Google data merge called privacy threat

From: CBC.ca

Googles new plan to link user data across its email, video, social-networking sites has come under fire from critics who say its an invasion of privacy because of the sheer volume of information collected and the inability of users to opt out.

Under the plan, information collected about individuals will be integrated across 60 Google products including Gmail, YouTube and web search. Users will have to agree to a new privacy policy that will encompass data including location measurements collected on mobile devices.

The result is that Google will soon know more about who users are and what they do on the web, allowing it to target search results and advertising. Users will not be allowed to opt out of the changes, which take effect March 1.

In a company blog post, Google privacy director Alma Whitten says that if youre signed in, we may combine information youve provided from one service with information from other services. In short, well treat you as a single user across all our products, which will mean a simpler, more intuitive Google experience.”

Google also offered other ways that merging data will benefit users.

“We can provide reminders that youre going to be late for a meeting based on your location, your calendar and an understanding of what the traffic is like that day. Or ensure that our spelling suggestions, even for your friends names, are accurate because youve typed them before,” wrote Whitten. “People still have to do way too much heavy lifting, and we want to do a better job of helping them out.”

However, the changes have provoked an outcry from critics who say Google is abusing its dominance in internet search to drive more traffic to its own services.

“Privacy advocates say Googles changes betray users who are not accustomed to having their information shared across different websites,” wrote Cecilia Kang of the Washington Post. “A user of Gmail, for instance, may send messages about a private meeting with a colleague and may not want the location of that meeting to be thrown into Googles massive cauldron of data or used for Googles maps application.”

Helps advertisers find customers

Google, Facebook and other popular internet services try to glean as much information as possible about their users so they can sell more advertising at higher rates to marketers looking to target people interested in specific products. Google says users who opt to see personalized ads are 37 per cent more likely to respond to an ad than people who opt out of targeting.

The company said the new system will give users more relevant search results and information, while helping advertisers find customers, especially on mobile devices.

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Read the full article at: cbc.ca

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