Well, today’s the day. March 1 is the day Google will combine everything about you but your DNA into one big ball of information. Their sixty plus privacy policies are now mostly just one that states basically, “we can follow you everywhere but the loo.” It isn’t the debut of personal information collection by any means, this is just a combining of differing privacy policies into one, more streamlined, statement. I wrote about it a few weeks ago after the initial announcement.
Google collects and can now integrate almost anything that’s already in your Google universe: calendar appointments, location data, search preferences, contacts, personal habits based on Gmail chatter, device information and search queries, to start. Android phone users reveal all sorts of info including who they call, where they are and what they search for. And if you’re like me you may have multiple Google-based accounts and are in so deep you may as well be a made man in the mafia. Way back in the mid-ish 2000s when YouTube, Picasa, Gmail and the lot were gaining steam I signed up here and there. I also signed up for various deals that require personal info, email addresses etc and if I really added up all the web trails I leave it would probably cause me to get a cabin in the woods with no electricity.
People love to talk about themselves and so its not surprising that we take that to the extent of letting our guard down and volunteer all kinds of personal information. A recent poll published in Internet Retailer showed that 52% of U.S consumers said they would be willing to let advertisers track their usage patterns and personal information if they received lower product costs or free online content. We love the free. We also hate to have to read long paragraphs, go to our settings (if we can even find them) and check this and uncheck that. Google isn’t the first entity to count on that and it won’t be the last. Just think about all the personal info you willingly handed over to Facebook during your almost seven hours you spent there last month.
Privacy is a personal thing. If you were to take the whole online privacy issue to its paranoid (or maybe not) conclusion you could argue that evidence of multiple doctors trips, searches for gun stores or information on gay and lesbian issues could result in denial of health insurance, watch list placement or being passed over for employment or promotion. Maybe not now but someday? Are you creating an identity as you move around the web and leaving impressions that may be true or may not? This matters enough that a group of US Attorneys General have issued a statement expressing “strong concerns” with the the way Google plans to consolidate its multiple privacy policies into one single agreement.
So again you need to ask yourself: do I care that I’m being tracked when I’m on the Internets? If so, is it too late to fix it? Google says there are ways to erase your history (although there is some question as to whether you can do it after today) and I investigated some of them. I had to go back to bed after reading the Google Privacy Changes: Six Steps To Take. It bears looking into just in case you find something of importance to you. In the meantime take other precautions: change passwords frequently, keep an eye on your credit card bills and bank statements and don’t text and drive.