Thursday, March 1, 2012

Google Changes its Privacy Policy

Google changes its privacy policies in order to consolidate over 60 privacy policies

On March 1st Google will be changing its privacy policy in order to consolidate the privacy policies of over 60 Google products. This new privacy policy excludes Chrome, Wallet, and Google Books.  The main change in this privacy policy is that now, when a user is logged into a Google account, the information provided through one Google product will be shared across all Google products. This means, for example, that if someone who is logged into their Google Account searches for something on, this information can be used to suggest relevant videos on You Tube. Google is advocating that this change will allow them to deliver more relevant ads and tailored content to users.  There has been great debate about Google’s policy abroad as many have viewed this change as an invasion of consumer privacy given the vast reach & usage of Google products.

Impact for Consumers
Google advocates that its new privacy policy is simpler and without as much jargon. Users have to comply to Google’s new privacy policy if they want to use any Google product that requires having a Google Account. Despite the fact that there isn’t an option to effectively opt-out of the privacy policy, users can still search on Google and watch videos without being logged in. Google has created several tools through which users can manage their web history, the ads they are targeted with, what information Google has collected about them, and even remove information out of many of Google’s products.

Below are the main points of the new privacy policy:

  • Information being collected
    • Provided by users: This includes personal information which Google defines as information which the user provides to Google such as name, email address or billing information, or other data which can be reasonably linked to such information by Google. 
    • Collected from usage of Google services: This includes device information, log information (search queries, telephony logs, ip address, device events, & cookies), location information, unique app numbers, cookies & anonymous identifiers. 
  • Use of information
    • Used to provide, maintain, protect, and improve Google products, develop new ones, and protect Google and users. 
    • Used to offer tailored content (ads & search results) 
    • Use the name the users provide for their Google Profiles across all of the services that Google offers that require a Google Account. 
    • Use information collected from cookies and other technologies to improve user experience and overall quality of services.
  • Information being shared by Google
    • With users’ consent Google can share personal information with companies, organisations or individuals outside of Google. 
    • If users’ Google account is being managed by a domain administrator (Google Apps users), their domain administrators & resellers who provide support to the organisation have access to Google Account information. 
    • Google provides personal information to its affiliates or other trusted businesses based on Google’s instructions & in compliance with the privacy policy. 
    • Google can also provide information for legal reasons.

Impact for Advertisers

This consolidation in privacy policies will give Google more data through which to further improve its targeting capabilities.  Potentially this change in privacy policy means that Google can use search data to target users. However, Google has stated that they “will not combine Double Click cookie information with personally identifiable information unless they have the opt-in consent of the user.”

Starcom POV & Recommendations The changes in Google’s privacy policies will allow for better targeting in ads and search results which will make advertising on Google products even more effective. Given the fact that Google’s pricing model is based on an auction system, the cost of advertising may increase as the demand for advertising on Google will increase as well.  From a consumer’s standpoint, as much as this may come as a shock it is not much different from what Microsoft and other companies have done as they already have a unified privacy policy which gives them the attributions that Google is getting now.

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