Google Privacy Polices and Terms of Service

Posted Apr 03, 2012 at 7:57 pm in Threads > Opinions

Who Cares? or Stay Off My Lawn!

Let me preface this by saying that I’m generally a fan of Google products. There have been a few that were terrible (Wave) but I find that the vast majority appeal to me. With that said…

What is the deal with Google’s privacy policies and terms of service that tends to stir up emotions and fears?

Personally, I have agreed to every Google request for info and tend to opt in on every new service they offer. I do so knowing that my info is no longer solely mine. I do so trusting that Google will use the info for the stated purpose and that it will benefit me in the way that is presented. I feel that the best way to keep private info private, is to not post it online anywhere or share that info in any way with any company, Google included. Google services are extremely convenient for me. I feel that a big reason for that is because I allow Google to access the info which it asks for.

I’ve heard people complain a lot (on this website and in what some people call ‘real life’) about Google not giving consumers the option to “opt out” if said consumer has an issue with terms and/or policies. This, to me, is completely wrong. The opt out clause is not using the product. That is the universal opt out method in a free market economy. It applies to tv channels, music, cars, etc. Anything that is a personal choice and not mandatory, has an opt out clause of ‘Don’t use it if you don’t like it.’ I realize it sounds crude, but I am not trying to come across that way. That’s just Economics 101.

After some good banter in the comments about this very subject, I’ve had no choice but to realize that I am probably in the minority with my opinions on Google and privacy in general. Also, I’ve seen that opinions on this matter can be very strong and taken extremely personal (not surprising considering it is personal info we’re talking about).

So I would just like to know from people on the other side of the fence…What is the deal with Google’s privacy policies and terms of service that tends to stir up emotions and fears?

  • jaxidian

    I believe some feel that it’s more of a bait-and-switch tactic….

    Let’s say Google releases the Bible Translation Recommender service. “Hey Joe, tell me what church you go to and I’ll use that info to recommend a specific translation of the Bible and then I’ll totally forget that I know that piece of information. Your info is safe with me!” But now that you’ve been using this service for 2 years, Google comes back and says, “Hey Joe, I’m going to start remembering that info. In fact, I’m going to even use it to allow advertising campaigns from other denominations to target ads at you that tell you you’re going to hell!”

    Sound like a good thing for them to do? Now this is a totally hypothetical situation (I don’t think they have a bible Translation Recommender service) but this is exactly why people are getting all up in arms. And just “turning off all Google services” isn’t exactly easy for people to do, especially when many people have 2-year contracts shoving Google services down their throats via their phone, tablet, or Chromebook.

    Personally, I’m not bothered by the changes. However, I can certainly see how others could/would be.

    Any time a corporation invades our privacy, unexpected bad things will and do happen. They may not happen to the majority but they do happen to enough people for this to be a very important thing. For another story of how a corporation invading an individual’s private life “with their consent” has played out, I suggest you read this little story.

    • erik knudsen

      I don’t really understand the need for hypotheticals. Any situation can be made into a scary situation if we do hypotheticals.

      My whole point is that I just don’t see (or perhaps I just haven’t yet seen) the harmful effects of allowing Google to scrape my information. Everything I own works a lot better together because of allowing Google to have certain sets of information. It’s not like there is an individual snooping through my stuff in order to take out loans against my name. That would be a cause for concern definitely. However, that’s 180 degrees from what Google does (or claims to do). Targeted ads? Why is that such a bad thing? I hate ads in general, but if they can be tailored to suit me better, why would I get up in arms about it? I’ve never once heard of anyone’s credit score being effected by allowing Google some info.

      Like I said in the original post, I understand I’m probably in the minority on this, I just don’t understand the other side of the argument. It makes very little sense to me. However, I do think it’s important to safeguard certain things about your personal life (bank account obviously, among others). That’s why I said that the things you wouldn’t want to be public knowledge, don’t share them. That would seem to solve the majority of fears. Again, I’m not trying to judge, just trying to have a conversation. Please don’t take my responses as attacks. It’s happened before and it’s not my intent.

      • jaxidian

        Okay, a very real possibility…

        Many companies require candidates to let them “shoulder-surf” through their Facebook account. If Google+ gains popularity, we’ll see it there as well. So while going through an interview process an interviewer “shoulder-surfing” your G+ account could notice that you’re getting an awful lot of targeted ads for sex toys and sexual therapy. If they did this, they could (and likely would) come to the conclusion that these are being targeted at you for a reason and they don’t want to hire you because of that.

        It will happen and is much less made-up than my previous hypothetical. The point is, if I can hypothesize it, then it’s going to happen even if it’s not how I hypothesize it. That’s how you need to treat private data when designing stuff like this in the IT world. That’s why the need for hypotheticals.

        • erik knudsen

          If you can hypothesize it, then it will happen…even if it’s not how you hypothesize it? I don’t think that makes any sense at all. You really think that every situation that you can dream up will happen? But then you say that those events will happen, only different. So the bottom line is…you’re saying that every overblown sensationalized situation that you can dream up will happen, therefore Google’s policies are bad? But…the situation you imagine will happen, only different…therefore Google’s policies are bad? I’m 100% certain I’m more confused now than when I posted about not understanding the concern over Google’s privacy policies.

  • skugern

    I think a lot of the uneasiness is from users who don’t really want a search engine/large corporation/what-have-you gathering large amounts of their personal/sensitive.

    Sometimes when I register for a website, I purposefully leave out some of my info that’s not mandatory just because I don’t see a legitimate reason for them to have it. Others may have provided their personal info for one site and not another and now Google is smooshing it all together?

    Perhaps people would be more comfortable with the new policy if Google said “We’re wiping all your personal info from all of our sites, and you can fill out this handy form with what info you want to give us.”

    • erik knudsen

      Here again, I feel there are simple solutions. First of all, you leaving out info is perfect. If they don’t need it, don’t provide it. Simple enough. Second, Google offers you the chance to review what info has been collected from you. Also, they allow you to delete whatever you feel like they shouldn’t have.

  • bolanrox

    but if you really don’t want to be tracked can’t you just not login to your Google account? isn’t that what the point of the incognito windows are?

  • erik knudsen

    That’s my understanding of incognito mode. That’s another opt out option also. I never use incognito windows myself as I don’t mind Google aggregating my browsing history and tailoring the experience for me. I could understand why someone would do that, I just choose not to.

  • bolanrox

    i really don’t care either. but if you really were opposed to being tracked. it is not like they made it very hard to get around. it is not like it is some option that is buried 5 sub menus in or something :)

    • erik knudsen

      Agreed. I understand the concerns, but what I’m failing to see is what Google has done to scare these people. I could be completely ignorant of something that these other people are seeing. I just want to see where they’re coming from.

  • jaxidian

    Guys, this has nothing to do with you being tracked. This has to do with bait-and-switch. They previously promised that data from one system wouldn’t be used with data in another system. Now they are going back on that promise. And for some people that’s a very real problem. If you previously thought email-driven targeted ads would only show up in GMail and you buy lots of sex toys with your GMail account, that’s one thing. Nobody else should be inside your GMail account. But when those sex toy ads start showing up in all of your Google products (such as surfing through Chrome on your phone while a co-worker is watching you search for something), that’s another thing. Now my private GMail data is very realistically and negatively affecting me.

    Again, the problem isn’t that Google has this data. The problem is that Google promised you before that the data from one thing would be separate from the data for the other thing and now they’re going back on that promise. Many people depended upon that promise, many of which are under multi-year contracts with their Google products and can’t exactly “stop using Google”.

    • erik knudsen

      You’re really caught up on how buying sex toys is going to ruin your life. Maybe you should just avoid doing that? I know I’m being kind of a smartass to you, but honestly, you’re not helping me understand anything. I know that it could just be me not getting it, I can admit to that. I have never once seen anything remotely close to this situation you’re stuck on. I use Google for just about everything I do and not once have I been presented a scenario where I felt invaded and/or compromised.