Google Privacy

Google, having already explained to the boys and girls inside the Beltway that they don't need to go all Chicken Little over its upcoming new consolidated privacy policy, today took aim at Redmond, Wash., for (if you can believe it) acting even more childish. More specifically, Google responded to claims from Microsoft (among others) that it's evil, it's only out to sell your information and that if you're not careful, Google will loosen your teeth while you sleep. (We might be confused over that last point.)

For those of you who don't ready words printed on dried pulp, the full-page ads Microsoft has taken out are "Putting people first" and go on to say the following about Google:

Google is in the process of making some unpopular changes to some of their most popular products. Those changes, cloaked in language like "transparency," "simplicity" and "consistency," are really about one thing: making it easier for Google to connect the dots between anything you search, sen, say or stream while using one of their services.

But, the way they're doing it is making it harder for you to maintain control of your personal information. Why are they so interested in doing this that they would risk this kind of backlash? One logical reason: Every data point they collect and connect to you increases how valuable you are to an advertiser.

To be clear, there's nothing inherently wrong with wanting to improve the quality of an advertising product. But, that effort needs to be balanced with continuing to meet the needs and interests of users. Every business finds its own balance and attracts users who share those priorities. Google's new changes have upset that balance, with users' priorities being de-prioritized. That's why people are concerned and looking for alternatives.

If these changes rub you the wrong way, please consider using our portfolio of award-winning products and services.

This is straight up political theater, folks. Never mind that if Microsoft was in the search/advertising business, it'd be doing (if it was smart) exactly the same thing. But it's not. It's in the software licensing (and/or litigating, depending on who you ask) business. And Google continues to repeat that it's not collecting any new data with this new privacy policy, nor is it selling your data.

We're really not going to tell you what to think here. Read Google's responses from today. Go back and read its responses to Congress. And then read Google's new privacy policy, which is only a month away from taking effect. Then decide just how worried you are.


Reader comments

Full-page ads attack Google's privacy policy; el Goog responds


I am so sick of this crap... Here is Google laying everything on the table so they can be "transparent", and they're being accused of being evil. Meanwhile, MS can't catch up with Google on anything (Hotmail vs GMail ; Windows Phone vs Android ; Bing vs Google), so they need to pretend like they're doing us all a favor by "warning" us of this evil.

Between Microsoft and Apple, I don't know who I despise most right now. They are unable to come up with their own ideas so they sue everyone else.

Pathetic. Can't wait to hear Phil's rant on this week's AC Podcast!

If nothing truly nefarious is happening behind the scenes at Google, then why do you lose key product functionality if you choose to opt out of their tracking?

People are so quick to put their full trust into corporations. If you remember very recently, some extremely prominent corporations wanted shove the SOPA bill down our throats (of course, not Google though). I'm just saying, because a corporation says one thing, doesn't mean it's not doing another.

Except that, in this case, they would be doing something illegal that could threaten their whole corporation. And for what? A couple extra bucks? Don't see it

I totally agree. Why isn't it even an option to opt out? Just give me the option, why is that so hard to for Google to do? Google is not the hero in this drama, they are exactly the same as all other huge corporations out there. If you think they are your buddy you are sorely mistaken. You can thumbs down this now...

I keep seeing posts that seem to have an underlying assumption that Google or other companies should just make software and offer services out of the goodness of their hearts, getting nothing back. Trading information for service is their business model. You pay nothing for Gmail, Picasa, Search, Google Docs, Navigation, etc. in dollars; you "pay" by allowing them to advertise to you in a targeted fashion. You may "opt out" by using another mail service, Bing, buying a Garmin, etc. What people seem to want when they cry "opt out" though, is the free ride where they get to use all the services without giving back anything at all. If you *really* are so worried about Google's information collection you should not use their products.

Where did anyone say that they wanted Google services for free? That's just your assumption. Actually, I'd GLADLY pay a yearly fee, to 1. Pay for the service, and 2. Opt out of marketing aggregation. Sadly, Google doesn't offer that.

Who wants free anything I bought my phone with a 2 year contract and like other android devices u can not possibly uninstall google!! I would gladly stop using google! I hope google gets slapped with a nice law suit its nobodys buisness who I call who I email who I txt. The post office doesn charge you to receive mail and its illegal for people to look into ur mail. If you really think its a great idea for anyone to invade into a person life to make a buck you have issues!! And the whole response of they are doing these things for your saftey is a load of crap! Please do me a favor and let me worry about my safety. My safety concerns are protecting my rights as a american and not being treated as a prisoner with 24 hr monitoring from google or anybody else!! Who is going to protect the american people from google? I hope people will start thinking for themselves and stop allowing company's infringe on our freedom!!! People of Google should be arrested!!

Thank you for putting that into words near perfectly, saved me the time, haha. Couldn't have said it better.

"Never mind that if Microsoft was in the search/advertising business, it'd be doing (if it was smart) exactly the same thing"

They are, and they are.

They are also pretty hypocritical.

I honestly think all this is just nonsense. All Google is doing is combining products that are already working together very closely. I don't see anything wrong with this at all. Nothings really changed. The only difference I can see is that it would improve our service without many changes to our privacy, but rather how the information is collected. Seems like people are looking for something to complain about.

When I go to Bing it shows me that I can sign in...which means some information is being kept by MS, and right next to it is Hotmail which means that with the same login I can do both...oh wait its called a Windows Live ID which in no way tracks what I'm doing or keeps tabs on me. So MS is full of it.

Ah, while I don't trust Microsoft either, can we really be sure that what Google is saying about this new policy is altogether true? I sure wouldn't want to be any money on it.

Just another ploy to try to get people to use Bing. It's joke.
Microsoft should focus on Windows and Office software.

Just another ploy to try to get people to use Bing. It's joke.
Microsoft should focus on Windows and Office software.

Anyone else love the irony of one company using a smear campaign to accuse another company of being evil?


Remember Microsoft, Google is a very popular and trusted company. It's YOU that has the shit reputation (hello Vista). Be very careful with this. It may backfire.


Google is lying... pure and simple. Otherwise, this "no opt out" nonsense wouldn't be an issue and they'd make sure the "opt out" option was available.

They're both wrong. But google is ripping us off and making no apology for it under the guise of the fact that we really have no where else to go... and no real choice in the matter.

Collecting every molecule of info is where both of these people make their money. I just wish they'd quit lying about it and that there was a realistic alternative.

Shilling for google does this site no particular credit.

"Google is lying ... pure and simple." Link, please? Or perhaps a little further explanation? Maybe you're right. But you should still prove it. You know, just like Microsoft shoud.

"Google is ripping us off ... we really have nowhere else to go ... and no real choice in the matter." What, exactly, are you paying for, and how is Google ripping you off? And are you really that lazy to not try other services? They're out there. To suggest otherwise? There's a real untruth.

Yes, there is the shilling aspect, along with a certain unavoidable and understandable fanboy aspect, to AC's unfortunate "move along, nothing to see here" stance on this issue. But TBH, that does seem to be their genuine belief as well. Whether it's this, Carrier IQ, or invasive adware, the AC stance is predictable and it's never on the side of the user. And I hardly think that the writers here are on the payroll of Carrier IQ or whoever makes that latest bunch of nasty, ad-malware infested apps--it's probably what they really think.

Let me get this straight ... You're shocked that a service you use is trying to find out as much about you -- and about how you use the service -- as possible in an attempt to both increase the effectiveness of the service (ie "make it better") as well as do so while maximizing its revenue? Welcome to business, pal. Every company does this. Do you really think Google's sole intent is to dishonestly glean every last drop of personal information from you without improving its products in the process? It's a symbiotic relationship, and it's hardly new in 2012. 

And where in that post did I say there's nothing to be seen? There's a shitload to be seen and read. In fact, go read that last paragraph again. The one with all the links. There's a lot to be seen, which is why I want you to read about it and think about it and come up with your own decision.

Our general position is that while it's good -- and should be required -- to question things, it's also good to take a little responsibility for the services you use and to do due diligence before and while using them.

Phil, you're the best god damn editor alive. I hope you know that, or have at least been told as much before.

I don't understand the big deal. Google is, how I understand it, collecting the same data the same way but making it more relevant to their ads, which is understandable. They're not collecting MORE data, they're instead, linking the data that they're collecting from one service to another.

I think that the biggest deal is that effectively, you can't opt out of tracking.

That's fine. If I can't opt out of a free service, charge me a yearly fee so I can't be tracked. Google is supposed to be the company that gives users options.

If you don't want to be tracked, stay off the internet, give up your bank account, pay only in cash, don't use your phone, live in a tent in the woods. Otherwise welcome to the real world.

The entire point of MS' ad can be illustrated by the last sentence of the text:

"If these changes rub you the wrong way, please consider using our portfoilo of award-winning products and services."

Let's be real. People with actual knowledge of Google's changes realize it's not the evil conspiracy that people are making it out to be, but MS (and others) are taking this as an opportunity to capitalize on the tin-foil hat thinking that is prevalent among the populous.

Especially if one takes the time to read Microsoft's privacy policy. the REAL difference between the new Google policy and the old M$ policy? MS is counting on the fact that nobody reads it, while Google is taking aggressive steps to ensure that everyone knows it.

Meh privacy is horseshit. There's no such thing and hasn't been for a very long time. If you want privacy become recluse like Henry David Thoreau and live in the woods. Even then big brother knows about you.

The way I figure it is my life's not that exciting that I care what Google or Microsoft knows about me as long as it doesn't create identity theft.

Microshaft is just pissed off that someone finally figured out how to make Linux acceptable by the masses, and make money off it to boot.

well im not thrilled about these policy changes at all tbh. ill have to see how this all plays out but you would think they would learn from the carrierIQ BS. if it gets too bad i may switch to wp7 or iphone and id hate to do that. i think all of these carriers and manufactures spy on you one way or the other.

You seriously think WP7 isn't worse? Have you read the "Windows Live ID" Privacy policy?

This is totally opposite of carrierIQ. CarrierIQ and the phone manufacturers were collecting information and trying to sneak it by the users. Google is being up front and saying "this is what we are doing". So yeah I would have to say they DID "learn from the carrierIQ BS."

And really all they want do to is sell you shit, shit which you can say yes or no to. It's not like they want to know you're planning to gatecrash the NATO summit in Chicago.

WTH is everyone doing that absolute privacy is a must? Evil Corporate Tracking doesn't bother me nearly as much as Evil Government Tracking. As a matter of fact, there are lots of things that bother me way more than Google's new the upsale/vocal advertisement at the McDonald's drive thru..."Welcome to McDonald's! Would you like to try our new Mint-Berry Douche Water today?" Puh-leese!

The problem is that Evil Governments can simply subpoena the Evil Corporations, and get the same tracking without having to pay for it, or even disclose that they are doing it!

That would bother me more, too, and be a bigger problem, if, say I were up to nefarious and underhanded activities while on the Internet...but I'm not and I don't.

Nearly everything is *tracked* in one form or another these days. From the time you're born, literally. Why would anyone expect something different from Google or any other corporate entity? The most simple solution, IMHO is, if you don't like it then don't use it. No one is obligated to use the Internet. Access to the Internet and other various services within it are a *privilege*, not a right.

I mean WTH? Do people *really* believe the Internet belongs to them? Or individual portals? Or *anything* that was developed and deployed by someone else? Tangible things that employee people and make use of equipment and infrastructure to operate cost money. Where do you think that money comes from? Sure, I pay my cable provider to allow access to the WWW, but that fee doesn't entitle me access everything on it. I assume that fee is used to maintain, replace and upgrade equipment, pay salaries and net some profit.

As far as disclosure goes, engage your brain and simply assume entities are trading information and act accordingly. Once again, if you're doing nothing wrong, what are your concerns? And once again, if you are that concerned, stop using it! While you're at it, you can also stop driving, working, and living in a dwelling, because, well you know, the Evil Government keeps track of all that information. You may also want to refrain from going out in public, as many cities now make use of video surveillance (um, I mean security...*wink, wink*) cameras, supposedly armed with face tracking software.

I simply couldn't drag myself out of bed and go out into the world everyday if I thought the way so many here do...

I think there is only one solution that will really work. We start villages dedicated to technophobes that are stuck using 1950s technology. It'll be great in a couple of centuries when we're all chatting on our cell-phone-sunglasses while drinking something behind the "wheel" of a car (you can be as drunk as you want, it's the car driving you home not you) and we see an old-style car with a steering wheel and a person actually driving it. It'll be exactly the same as driving by an Amish buggy is now.

Haha, yeah, you're the real technology geek... Or are you rather someone who sheepishly follows what the big companies offer? Well, the marketing devisions love people like you. In a couple of centuries guys like you will be using castrated corporate-friendly technology with TCPA and DMCA compliancy while "technophobes" will be using the really innovative and useful. stuff.

Some snips from Microsoft's privacy policy ( Pot, meet Kettle. (the *...* are mine)

"In order to access some Microsoft services, you will be asked to sign in with an e-mail address and password, which we refer to as your Windows Live ID. By signing in on one Microsoft site or service, you may be *automatically signed into other Microsoft sites and services that use Windows Live ID*. For more information, see the Windows Live ID privacy supplement." More:

"We use technologies, such as cookies and web beacons (described below), to collect information about the pages you view, the links you click and other actions you take on our sites and services.

"We also deliver advertisements (see the Display of Advertising section below) and *provide Web site analytics tools on non-Microsoft sites and services*, and we *collect information about page views on these third party sites as well*.

"When you receive newsletters or promotional e-mail from Microsoft, we may use web beacons (described below), customized links or similar technologies to determine whether the e-mail has been opened and which links you click in order to provide you more focused e-mail communications or other information.

"In order to offer you a more consistent and personalized experience in your interactions with Microsoft, *information collected through one Microsoft service may be combined with information obtained through other Microsoft services*. *We may also supplement the information we collect with information obtained from other companies* [aside: at least Google is only sharing among Google]. For example, we may use services from other companies that enable us to derive a general geographic area based on your IP address in order to customize certain services to your geographic area."

And the part about web beacons:

"Microsoft Web pages may contain electronic images known as Web beacons - sometimes called single-pixel gifs - that may be used to assist in delivering cookies on our sites and allow us to count users who have visited those pages and to deliver co-branded services. We may include Web beacons in promotional e-mail messages or our newsletters in order to determine whether messages have been opened and acted upon.

"Microsoft may also employ Web beacons from third parties in order to help us compile aggregated statistics regarding the effectiveness of our promotional campaigns or other operations of our sites. We prohibit Web beacons on our sites from being used by third parties to collect or access your personal information.

"Finally, we may work with other companies that advertise on Microsoft sites to place Web beacons on their sites in order to allow us to develop statistics on how often clicking on an advertisement on a Microsoft site results in a purchase or other action on the advertiser's site."

Can't we take a logical stance without looking like iOS fanboys?! I don't care what side you're on... but the response to this article is embarrassing.

Wow, you guys are really something. Why you're so eager to defend Google is just mind-boggling. Such loyal subjects you are! You guys take your freedoms in the States for granted and deserve what is coming to you. Wake up. Don't accept this. It is irrelevant whether Microsoft and Apple are evil too or not. How anyone that doesn't work for Google or own their stock can possibly stand behind them is simply baffling.

Where will it end? They already have billions of dollars, but it's not enough. The investors demand more. What will they do next in order to increase revenue? They will do whatever it takes. Get ready. On your knees, servant!

Even if, and that's a major if, Google was to keep my information for some unknown purpose... I really don't see what the problem is. As long as they do f*** all with my debit card details, I couldn't care less if they know what stream or search for. All this nonsense about storing people's information is scaremongering.

The bigger picture has only been addressed by mupi. Sure it's easier for Google to "connect the dots" for advertising and better their services, but now it's all in one nice package for anyone who requests (legal or not) to get. Is MS or FB different? No, but they also don't have the amount of services or users.

The reality, however, is that all this information was already there for the taking by the government(s). When a subpeona is issued, it's usually for "all information about ____" Whether that's about an IP address, or username, or whatever. To some degree, by consolidating the information, they are making it easier on themselves when they do have to respond to such a subpoena, and the free bonus they get to make a little money on the side.

STFU, Microsoft. STFU, everyone else who's complaining.

If you don't like the policy, DON'T USE GOOGLE.

We really gotta stop selling computers to eggplants ffs.

This is the only sensible comment even though the wording maybe a little "simple" (but Dan is probable right writing it like this as many of the above comments clearly come from the hands of very simple people).

If you don't like it, don't use it! And don't complain about something that you can by your own choice stop using!

This is probably the LEAST sensible comment here. After winning our trust, google adopts a new aggressive collection policy with no opt out, and your answer is to not use it if we don't like it? find another service that is very intertwined with your daily life and apply the same logic. As a dramatic example, What if the phone company now wants to record all your calls,. And they claim it is in the name of transparency in order to better their service by monitoring call quality at a later time.

To that I can only respond this: Life was possible *before* Internet, Google, M$, etc. Life will be possible without it. Maybe a little less convenient, but still possible.

I am not pro-Google, I am pro-Choice.

The difference is that Google isn't collecting anything they weren't collecting before. They are simply changing how they use the information they already collect, and instead of having to agree to a new privacy policy when you sign up for, say, Picasa (which I don't have an account with), because I've already agreed to Google's privacy policy, I will be able to simply sign up. It was highly annoying to be presented with a new privacy policy each time I added a new service. (Like when I added Google calendar, or the webmaster tools)

Finally, I want to point out that we as consumers have ALLOWED Google to intertwine in our daily lives. In part, that's because they have a superior service, but we still chose to use them. There is no Google program that doesn't have a competitor or alternative.

And I don't use my phone every day :)

Has there ever been ONE example of Google using someone's personal info (such as a photo) in any way such as advertising or something? Ever? Once? It seem's like someone would have noticed.

Of course Google is just a business and they have every right to try and make money in every possible way (as long as it's legal). So in no way I'm angry or disappointed.

But what actually sickens me is seeing how all the fanbois defend "their" company. All the more when it's done by a "journalist". You say they do this to improve the service? Yes, because that means more money. Period. Yet you state the improving as if that's their main goal. You really believe that?

Google doesn't care more about you as a person than any other multi-billion dollar biz. But for some reason hardly anybody defends Xerox or IBM the way they do with Apple and Google.

I use Google's services a lot. But that's it. It's just a f**cking business not your pal!