Google Is Watching You (Or Not): New Privacy Policy Takes Effect Today

With several governments and regulatory bodies around the world saying that Google’s new privacy policy may violate their domestic rules (Europe, Japan), it goes into effect today. Advocacy group EPIC has been trying to block it saying that the consolidated privacy policy violates Google’s earlier settlement with the FTC in the Buzz case/investigation. However that effort was unsuccessful.

For its part, Google says the new policy will simplify privacy across Google’s many properties and make it possible for the company to build a range of new products and services for consumers, including on mobile. Arguably Google’s simplification of its many privacy policies was actually mandated by the FTC in the Buzz settlement.

Changes won’t affect users controls

Google also says that the new privacy policy won’t affect the controls that users can exercise over their browsing and search history:

The new policy doesn’t change any existing privacy settings or how any personal information is shared outside of Google. We aren’t collecting any new or additional information about users. We won’t be selling your personal data. And we will continue to employ industry-leading security to keep your information safe.

Nonetheless, there are a range of articles about how to “keep Google from watching you,” like one this morning in the Wall Street Journal.

Earlier this week the Obama Administration introduced a “Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights” that will be voluntarily supported by Google, Yahoo, AOL and Microsoft. A parallel initiative involves implementation of a “do not track” button in browsers, which Google has said it will install in Chrome.

Google still under intense scrutiny, pressure over privacy

Despite these moves, Google still faces intense scrutiny and pressure from lawmakers, advocacy groups and states’ Attorneys General (see e.g., 36 State Attorneys General Call For Privacy Meeting With Google).

Yesterday during her SMX West keynote interview Google’s SVP of Advertising Susan Wojcicki spoke at some length about privacy and how that plays out in the context of Google’s ad and consumer products. She explained that Google is ultimately seeking to balance consumer and advertiser interests and is guided by several principles: control, notification and transparency.

She added that nothing changes today as a practical matter except the policy itself. However that sets the stage for potential later changes in consumer products and advertiser options.

Wojcicki tries to explain Google’s goals with new policy

Wojcicki also addressed the controversy over Google circumventing iPhone Safari privacy settings. She acknowledged “mistakes” and that there had been several privacy related missteps in the recent past. These communication and PR blunders have contributed to fear and suspicion that what Google says and what it intends are two different things.

Below are part of Wojcicki’s remarks from yesterday about Google and its new privacy policy and what the company is seeking to accomplish. You can see more clips, including additional privacy discussion, from her keynote interview here.

Related Entries

Related Topics: Channel: Industry | Google: Critics | Google: Legal | Google: Privacy | Legal: Privacy | Legal: Regulation | Top News


About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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  • Louis Gudema

    It’s hard to know how much of the political opposition is just that, political, and how much is sincere. I don’t think most people understand what is being tracked, and to what degree it is anonymized, or not.

    Bottom line is the Internet has to be paid for somehow. Do people want to pay for websites (mostly no, and those few that do could take advantage of premium, private services), or do they want to allow sites to make money from advertising? If it’s the latter, then they need to allow tracking, too.

    I would support, though, that personally identifiable browing/online behavior data is deleted after a few months.

    Louis Gudema
    Vice President of Business Development
    Overdrive Interactive

  • Nandita B.

    I don’t think Google’s privacy policy will affect so much for a general/ordinary web surfer.

    In fact Google’s new steps to integrate all the accounts seemingly will help web surfers in a great way to find requisite content.

    Thank you.

  • Nick Stamoulis

    The new Google privacy policy has been discussed at length in the media over the last few weeks. Those that are concerned about their privacy have had time to research the changes and see how it will affect them. Precautions can be taken, but what it comes down to is that in order to use Google, you need to realize that you are providing them with data. The service isn’t actually “free”.

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