:

“You still have choice and control. You don’t need to log in to use many of our services, including Search, Maps and YouTube. We’re not collecting more data about you. Our new policy simply makes it clear that we use data to refine and improve your experience on Google — whichever products or services you use.”

Google claims that this is something that the company has been doing for a long while, so what’s all the fuss about, it wants to know.