Google and privacy: What’s the problem?

Google’s unification of its privacy policies has brought the firm wide criticism. But what’s actually the issue? Simon Brew has been taking a look…

On 1 March 2012, Google enacted its brand new privacy policy. If you're a user of Google's services, and the vast majority of us are, then you might have seen this flagged up as the firm alerted people to changes with prominent messages.

How many people read the information that Google had put together? Precious few, would be our suspicion (around one in 10 is reported to be the figure). Yet some clearly did, as the new changes appear to be losing Google quite a few friends. Furthermore, it's attracting questions over the legality of what it's actually done.

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At the very least, it'd be one policy to digest, made as straightforward and simple as it could be.

What could possibly be wrong with that?

From 70 to one?

But what did it do? Well, the firm argues that it has over 70 different services, each of which have individual privacy policies, meaning that what you do on one Google service has no impact on the other. Not unreasonably, it also argues that this is a complicated way of going about things, not least because it makes the privacy situation pretty much impenetrable for its users. It's hard enough wrapping your head around one policy, let alone dozens of them (again, not that too many people actually read them).

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So it had a plan: consolidate the privacy policies for the bulk of its services (some, including those for Google Chrome, are excluded) into one. It announced this at the start of the year, arguing that it was doing this in the best interests of its customers.

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After all, now if you type a name into a document, and it's someone you'd been e-mailing, it'd be able to automatically correct your spelling. Perhaps it could tie up your geographic location and your calendar, to warn you if you were going to be late for your next appointment? At the very least, it'd be one policy to digest, made as straightforward and simple as it could be.

What could possibly be wrong with that?

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