Google’s New Privacy Policy Causes A Stir


Christie Margaris
Staff Writer

Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

As of March 1, Google will put into effect its new Privacy Policy and Terms of Service, which has several new implications for users. The changes are intended to be more personalized and geared toward each user’s specific interests. Several of the policies include suggesting search queries based on previous search results, making online collaborations more efficient, all while maintaining the same levels of privacy as before.

According to Alma Whitten, director of privacy, product and engineering at Google, the changes are meant to combine all users’ personal information in a faster, more efficient way than ever before.

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

Originally, the company had 60 privacy policies for its various services. But within the next month, Google hopes to combine its policies into one that is shorter and more understandable to the typical Google user.

However, the policy has not been received positively among major organizations. The European Union and the Electronic Privacy Information Center have both made it clear that they will not take this news sitting down. Critics argue that the new policy, while making the process more accessible and user-friendly, may threaten privacy by sharing personalized data among the network. Organizations such as the European Union have already submitted complaints to the company over antitrust allegations.

“We wish to check the possible consequences for the protection of the personal data of these citizens in a coordinated procedure,” said Jacob Kohnstamm, chairman of the EU Article 29 Working Party in a letter to Google.

The EU, along with other organizations, is expressing concern that user privacy will gradually become a thing of the past.

In addition to combining user information, the company will also include Google + results in its search queries. This gives essentially anyone with access to a computer the ability to stumble upon Google + profiles by use of a search engine. This action has been viewed as controversial by many, mainly seen as an invasion of privacy. Upon hearing of this, the Electronic Privacy Information Center has asked the U.S. Federal Trade Commission about possible violations posed by this change.

Others, on the other hand, feel the new changes will not cause a significant difference.

“People are just looking at the negative side of it and forgetting the fact that these policies are designed to aid users, not harm them,” said fourth-year economics major Sean Edwards.

“Once the policies are implemented, I think people will realize their privacy remains intact,” said second-year sociology major Tracy Wu.

Despite mixed reactions from users worldwide, Google stands firm in its decision to enact these changes as soon as March 1. The company has responded to such complaints by pointing out the extensive briefings, which took place in earlier months notifying the authorities of the new privacy policy. However, the company has not yet notified the public about how exactly it plans to maintain the privacy of its users. The data, according to Google, is “government sensitive.” It seems that the rest of us will have to wait to see the implications of this new policy.