My Privacy? Sure, Take It.
If you are a little surprised sometimes about how much Google seems to know about you—get ready. In March, the internet giant began operating under new privacy policies that dig deeper into the lives of its users.
As we all know, Google is more than just a search engine. The company has many services, including GoogleMaps, YouTube, Gmail and Google Voice. Each of these services has maintained their own rules concerning online information. Now, sixty of Google’s services will be governed by a single policy allowing information sharing across Google-owned sites. However, Google Wallet and Chrome Web—which are government regulated—will not be affected.
The new policy targets Google users’ interests.
Retirees need to keep in mind that Google makes its money by selling ads to finance the free services it provides. Google already has the ability to track what sites people use, but this new policy allows for more in-depth tracking, including information on how long a user stays on a certain site to where their mouse moves on a page.
“The profiling seems to be limited to Google’s properties,” said David Jacobs of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, an internet watchdog based in Washington, D.C. “For now, the company is promising not to sell the information about a person’s occasional oddball tastes to outsiders or government agencies. One way to minimize your risk is to make sure you’re not logged into one of Google’s services when you’re using its search engine.”
But Jacobs said Google can still track you even though you’re not logged in to their services. By observing your internet address or the alphanumeric string attached to your web browser, they can still track you even though the information is not as revealing.
“There is a fine line between annoying and dangerous,” Jacobs said. “There can be something unsettling about doing a Google search for incontinence and then being inundated with product ads showing up in your browser or email account.”
Several government agencies are looking into Google’s new policy. In March, the French regulatory agency CNIL (Commission Nationale Informatique Liberties) warned Google CEO Larry Page that the new policy appears to violate the European Union’s strict data-protection laws. Last year, Google agreed to settle FTC charges that it used “deceptive tactics” in violating its previous privacy policies.
Neither the Federal Trade Commission nor Google would comment to Retirement Media on the current policy change.
The National Association of Attorneys General recently penned a letter to Google CEO Larry Page expressing their concerns about the policy. The letter stated, “The policy appears to invade [people’s] privacy by automatically sharing personal information…with all Google products. [People] have diverse interests and may want their information in their web history to be kept separate from information they exchange via Gmail.”
Many retirees are still getting to know their home computers. As more and more go to Google to shop for their grandchildren, or better halves, they need to take special care to visit only the sites they know and not to respond to suspicious ads or “special offers.” Remember, Google makes money selling information on “who likes what” and “who does what.” Time will tell whether that’s all it will be.