How Google’s New Privacy Policy Impacts Users

Google, the world’s largest search provider and makers of the popular Android mobile operating system, recently announced that their privacy policies would be condensed. From Gmail to Google Maps, the company offers dozens of unique products and services. The majority of these products have always had their own individual privacy policies, functioning more as individual products instead of just being arms of the Google giant.

The Policy

Under the new condensed privacy policy, all of these individual policies will be done away with. The new unified policy will allow information to be shared between all of Google’s products, with the exception of just a few. Google Wallet, Google Books and Google Chrome will remain as their own entities. Other services, such as Calendar and Android, will now share user information. The reaction from Google’s user community has been varied. Some see it as a natural progression that Google needed to make at some point or another, while others have seen it as the company encroaching on user privacy in the sake of increasing revenues.

Unified Experience

In a release that discussed the new policy, Google said its aim is to provide a more unified experience across its products. Improved search results and intuitive reminders are just a couple of the benefits that Google said users will now be able to enjoy.

One example given by Google of its services being able to share user information is that of Calendar interacting with the GPS in Android devices. If a meeting is scheduled in a user’s calendar with a time and location, Calendar will be able to communicate with the GPS information to find out if a user is about to be running late. If they are, Google will be able to send a reminder to the user so that the situation is averted entirely. This sort of benefit isn’t available under the current policy because each Google product keeps user data on its own island.

Privacy Concerns

Of course, as with any change to the way a company manages privacy, concerns are bound to fly. Considering that the company in question is Google, a company with a privacy record that is already blemished, those concerns have already been voiced.

The truth is, these concerns are justified. Users are unhappy with how much of their data Google is using, and their lack of control over it. As it stands, a number of services that have been separate are now being merged without user consent. It can represent a conflict for someone who has documents in their Google Docs account that they don’t want shared with services such as Google Search.

Privacy Regulators

What’s interesting is that, despite consumer concerns, part of the move is actually complying with privacy regulators. During one of Google’s recent hearings over the way the company handles user privacy, regulators stated that Google’s privacy policies were too varied. Considering that there were more than 70, this seems like a reasonable criticism. Combining the policies into one is a logical move, but the minimal amount of control that Google is giving users is still giving some people reason to balk.

Unfortunately, those unhappy with the switch are at a loss for solutions for now. No true opt-out to the new policy exists. Users are maintaining input over what kind of information Google can use when deciding what ads to show, and users can still view the Google services they use through Google Dashboard. But for now, there’s no way for users to keep using the policy they already agreed to. Unless Google makes a change, the only options for concerned users are to completely stop using Google.

This guest post was written by Harrison L. who blogs about his experience with growing and taking care of bonsai trees at home. He also provides detailed information on other related topics regarding which bonsai starter tree is appropriate for someone who has just begun in this hobby.

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