Why Google’s Privacy Policy Change Isn’t As Bad As It is Made Out To Be

Unless you’ve been hibernating for the past week you will undoubtedly have noticed the sensationalist reporting around Google’s announcement to change their privacy policy. Sadly, much of this reporting has failed to understand the core essence of what Google is doing in this specific change. Instead, many news sources are citing this as the day Google officially becomes “evil” and starts sharing information across its products.

How is the current policy today?

Google currently has a privacy policy that is extremely complicated. They have a general policy, followed by specific policies for each of their products. Here is a list of products that have their own policy:

+1 Button, Advertising, Advisor, Apps, Blogger, Books, Buzz, Chrome, Chrome Frame, Gears, Google+, Google Music, Google Notebook, Google TV, Google Web Toolkit, Groups, Health
Knol, Location Service in Firefox, Mobile, Moderator, Orkut, Picasa, Postini, Safe Browsing, Sites, Store, Toolbar, Trader, Translator Toolkit, Voice, Wallet, Web Accelerator, Web History, YouTube

Does that seem complicated to you? It does to me. What’s even worse is that the company doesn’t have one specific policy in place for how to handle users informations. If they wanted to share data across their products in the future regardless of the way to do so, this would make it much more difficult.

Simplifying and Opening Doors

Looking at their new privacy policy on the other hand (which goes into effect on March 1st, 2012) this is now going to apply to all services. As you can see by looking at it, it is not a very complicated or long read. If you are interested, nothing is stopping you from reading the policy now.

What this new policy does is open the doors for Google to expand and integrate their products, something that you would expect companies to do. In the case of Google, we all stand to benefit from tighter integration between many of the products that they offer. It remains to see however how Google chooses to do this, whether through opt-in or forcing us to.

Unluckily for Google, they are not very good at communicating change to the mainstream world. What many are beginning to hear about now is the new “Search Plus Your World” service that is integrating Google+ with the Google search results. This is an entirely different business from the new privacy policy and a change that I personally am a bit skeptical about. It is however a topic for another discussion.

Further Reading/Listening

If you would like to get more into what both Search Plus Your World is and what the new privacy policy changes mean, I would suggest that you tune in to the latest episodes of This Week in Google where they talk about these issues in a very good way. No sensational journalism here.