misc search marketing

Google’s New Privacy Policy and What It Means To You

Written by Kurt Steinbrueck

A little over a month ago Google announced they were changing their privacy policy and as of March 1, they have made that change. Most notably they are combining the privacy policies for the over 60 Google properties. On the plus side, this means that there is now only one, more simplified privacy policy for all the Google products. This also, however, means that Google is sharing all the data from all these sites. Keep in mind this is 60+ Google properties, so we aren’t just talking about Google Search. This also includes:

  • Google Maps
  • YouTube
  • Gmail
  • Picasa
  • Google+
  • Feedburner
  • Android

There are a lot of Google properties out there that are very popular, so chances are that you are using at least some of them.

Why are they doing this?
According to Google, they are doing this for two primary reasons:

  • They wanted to simply things. They had over 60 products/services each with their own privacy policy. That was a lot to keep up with for both them and for us.
  • They wanted to unify the user experience for Google users. By combining the data from all of your Google services, they can combine the benefits of various services to produce a better, more personal experience.

So, now the videos you watch and share on Youtube may affect the results of searches you do or the ads you see. Or perhaps an email from a friend requesting a meeting will cause Google to suggest putting that meeting on your Google Calendar and when Google Calendar reminds you of the meeting a few days later, it may send you driving directions from Google Maps that has been optimized by Google Traffic to get you to your meeting the quickest.

How does this effect SEO?
Google has been personalizing results more and more for years, now. This will further their ability to personalize search results as they can now use data from your calendar, Youtube history, Gmail emails, etc. to personalize your search results.

Should I be concerned?
Well, that is a debate that is raging on even as I type. On the one hand, some people think that the benefits in the functionality of Google products will outweigh any loss of privacy. Plus, Google already had all this personal data anyway; they just hadn’t combined it all. Others feel like Google and others are already tracking way to much personal data and that this is just one more step deeper into our personal lives. Depending on how many Google products you use, Google may know you better than your spouse.

I think Google is evil and trying to take over the world. What can I do to thwart them?

If this is what you’re thinking, then you probably wish there was an opt-out.  Sorry.  However, even though a lot has been made of the fact that there is no way to opt out of the new Google privacy policy change, it’s not really unusual. For most companies, when they change their privacy policy, they don’t give you an option of whether you’ll accept the change. You can either accept it or stop using their service. This happens to be the most effective thing you can do if you are concerned about Google’s reach into your private life. Just stop using Google products.

Here are a few ways you can limit Google’s tracking and use of your personal data if you want to:

  • Stop using Google products. If you don’t use Google products, they can’t track you…probably 🙂
  • Compartmentalize your products and services. Sure, not using Google products at all will solve the problem completely, but depending on how much you use Google products, this may be next to impossible. For example, if you have a Droid smart phone, guess what? That’s Google. If you use the Chrome web browser, that’s Google, too. What about Youtube, Google+, Google Analytics, Calendar, Maps….you get the point. So, the next best thing is to use Google less. The less you use Google products, the less data they will have on you. Maybe use Bing or DuckDuckGo for search. Use Yahoo or your own website’s email feature for email. You can choose an iPhone instead of a Droid. So on and so forth.
  • Opt-out of tracking and storing data.  While Google’s privacy policy doesn’t have an opt-out, some aspects of their products do. For example, in Google search, if you have an account, you can turn off “Web History”. This Ostensively prevents Google from keeping a record of the searches you do in Google. It should be noted that you have to have a Google account and be logged in to turn off your web history. If you do not have a Google account or are not logged in, Google WILL track you by your IP address. So, ironically, you have to be logged in to not be tracked. Other Google products, have ways of turning off the tracking/storing of data.

I’m not saying that you need to stop using Google or even opt-out of data tracking.  What Google can do with the data may make their products and services better.  In the end, you will need to decide how important you think it is to maintain your privacy online. This isn’t just a Google thing. Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, and many, many others track your online use of their services to some extent. After all, how much privacy do you think you can have if you use any social network (I.E. Facebook, Google+, Twitter)? The whole point is to share. The only way to completely maintain your privacy is to cut your Internet connection (please finish reading this article first 😉 ). There is a trade off and you have to decide where you draw the line.

So, let me ask you.

  • What do you think of Google’s Privacy policy change?
  • Will you change what products you use or even stop using Google altogether?
  • Do you think this isn’t that big of a deal because what’s the worst Google can do…offer you more targeted ads?

Let me know what you think.

About the author

Kurt Steinbrueck

Kurt Steinbrueck is the Director of Marketing Services with OurChurch.Com. He also serves on the leadership of Family of Christ Lutheran Church in Tampa, FL. You can find him on Google+ as .

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