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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

Nation/World

Last Day Before New Google Privacy Policy

With the March 1 installation of Google's new privacy looming, what price will users pay for a more tailored experience?

Google’s controversial new privacy policy takes effect on Thursday, marking a significant decline in online privacy – a change that has been met with fear and discomfort since its announcement last month.

Google will consolidate all of a user’s search and personal information into one, more extensive, profile. Previously, each of Google’s different outlets, including YouTube, Google Maps, Gmail, and any cell phone with Android technology, had separate profiles for each user.

The benefits, Google argues, outweigh the willing surrender of online privacy. Their new policy would provide a more tailored search experience. For example, if one is searching the GOP nomination, YouTube might push a video of the latest debate on its homepage. Similarly, advertisements will be more specified, and therefore more applicable and interesting, to each user.

Google states that they will not be collecting any more information than they were before, they are just compiling it differently. Google Privacy Director Alma Whitten wrote in an editorial for the Sacramento Bee, “We just want to use the information you already trust us with to make your experience better.”

However, Google’s new policy has not been met with compliance and understanding by the European Union, which ordered an investigation of the new policy by French regulator CNIL.

In a letter to Google Chief Executive Larry Page, CNIL said, “Our preliminary analysis shows that Google’s new policy does not meet the requirements of the European Directive on Data Protection.” They said they have “strong doubts about the lawfulness and fairness of such processing,” and called for Google to delay the institution of its new policy.

However, according to Google global privacy counselor Peter Fleischer, the company is confident that  their “new, simple, clear and transparent privacy policy respects all European data protection laws and principles.”

He added that, “We have notified over 350 million authenticated Google users and provided highly visible notifications on our home page and in search results for our non-authenticated users.” After giving the EU, and the rest of the world, a month to adapt to the upcoming policy changes, he stated, “to pause now would cause a great deal of confusion for users.”

On an individual level, there are many ways to prepare for the new policy. For those who have Google user names, it is possible to clear Google search history, and edit privacy settings to make the information harder to gather. Also, Chrome users have the possibility to peruse the web “incognito.”

However the easiest way to protect personal information from Google’s new policy? Just don’t sign in.

Look here to see Google’s new privacy policy, and here for six tips on how best to protect personal information in the digital world. 

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