Convenience vs Privacy

5 03 2012

Google recently announced some significant changes to its privacy policy (changes which took effect a couple of days ago). If you’re a regular user of one of Google’s products (search, Gmail, YouTube, etc.), then you probably saw the news prominently displayed on these sites for the past few weeks. Basically, the company took is 60+ different privacy policies from various products and sites and combined them into one single “easy to use” policy. From Google’s organizational efficiency standpoint, this is probably a welcome change. But this single privacy policy also has a significant business advantage too: now Google can share your data between its services more easily. It’s not that Google is collecting more data, they are just consolidating it; for example, your viewing habits on YouTube can help the company advertise to you better on Gmail.

Not surprisingly, some government regulators and privacy watchdogs have suggested that these changes may be more “user friendly” but they strip away some of the privacy of individual users. There are concerns in the EU that the current policy does not adhere to their “Directive on Data Protection” and here in Canada concerns are being raised by the Privacy Commissioner. Issues include: there doesn’t seem to be a clear way of opting-out of the new policy; the policy does not explain if users can easily set up different accounts with each Google service (to avoid data consolidation); its unclear how long your data will remain in the Google ecosystem even after you’ve asked for it to be deleted. The privacy debate continues…

The CBC has more on the story here.