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Why the flap over Google’s new privacy protocol?

Sections: Internet / Websites, Mac Software, Opinions and Editorials

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I find myself bemused at the degree of outrage and angst being expressed over Google’s recent change of policy regarding user privacy that went into effect March 1.


In a nutshell, when you use Google’s various services, most of which are free, it collects and stores information about your activities in a consolidated user profile that is employed to, for example, custom-tailor the ads you will see on Google’s search engine page to your particular interests. That doesn’t bother me in the slightest.

As Google notes:

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

If you don’t think information sharing will improve your experience, you can use our privacy tools to do things like edit or turn off your search history and YouTube history, control the way Google tailors ads to your interests and browse the web “incognito” using Chrome. You can use services like Search, Maps and YouTube if you are not signed in. You can even separate your information into different accounts, since we don’t combine personal information across them. And we’re committed to data liberation, so if you want to take your information elsewhere you can.

Sounds reasonable to me. Personally, I don’t mind at all if Google wants to custom tailor the ads I see on the search page or whatever to my perceived interests. Better than for stuff I’m not interested in. I’m not offended by ad-supported services or software. Advertising revenues support the publishers I write for, whether online or in traditional print media, including this one, so indirectly it pays my keep, and as a consumer/reader I often find ads interesting—even entertaining and helpful. The unbroken columns of text in publications that don’t have ads seems to me aesthetically dull, and I relish the topical eclecticism ads provide. Turning my nose up at advertising is not a form of elitism I subscribe to, and if Google’s targeted ads help keep the Google services I use and wouldn’t want to get along without coming and fee-free, more power to them.

It will be interesting to see if a similar flap blows up over Twitter’s weekend announcement that it is licensing data mining rights to Gnip Inc, of Boulder, Colorado and U.K. and San Francisco Based DataSift, to access archived tweets as well as users’ personal information such as where they live. I don’t have a dog in that fight because although I’ve had a Twitter account for years, I don’t really use it. However, if did, I wouldn’t object to what Twitter is doing. It strikes me that there’s a disconnect there somewhere with people who choose to reveal their musings on Twitter and/or post personal information on other social networking sites, waxing indignant about privacy.

Am I missing something here?

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