Is Google's new privacy policy 'evil'?

3 writers weigh in on the search giant's sharing of user data.

By Jan 27, 2012 1:30PM
Image: Man with laptop (© Comstock Images/Jupiterimages)Google (GOOG) is changing its privacy policies to allow the sharing of a user's data across 60 of its web services, including Gmail, YouTube, and personalized search (but not Google Wallet, Google Books, or the Chrome browser). For example, says Brent Rose at Gizmodo, "If you searched for 'Furbies' on Google's homepage (for some freaky reason) and then later went to YouTube, you might see Furbies videos pop up. That's new. Previously, data was compartmentalized between applications."

Privacy advocates and many tech commentators aren't happy, especially because there's no way to opt out of the cross-Google data sharing. Does this change violate Google's "don't-be-evil" philosophy?

Yes. Google is turning evil, says Mat Honan at Gizmodo. Google claims that this change better serves its users, but really, it's all about selling more targeted ads, Honan explains. Come March 1, "things you could do in relative anonymity today will be explicitly associated with your name, your face, your phone number," and everything else you put in Google's hands. Honan is "calling this evil" because Google is violating the core promise of respecting its users -- a promise that Google used to "get us all under its feel-good tent."

C'mon. People are overreacting, says Kashmir Hill at Forbes. This "internet freakout" mostly shows that "no one actually reads privacy policies," says Hill. We have all given Google permission to share our information among Google services since 2005, explains Hill. The only change is that now Google will actually use all that stuff it knows about us to, say, recommend YouTube videos. "When Google starts bundling everything it knows about its users and selling that to insurance companies, background check companies, and the Department of Homeland Security, that's when I'll trot out the 'evil label.'" For now, "kudos to them for being so explicit" about their privacy tweaks, says Hill.

Of course Google isn't evil, says Adam Pash at Lifehacker. The real issue, he says, is Google's ambitions. "But it's never been harder to take their famous 'Don't be evil' motto seriously." Google started out wanting to give us the web, then getting out of the way. Now it "wants to grab every piece of the internet you use," trying for "world domination" like Facebook or, more damningly, 1990s-era AOL, Pash explains. That's not the Google we came to love, and it's "a fantastic bummer" for anyone who likes a free, innovative web, says Pash.

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Tags: GOOG
Jan 27, 2012 2:26PM

Probably making it easier for them to track down anonymous members.

Jan 27, 2012 2:58PM
The founders of Google are staunch left-wingers. This loss of privacy should not be a surprise.
Jan 27, 2012 2:50PM

I have noticed that when I am signed in to my google account, after I accepted the new privacy policy, other websites that I visit either will NOT load or all the functions are disabled.  The only thing that fixes the problem is logging out of my Google account and reload the page!  This sucks, and Google needs to fix it.  I doubt they will though since they have recently developed a "We don't give a s#*$!" attitude and do what ever they want. 


It's a shame, it used to be such a nice alternative to MSN, Yahoo and those other large corporations that step on the little guy.  Guess the days of looking after your audiences best interest is gone!

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