CIO Symmetry

Jan 27 2012   2:22PM GMT

Google privacy policy changes? Get over it

Wendy Schuchart Wendy Schuchart Profile: Wendy Schuchart

Three days ago, we all learned of some changes to Google’s privacy policy. With the new changes, it will take what it knows about its users and “combine information you’ve provided from one service with information from other services.” With that proclamation, the blogosphere exploded with cries of J’ACCUSE! and the implication that this was proof that Google had defied its own promise to not be evil.

First, maybe I’m pessimistic, but I’m kind of shocked that Google hasn’t been combining its information about users all along. I mean, it’s 2012, right? Facebook basically knows enough about me to successfully predict what I’m going to wear tomorrow, yet we all grudgingly accept Zuckerberg’s evil empire and go on with our status updates. But Google makes one tweak with how its own products manage a user identity and everyone is up in arms? Face it, the war was over a long time ago when it comes to online identity. You want to be mad at a company, it’s not Google — not this time, anyway.

A single Google privacy policy across Google’s products is nothing but a good thing. It protects its own users. I understand that some people prefer to have their services broken up into manageable pieces, but for the majority of users, it’s a good thing when Gmail talks to Google+. And there were already Google-wide preferences before, so it’s not like this change is completely off-book for Google or its users.

Of course, there’s the new Google Personal Search, which I’ll admit is a little disarming, but then again, I am somewhat surprised that there are still people who believe that the stuff you put on the Internet is somehow hidden from the world. This naïveté might have been appropriate in 1996, but at this point, how can people not understand how the Internet works?

If the idea of people seeing your Facebook timeline in their Google searches is unnerving, turn it off. Google has provided a handy way to opt out of Google Personal Search. Pick “Do not use personal search results” in the Google Search Settings and you’re golden. Then stop worrying that the Google privacy policy means that Google is the evil empire. I’ve seen the face of evil, and man, it sure is not Google.

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