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Google to track users... like never before!

Published time: January 25, 2012 16:23
Edited time: January 25, 2012 20:23
Google to track users... like never before!

Google to track users... like never before!

In a move that has triggered outrage, Google has announced plans to bring all data collected from users’ separate accounts on its sites into a combined profile. Besides raising dubious questions about privacy, this offer is one you… cannot refuse.

­The changes will take effect on March 1. Before that date, Google will notify its hundreds of millions of users about the new rules of the game. In preparation, the company is boosting its privacy policy and terms of service. Users will have to decide whether to agree with the new terms – or lose access to some of their favorite sites. There is no way of opting out of the changes.

Some say Google’s privacy announcement is frustrating and a little frightening."Even if the company believes that tracking users across all platforms improves their services, consumers should still have the option to opt out,” said Common Sense Media chief executive James Steyer, as cited by the Washington Post.

Google says the new policy reflects a “desire to create a simple product experience” that does what one needs, when one needs it. The changes, apparently, will also allow Google to offer more new services and other “cool things.”

Google is consolidating more than 60 separate legal notes into a single main Privacy Policy, which will make it easier for consumers to comprehend – or, at least, read – the terms of service in full.

But these changes come with an unprecedented boost to Google’s right to collect and combine your personal data in ways you could never have imagined when you were registering for Gmail or Picasa.

“Our new Privacy Policy makes clear that, if you’re signed in [to your Google account], we may combine information you've provided from one service with information from other services,” Google’s Director of Privacy Alma Whitten wrote in her official blog.

“In short, we’ll treat you as a single user across all our products, which will mean a simpler, more intuitive Google experience,” she said.

And it’s not like Google doesn’t already collect a lot of information about its customers. When you are using Android mobile phones, Google can access your contacts and location. If you are searching for something on the internet, Google remembers all the search terms. When you sign into your Google account, it can track the sites you visit.

The only Google projects which – for now – are not affected by this extensive data collecting operation are the Google Wallet, Google Books and Chrome internet browser.

Google claims it is committed to protecting your privacy, and that the only person it will share your personal information with, is you.

“Our recently launched personal search feature is a good example of the cool things Google can do when we combine information across products,” Google says.

But this personal search feature has already raised a lot of skepticism. Google is facing an anti-trust probe over the latest changes to its search engine. The Washington Post says the Federal Trade Commission is privately checking whether Google’s decision to promote its Google+ social network on the search result pages is an act of unfair competition.

Now, the new changes have opened up yet more debate about Google’s stance on privacy, and the protection of personal data.