Google’s New Online Privacy Policy: Internet Lawyer Explains In Plain English

Google Internet LawYou’ve probably heard by now that Google is switching their online privacy policy soon. A massive public relations campaign to unveil their new plans began a couple of weeks ago, and the news was met with mixed reviews. Some felt the shift in policy was cause for online privacy legal concern, while others simply shrugged it off as an inevitable, and positive, change.

There’s a lot of information floating in the ether about Google’s impending change, so let’s take a minute to break it down simply. Then you can decide for yourself how you feel about the modifications.

Google’s New Privacy Policy: The Basics

Google spokesperson, Alma Whitten – the company’s Director of Privacy, Product and Engineering – summarized the firm’s move thusly:

“Our new privacy policy makes it clear that if you’re signed in, we may combine information you’ve provided from one service with information from other services. In short, we’ll treat you like a single user across all products, which will mean a simple, more intuitive Google experience.”

In the simplest terms, Google’s new online privacy shift is basically a consolidation of approximately 60 different policies the company was using across their platforms, including Gmail, Google + and YouTube. Some hypothesize that the change was a result of an industry push to divorce impenetrable legal-ease from online terms of service agreements and privacy policies.

Why the movement towards simplicity? Basically, folks want to make it easier for non-lawyers to understand what they are getting into when they sign up for online opportunities. On a more selfish note, having understandable online terms also saves companies from future litigation hassles.

The point of contention for many, however, is that Google, in addition to merging their many privacy policies, is also merging their entire platform. Meaning, all data collected on Gmail, You Tube and Google+ will be intertwined – which will allow for highly targeted advertising. And yes, part of that data being collected is of the tracking variety. In other words, once you’re logged-in to Google, they have the right to track your online activity within their network. You can’t opt-out.

There is one glaring point in Google’s new privacy policy that deserves a side-eye. They say they will only “disclose information” when it’s “reasonably necessary to…satisfy any applicable law, regulation, legal process or enforceable government request.” They say the goal of the new policy is simplification; as such, you’d think they would have been able to simplify that with shorter phrase, like, err, “legal warrant.”

European Online Privacy Commission’s Response To Google’s New Privacy Policy

While there doesn’t appear to be a strong push in the United States to halt the implementation of Google’s new privacy rules, European Union officials have formally asked Google to delay rolling out the new program in their jurisdiction. They’re concerned the policy may not gel with current, stringent online privacy statues already in place across the pond.

Data as Currency: Internet Law Implications of the 21st Century Marketing Model

You’ve seen those commercials that advocate investing in gold, right? Well, in the 21st century, data is as good as gold.

The invention of the DVR/TiVo has made commercial-watching an antiquated pastime. These days, a whole lot of advertising is done online. What does that mean, practically? The more they know about you, the better able they’ll be able to serve up targeted ads; and targeted ads lead to better sales.

Google vs. Facebook: Who Will Win The Internet?

Facebook and Google are in a race to win the Internet, which means both firms are on a mission to collect the best data. Recent figures indicate that in 2011, Google earned $26 billion in ad sales, and Facebook $3.1 billion.  With Facebook going public, it’s safe to assume they’ll be unveiling some new features soon; and one could argue that Google’s privacy policy consolidation is their latest move in the race to stake their Internet claim.

Well, the stage has been set; we’ll just have to wait until March 1, 2012, to see what transpires when the new Google privacy policy goes into effect.

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