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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

New Google Privacy Policy: Invasive Or Inevitable?

A sign for Google is displayed behind the Google android robot, at the National Retail Federation, in New York. in January. (AP)

A sign for Google is displayed behind the Google android robot, at the National Retail Federation, in New York. in January. (AP)

Google has a new privacy policy that goes into effect tomorrow. The company says it’s not collecting any new information — just combining existing information from each of its 70 different services, like Gmail, YouTube, and the social network Google+, to come up with one giant profile for each Google user.

Google says its new policy is easier to understand than its old one.

Additionally, Google says combing data will allow the company to help users. For example, as you head out for a meeting, Google might be able to tell you if you’re going to be late by automatically reading the appointments on your Google calendar, finding your location from your Android smart phone, and analyzing traffic data.

Commentator Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols thinks the new policy is “not a big deal.” As he writes on ZDNet, “get over it already.”

Legal Problems For Google?

But 30 state attorneys general have sent a letter to Google saying they find the new policy, quote, “troubling.” European Union officials are warning that it may violate privacy laws, and groups like the Center for Digital Democracy and the Electronic Privacy Information Center say it will cause, “irreparable injury to consumers”.

The new policy goes into effect despite Google joining the Digital Advertising Alliance — a coalition of major internet companies that supported White House measures that aim to protect personal privacy on the web, including a do-not-track button.

So what does this all mean for internet privacy, and what should you know before the new Google policy goes into effect?

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Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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