As you may have heard last week, Google has proposed major changes to its privacy policies. The company is billing it as a consolidation and simplification of over 60 separate service policies — Gmail, YouTube, AdWords, Google Search — into one policy. Consumer groups are concerned, and some lawmakers have questions. Here’s coverage from Cecilia Kang of the Washington Post and Amy Schatz of the Wall Street Journal.
Today when I logged into Feedburner, another Google service, I received this page announcing the change in fairly easy to understand language:
I believe strongly that there needs to be more transparency around what I call the online quid pro quo. Consumers get cool, fun services in exchange for online profiles that are built from both volunteered information and activity tracking. I most recently wrote about this last September in connection to the debate around using so-called Supercookies. It was one of my most popular posts in 2011.
This issue goes all the way back to the birth of Web. The fundamental issues haven’t changed much since I was at Advertising.com back in the late 1990s and we invented pay-per-click advertising. But the sophistication of the tracking has advanced significantly.
In itself, consolidating privacy policies into one and combining data gleaned from services consumers signed up for doesn’t seem very controversial to me. I like that there is one place to show individuals all the Google services they are using, and the privacy policies connected to them. This is a step towards more transparency around the online business model consumers buy into everyday, whether they know it or not. And that’s good.
The more interesting question is does this go far enough, or should consumers be able to tailor information sharing by service? Based on my first review, I only see a few controls for limiting data sharing and they relate to controlling data shared with other people, not data shared with Google.
If I find a way to control that kind of sharing, I’ll update this post.
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