Google’s New Privacy Policy and Wider Concerns

I spent the morning reading Google’s new privacy policy, which becomes active on March 1, 2012.  After reading the policy and also reading other views on the policy, such as Lifehacker.com articles, I have come to a few conclusions!

Information Control

Yes the policy on how much information they gather from you is scary, but not any more than any other company that gathers info from you, including Microsoft, Yahoo, and so on.  So what is the difference?

  •  Google is a huge company with lots of services, and so information is centralized.  

Question:  Have you read all those other policies you have agreed to in the past?  Not likely. I often  joke about it: “Well, there I go giving up another child to Apple,” I say as I imagine Apple’s new policy updates to be a lot like Rumpelstiltskin – offering tempting items at a horrible price.  Although educated, I also do not understand what I am reading with many of these agreements.  So, did I really agree to the agreement I agreed to?  I am not sure.  Is it legally binding if I did not understand what I signed?  +sigh+  But I digress.

So we have three particularly important issues: A) information with Google services is now centralized, meaning they can connect the dots about you more easily.  Big is scary and the bigger one gets, and the more power one has, the more scary that entity becomes.  Power corrupts and Google’s hope to “do no evil,” is less likely.  B) Likely for the first time, you are able to read the privacy rights you are giving up.  These are not new surrenders, but readable rights of privacy, which is scary.  It is easier to ignore what we cannot understand. Plain English makes it super clear

C) “Wishy-washy” language leaves us all on uncertain grounds as to what constitutes reasonable attempts to keep information private and accurate.  With that said, what really worries me, and it is something that Facebook, Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft all do, is how that information will be processed. I will quote from the new private policy for this one:

“We also use this information to offer you tailored content – like giving you more relevant search results and ads.”

  • Worry number four: Google will be narrowly targeting our likes, dislikes, and interests.  Again, Google is not unique on this, but given the centralized mode of information collection, they are the most efficient at this.
On the outside, this seems good.  When I search for something, Google will look at all the collective information it has about me, and return specific results tailored to my preferences.  How awesome is that?  It is like having a conversation with a very close friend who knows you SO well, that he or she can fill in all the blanks to a silent conversation.  It is also cool that Google can help me coordinate and organize events using this information, let me know the closest pizza joint, and so on.  I like that.
But I also think this sucks. Sucks in a giant way.  I go to the Internet for information …. diverse and complex information. For me, the Internet = the most awesome complex research organism in existence! Now, sometimes I want direct results, such as directions to a Pizza place, but more often I am looking up ideas, news, and concepts.  I am exploring information and if I am given only a narrow sliver about that topic or news, I become a narrow person.  I may be liberal, but getting only liberally targeted links to news, blogs, and articles will help to create a limited and non-critically thinking being.  
But Google is NOT the only company to do this.  Look at Facebook and the type of messages and wall posts you see on your FB wall.  It is not targeted to provide you with information only about SOME of your friends – they ones FB thinks you like and enjoy the most.  Amazon has been doing this for years, and sending us all emails on what it thinks we should buy from them. Seriously, THIS IS WHAT YOU SHOULD BE WORRIED ABOUT. We are creating a world where each one of us will live in a bubble of information that divorces us from the complex world of critical and chaotic thought.  It is almost enough to make one walk away from it all and simply use the world of libraries. 
Yes, the information gathered on us, and how our world in relation to what constitutes privacy is changing …. has changed drastically.  Be worried about this.  Be conscious about this.  Be careful about what you put out there on the Interwebs. But a larger concern lies in how that information is being used and processed.  Do you really want Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Amazon, Microsoft and the rest to become YOUR personal gatekeeper regarding information and news?  Telling you what information you should be reading, and holding back the rest? This is what we are surrendering to, and I think it should concern us all a great deal.
______________
UPDATE 2/27/2012: 

For those of you interested in
deleting your  web browsing history on Google before their new privacy
policy takes place, John Thomas Didymus at Digital Journal offered this great advice:

1. Go to the google homepage and sign into your account.

2. Click the dropdown menu next to your name in the upper-right hand corner of your screen. 

3. Click accounts settings 

4. Find the “Services section” 

5. Under “Services” there is a sub-section that reads “View, enable,
disable web history.” Click the link next to it that reads: “Go to Web
History.” 

6. Click on “Remove all Web History”

When you click on “Remove all Web History,” a message appears that says
” Web History is Paused.” What this means is that while Google will
continue gathering and storing information about your web history it
will make all data anonymous, that is, Google will not
associate your Web History information with your online accounts and
will therefore be unable to send you customized search results.

Links to examine:
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