In a company blog post, Google director of privacy Alma Whitten explained that more than 60 policies have been consolidated to create one more approachable framework for users to reference.
In practice, Google could store and suggest Gmail contacts to add to a Calendar event or display a friend's relevant Google+ post in search results. The data collection and sharing between services will also affect the ads users see. For example, as Whitten explained, Google could interpret whether or not holiday gym membership deals would be relevant to users based on their previous fitness-related online activity.
Google Books, Google Wallet and Chrome will be excluded from these terms, according to Washington Post technology writer Hayley Tsukayama, and services such as search, Maps and YouTube will be accessible without signing in. Users that do not agree with the merits of the new policies also have the option to cancel their Google accounts and extract personal data before changes go into effect.
"Google was quick. Even before the [privacy regulators] decided on the new European law, Google made the first step in the direction of new privacy rules," European Commissioner for Justice Vivian Reding told reporters. "I can only applaud the new direction."
Whitten also emphasized that a number of important provisions of prior policy will remain intact. Personal information will not be sold to third parties, and it is only shared externally without consent in "very limited circumstances," such as a certified court order. Tools like Ads Preferences Manager can still be used to adjust elements of banner ad content and some display features can be disabled entirely.
However, some are suggesting that Google's changes are more rhetorical than practical. For instance, Massachusetts Congressman Ed Markey told the Washington Post that he believes the ability to control what information is shared between Google services is "imperative" to the user experience. Simply having an all-or-none consent process may not be in the best interest of consumers who are by-and-large unlikely to completely abandon their Google accounts to achieve so-called data liberation.
Some also worry that the simplistic explanation of the new policy will discourage users from investigating the full scope of its consequences.
"There is no way a user can comprehend the implication of Google collection across platforms for information about your health, political opinions and financial concerns," Center for Digital Democracy executive director Jeffrey Chester told the Post.
Some technology pundits are also viewing the impending changes as a part of Google's ongoing quest for industry dominance.
"This is happening because there's no such thing as a free lunch. People want things such as email and social networking for free, but companies still need to make money," explained Wall Street Journal columnist Jennifer Valentino-DeVries. "And few things are more enticing to Google's money-paying customers than data they can use for targeted ads."
Valentino-DeVries added that the move is reflective of the high-stakes battle for personal data being fought between Google and Facebook. Each company now holds a treasure trove of information and has incorporated features to synthesize it into advanced insight. The Wall Street Journal writer also suggested that the slow creep of changes, and clear end-user conveniences afforded by the innovative features, may be pacifying consumer skepticism.
There are also murmurs within the industry that Google's data privacy changes may be strategically squeezing out competitor influence in online spaces. Twitter and others have already voiced concern that Google may be shifting away from truly neutral search, according to the Washington Post, and the new prioritization of Google+ posts in search results has only added fuel to the fire.
To sort fact from fiction in this contentious debate, several regulatory agencies have already promised a probe of the data privacy revisions. Building on its prior experience in high-stakes auditing procedures, Ireland's deputy Data Protection Commissioner Gary Davis told Bloomberg that his team will be "further assessing the implications" of Google's policy changes. France's National Commission for Computing and Civil Liberties will conduct a similar investigation, though officials insist it will not be legally binding.
Data Security News from SimplySecurity.com by Trend Micro