Don’t believe me? Here’s some headlines:
Google announces privacy changes across products; users can’t opt out
How to close your Google Account
Not to mention the fear inducing coverage by major media outlets – Fox News and NPR alike.
There are a couple problems with this hype.
- Google has gone to great lengths to be sure people are aware of the changes, and to make them understandable.
Every couple months, Apple surreptitiously updates their terms of service and privacy policies – requires you to agree to the changes, and expect you to sift through pages of legalese to see what changed . Quite often these changes are indeed far reaching, like banning access to competing technologies so Apple can take a totally unneeded 30% cut, or Apple essentially owning your iBooks content. But where is the outrage? It’s Apple. Evil is in their nature.
Instead Google does it right – I personally read about the changes from Google before hearing about it on the news. They have a notice on the search page, a popup in Gmail, in Youtube…
And the page itself is written for human consumption, not lawyers:
- If Google wasn’t sharing your data between services, they were the only ones.
- Google Dashboard lets you take control of the data stored about you
Google dashboard is a single destination to review your information from all Google services. The Web History is a big one – perhaps the biggest. Surprise surprise, Google keeps a record of everything you search for while logged in, and sometimes even site visits. If you searched for something you would rather there be no record of (that rash on your leg, for example), you can delete individual entries, or you can clean it out altogether. You can also turn it off.
- Integration requires data sharing
In order for Google to improve the integration between services – such as enabling unified messaging between Google Voice and Gmail – they must freely share data between the two services. Obviously a major motivation for such sharing would be targeting advertisements, but as I mentioned in #2 that has become the standard everywhere else.
Google has been doing things lately that I would argue border on evil (contrary to the “Don’t be evil” motto) – closing services that aren’t a huge success but that people still rely on, not releasing Android source code as promised, muscling out competing social networks in search results…
This policy change is not evil, it nothing to be “outraged” about, and they are doing it right. The sky is not falling; the world is not coming to an end.