Don’t fear the peeper – Google’s privacy change is no big deal

By: March 2, 2012
Sensational headlines like this are just plain silly Sensational headlines like this are just plain silly

Sensational headlines like this are just plain silly

Now that Google’s unified privacy policy has gone live, hopefully the general media paranoia will die down. Watching the mainstream TV media on the issue last night, one would assume Google was planning to turn us all into mindless bots consuming whatever it advertised to us. What no one pointed out was the simple fact that Google is not going to be collecting more information on your web habits and searches when you use its ‘free’ services. No. It’s just going to gather up and analyse what you do on all of Google’s products to “further personalise your experience” when using Google’s products.
The way people have been banging on about this issue you’d swear Google was enemy number one and the innocents of the web were being exploited in new and dastardly ways and, heavens forbid, our privacy was somehow being compromised.
Let’s get one thing straight: once you go online you are no longer ‘private’. This idea that there are varying degrees of privacy online is rubbish. Anyone who uses a credit card or mobile phone or supermarket loyalty card has already sold their privacy … the web certainly won’t take much more of it away, nor will Google.
If, however, you really want to limit Google following you about online and selling your habits to advertisers, there are clear, easy-to-find ways to do so.

Much ado about little
While Google’s new privacy policy is just an easier way for it to collect ‘useful’ data and sell it on to advertisers, it looks like it could be challenged by European courts. It is not illegal in the US, although Obama has proposed a consumer privacy bill of rights that could protect people by allowing them to decide what information is collected about them.
There is also another issue here, one that may cause Google some trouble as it ‘further personalises’ the web for people. What if people don’t like other people personalising stuff for them? There is a growing trend (see Pinterest for example) of people visually revealing their individuality and painting a portrait of their tastes and styles. More and more people want to express themselves online. The idea that Google will play a major role in defining what people should ‘discover’ when searching is not going to be accepted by this growing number of influencers.
I know for one that I have always found Google’s ‘targeted ads’ laughable. They are really poor. The algorithm that serves them must have been written in a dusty shed, somewhere in California in the 80s. Google has never been accurate for me, it has never served a relevant ad to me (even though I use its services the most). Perhaps it’s about time it tried to get more relevant. Perhaps these changes to its privacy policy may finally results in ads that are useful to people?