The policy, announced Jan. 24, combines user data from about 60 products, such as YouTube, Gmail and Google search, and creates a single personal profile of the user across Google services. Its stated goal is to simplify and enhance the user experience with Google products, but it’s also looking to enhance its advertising business by more closely targeting ads to users’ interests.
European regulators asked Google to delay enactment of the policy while it studies the implications, but Google refused. In the United States, privacy groups filed suit to force the Federal Trade Commission to take action, but that action was thrown out. Attorneys general from 36 states also have questioned Google’s commitment to consumer privacy. The White House also released voluntary guidelines for protecting consumer rights, including a “do not track” function on Web browsers. The Washington Post called that a win for Google, Facebook and other sites that opposed more stringent measures.
Though the FTC has taken no action on the issue, All Things Digital quotes FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz on C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers”:
It’s a fairly binary and somewhat brutal choice that they are giving consumers. I think I can’t say much more. But we’re aware.
The FTC already is investigating Google for alleged antitrust violations in search advertising.
There is no “opt-out” option for users. Google has defiantly said that users who oppose the policy should not use its products. One of the suggestions being bandied about is to simply not sign in while using services such as YouTube or Google Maps. Some articles suggest deleting your search history before the policy took effect – too late for that now – though apparently even that wouldn’t really keep it out of Google’s hands.
Not all Google products are covered. Its Web browser Chrome, for instance, and mobile payment processor Wallet will continue to have their own privacy policies.