Google Privacy Changes: What Do They Mean To You?

By: Chris Crum - January 26, 2012

Google announced this week that it is rolling out a new, main privacy policy that covers the majority of its products. The company is consolidating over 60 privacy notices into the main privacy policy. It’s keeping a few separate for “legal and other reasons”.

Do you think Google’s privacy strategy is good or bad? Let us know in the comments.

“Regulators globally have been calling for shorter, simpler privacy policies—and having one policy covering many different products is now fairly standard across the web,” Google says.

Google users have been receiving emails about the changes:

Google Privacy Changes

You know that whole “Google+ is Google.” mantra? Essentially what the new privacy policy means is that Google+ is in fact Google. It also means that Gmail is Google. YouTube is Google. Essentially, it affirms what we’ve been saying for quite some time. Google is the product, and all of Google’s services are basically features of that product – the way Facebook is the product, and the news feed, photos, videos, chat, etc. are features of that product.

In Google’s case, this concept embodies the majority of its products – the ones that aren’t being kept separate for “legal and other reasons”.

“The main change is for users with Google Accounts,” explains Alma Whitten, Director of Privacy, Product and Engineering at Google. “Our new Privacy Policy makes 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 as a single user across all our products, which will mean a simpler, more intuitive Google experience.”

Whitten says Google’s “Search Plus Your World” (or SPYW) is a good example of what Google can do when its products are one. Not everyone agrees that that is a “good” example. In fact, the move has been highly controversial, as is the new approach to privacy.

“Today we can also do things like make it easy for you to read a memo from Google Docs right in your Gmail, or add someone from your Gmail contacts to a meeting in Google Calendar,” Whitten adds. “But there’s so much more that Google can do to help you by sharing more of your information with … well, you. We can make search better—figuring out what you really mean when you type in Apple, Jaguar or Pink.”

“We can provide more relevant ads too,” says Whitten. “For example, it’s January, but maybe you’re not a gym person, so fitness ads aren’t that useful to you. We can provide reminders that you’re 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 you’ve typed them before. People still have to do way too much heavy lifting, and we want to do a better job of helping them out.”

The changes go into effect on March 1.

What are the people saying?

Here are some quotes from a WebmasterWorld thread on the topic:

Wow – what are they smoking in Mountain View?

At best this will cause massive bad publicity at worst it could be the start of a slippery slope for Google. I think this one may even capture the general public’s attention.

Can’t opt out? People are going to bail out!

The question will be will gmail users opting in (to continue using the service)? How many are going to give up their established gmail accounts? I know many gmail users who do not use any other G products… and some with gmail that use bing for search. Will be interesting to see how this shakes out.

Some Twitter reaction:

Uploaded photo of myself in Speedo to comply with Google’s new privacy policy. 42 minutes ago via web · powered by @socialditto

re: Privacy; Google has been “tracking” us from day one. It just feels worse now because we use our real names online. 7 minutes ago via web · powered by @socialditto

Amazing to see the latest Google privacy policy changes. In terms of brand exercise it can only do more harm than good. 1 hour ago via Twitter for Mac · powered by @socialditto

As an admitted #Google cheerleader, I just can’t get into a froth yet over privacy changes; assumed this was the direction all along. 1 minute ago via web · powered by @socialditto

Two-thirds of users say they plan to cancel their Google account because of the new privacy policy — but will they? 1 hour ago via Safari on iOS · powered by @socialditto

Google dismisses criticism of its new privacy policy as “uninformed” & “overreaction”; also promote their new Google Android Endoscopy app. 2 hours ago via Buffer · powered by @socialditto

Just got the new “easier and shortened” #Google Privacy policy. It’s easy. “You have no privacy. Thank you.” 1 hour ago via TweetDeck · powered by @socialditto

Google+ Growth

The whole thing obviously bodes well for Google+ numbers. Google announced last week that Google+ has surpassed 90 million users. That’s a lot for the short time that’s been around, but it helps growth when it’s all tied to “the greater Google”. Sign up for a Google account now, and you’re signing up for Google+, Gmail, and nearly everything else.

That said, there are other forces at play for Google+ that could help that growth continue. It’s starting to break more into the mainstream. You have things like Anderson Cooper telling people to add him to their Circles. Remember when you first started to see TV shows tell people to follow them on Twitter? That helped Twitter immensely, no doubt. If more follow Cooper’s lead, that’s going to be huge for Google+. And with Google+‘s impact on search results, why wouldn’t more want to do this?

Anderson Cooper on <a href=Google+” src=”” title=”Anderson Cooper on Google+” class=”aligncenter” width=”616″ height=”406″ />

More celebrities are joining Google+ – another thing that helped Twitter gain steam. Lady Gaga, one of the biggest celebrities in pop culture, currently, just joined Google+ last week. Expect more and more to follow.

And of course, there’s good old fashioned advertising. Google, historically not a big television advertiser, is much more about some TV ads these days, including Google+ specific ads.

Competitive Strategy

We’ve written a number of times (including as recently as last week) about how much sense it would make for Facebook to get more into search to compete more directly with Google. Not just as a social network, but as a web company. It still makes sense, and perhaps even more so now that Google has made this new move with its privacy policy. What the policy has done has, for all intents and purposes, made Google one entity, rather than numerous products. One big fat rival to Facebook for users’ time spent online, user data and ultimately advertisers’ dollars spent trying to reach those users.

Facebook is amping up its advertising offerings in a number of ways ahead of its huge IPO. And on that note, John Battelle points out an interesting social ad strategy from Google, where AdSense ads are allowing people to share them back to Google+. Battelle writes:

Why am I on about this? Because some weeks ago, Facebook told a bunch of advertisers and third parties (FM was one of them) that it was no longer OK to integrate Facebook actions into third party advertisements. This was always in their policies, but everyone was pretty much ignoring it – including most of the largest advertisers on the planet. After all, it’d be pretty hard to tell major television advertisers to stop asking viewers to “Like us on Facebook”. But for some reason, Facebook recently decided enough was enough online, and won’t let folks do exactly the same thing – with interactive functionality – online. You won’t be seeing ads on any site that integrate Facebook Likes, Shares, or other verbs, unless the advertisers paying for those ads have cut special deals with Facebook. (Or, of course, unless Facebook launches its own ad network…)

Makes you wonder about the potential of such a network. A Facebook version of AdSense. They certainly have the data, and Facebook is certainly all over the web. We’ve written on this before in the past .

Some have pointed out that Google’s strategy has kind of an Apple feel to it, in terms of having more control over what users do on its various products, and making sure that users have a “beautiful” experience, as Larry Page put it. This is quite interesting, considering the way Google has portrayed itself as almost the anti-Apple (particularly with Android) in terms of being more “open” – a philosophy that has been criticized a great deal by pundits.

Apple’s monster quarter made Google’s disappointing quarter look bad.

Googlers jumping ship

But back to Facebook for a minute. There’s also the competition between these two companies at the talent level. Plenty of Googlers have jumped ship to Facebook. Others are finding other ways to go. We know SPYW isn’t sitting well with some former Googlers, and apparently it’s not with some current Googlers either, and according to a report from PandoDaily, Google CEO Larry Page has basically told those employees who have a problem with it to get out and not let the door hit them on the ass. According to one report, even Foursquare (who has in recent times expressed interest in working with Google) is poaching a fair amount of talent from the company.

Wrapping up

Google has taken some very interesting turns since Larry Page took over as CEO. Whether these turns are in the company’s (and users’) best interests in the long run remains to be seen. Either way, some of the choices Google has made have proven to be incredibly controversial both among users, and even with insiders. Many have expressed intentions of stopping their use of Google products. If too many decide to do this, it’s obviously going to be a problem. But how many Google users (and that’s users of any Google product) are really ready to stop using every single Google product? For some that’s going to be quite a change of lifestyle. There’s no question that those making complaints about Google’s businesses practices (as well as privacy watchdogs) are going to have a field day with this, whether Google is in the wrong or not.

Is Google in the wrong here? Tell us what you think.

Chris Crum

About the Author

Chris CrumChris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.

View all posts by Chris Crum
  • تور

    i hate google cuase it work just for himself

  • Manipulated

    ^^ This post was sponsored by Google’s “We care” propaganda fund.

    Google is no longer a search engine, they want to send no people to our sites but to Google+ and ads. Why aren’t you writing about it Chris?

    Panda and all updates only make more money for Google.

  • Results r Manipulated

    “is poaching a fair amount of talent from the company. ”

    Ask yourself Chris, why would a talented and ethical engineer want to work for Google now?

  • Alistair

    Perhaps this is a case of G suicide! Facebook started playing around its privacy settings and users started moving away. This comes in front of rummors of Google going public. I think that it will potentially harm them.

  • LIZ



  • LIZ




  • LIZ


  • no win no fee

    This is not surprising. It was only a matter of time to be honest. Why are people even shocked?

  • UK Web Designers

    Ok lets not forget, google is the leader in search engines. Theres a good reason for that, its because they stay ahead of the game. They too are a business you know. If they dont take these steps to move forward then another company will and they will end up slipping away like yahoo did.

  • Obdurate

    “figuring out what you really mean when you type in Apple, Jaguar or Pink.”

    Apparently Google really does believe they’re psychic. The only way they could know what I mean is if they can read my mind.

    What this does is it will create websites that no longer cater to a topic, rather a demographic.

    Websites will no longer desire to target keywords that don’t pay, therefore a demographic whose interests are not in a non-paying keyword.

    Talk about being useful for everyone?

  • Jude

    I think Google should not monitor my activites online, it is personal, why should Google monitor my activites ?

  • Teodor

    Google and privacy…
    But what about Google’s new store that already has PR7? How this page rank gave over night? What does this difference between small webmaster and this giant?

  • t

    google seem to know ALL my email addresses ~ how is that?

    • Collins

      Imbedded cookie. I have no idea what it’s called or how you’d find it though.

  • CJ

    As a marketing specialist, I have multiple accounts for multiple clients. I also utilize different identities for different services for various other reasons, and, yes, anonymity is important to those accounts. For the most part, the accounts are segregated, but, regardless, it should a user’s choice to merge accounts on any website, or opt out, IMO.

    As for making search more intuitive, who are they kidding? Google is looking to better serve their ad products, and that’s a fine business plan, but don’t tout it as a way to make my life easier. In reality, it makes my life more difficult. I don’t want Google to figure out what I’m searching for based on past searches, pluses, or any other personal algorithm data. Today I may be looking for a “pink jaguar” animal print and tomorrow I may be looking for a “pink Jaguar” luxury sedan. My past searches aren’t relative, either way.

    I haven’t logged into my personal Google account – which only exists because I have an Android phone – in months, and that won’t change. I don’t use Google+, personally or professionally, and my clients rank just fine across the major search engines. The truth of the matter is that we don’t NEED Google. Google needs us. Just like on Facebook, WE are the product that’s being sold to the advertisers. When the rest of the world wakes up and realizes that, maybe Google will change its greedy ways.

  • Brad Bristol

    Best move Google ever made.

    Once people accept G+ it will blow away Facebook.

    With it’s focus on business, G+ is soooo much better than FB for webmasters and business, imo.

    If your into HighSchool stuff, FaceBook will do, If your into doing business on the web, G+ Rules.

    • David

      Google+ for Business? My God, I don’t want to destroy the my business. I use organic search and other social network for business but not Google+. Never.

  • richard bruske

    The problem I have is google is forcing people to join Google+ by instant search, we have to log in for it to remember it’s settings not to use it, I don’t want my searches tailored for me either, I want the search I put in, to search what I want. This is just a way to save information on everyone that uses it’s search and to use the premise it’s better for you. meanwhile google+ is racing up the social network sites. Sad

  • Collins

    IMO “he who controls the world’s information–controls the world” I believe this is G’s ultimate goal.

    That said, Chris…what is a small business to do when G’s advertising is about the only affordable medium around?

  • Ken in NYC

    The social web is a disaster and will hopefully implode in a smoldering heap of self-important rubble. People SEEKING OUT ways to create need in their lives. Absolute insanity… go buy more stuff you don’t need.

  • Cary

    Power leads to dictatorship, long-live open-source, you don’t see folks at Mozilla acting like this.

  • Rick Noel

    Great post Chris. Awesome videos. Lots of rumbling in the ranks regarding stopping use of Google. Maybe some will use only Google services logged out. For myself, we are an SEO and Internet marketing agency, so we use Google daily (Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools,, YouTube activities which required being logged in, so not a chance that we can walk away. Many are saying the same thing about Facebook who is making the Timeline update mandatory 7 days after users become eligible. The counter argument is that there really is no suitable replacement for either given their broad, monopolistic user adoption which adds to the user experience. These changes create an opportunity for a yet well-known entity to come in and do to Facebook what Facebook did to MySpace and do to Google what Google did to Yahoo! and MS Live/Bing. As you say, only time will tell. Both are bold moves and each are counting on those bets to pay off, big time.

  • General Bobby Farrell

    Just one more layer of SOCIALIST poppycock! And for those who will accept this abomination against privacy: THERE IS NO END TO SOCIALIST INTRUSION!

    You are hereby warned!

  • PGS

    I don’t use G+, FB, TWITter, Linked-in, gmail, …
    Refuse to. Equally annoying is the increase in companies that will only allow feedback / comments/contact if you log in to one of the afore mentioned. PC magazine sites are high on the list. Haymarket Media doesn’t permit comments on articles to be posted if you don’t do it via FB or similar.
    I’ve cancelled or not renewed subscriptions for any magazine that uses that method – nor will I be buying them over the counter.
    GMail’s T&C has always had that Google WILL scan email for keywords so you can have more spam. Going on this, I expect the same is done with GoogleDocuments – may the gods help the companies that jumped on the bandwagon to take it up. AAPT in Australia were taking it on as the AU support people were put off. I just wouldn’t use it.

    Google were great as a search engine, but I wouldn’t trust them for anything else. The upcoming changes may well see me change preferred engines there, also. As for YouTube – I’ve probably looked at it once in the last 3 years, so not going there won’t matter.

  • CaptainCyberzone

    I can see many advantages and pluses to the new arrangement but, … “What price freedom?!”

  • Pornsurfer

    Great, now every time I search for ripped pantyhose wearing 300 pound women being coated with pudding images, my Youtube and Google are going to have permanent records of it. So when I get caught speeding and go to court, the state can pull this up and present it as evidence that I am indeed a bad person. Sleep now little sheep…just sleep.

  • RDL

    Google scares me. I do not like google telling me what they think I am searching for and keeping track of everything I do. I will try to avoid google even more now.

  • Adam

    You guys typing in CAPS about dictatorships and intrusion of privacy…are idiots. No one HAS to use these services. You don’t HAVE to search with Google and get Gmail and all that. I’m leaving this comment with my yahoo account, bitches!

    • Jenn

      Amen! If people don’t like it, stay away from it–Simple as that!

  • Jes

    I agree with several others that have said that you don’t have to use Big G for search or anything. There are many other search engines that can be used. It is us that made Big G, and it is us that can take it down. Why? Because they need us and without us they can’t exist. No business can exist without any customers.

  • Jali

    90 million users is just a few months is tremendous growth.

    Google is going into social networking now. They also try to be a lifestyle.

  • sj

    It’s going to be fun watching Google go down the slippery slope – keep it up Page, you’re not only alienating the general public, but G employees as well. Perhaps it’s time you listened instead of flapping your jaws.
    Google has forgotten it isn’t about them, but about the millions of people who use a search engine to find information they want not what their friends find interesting or what Google THINKS they want to know. Just give us the dang results relevant to our search for heaven sake!
    Google + is one of the dumbest things they could have done and their new “no-privacy” policy is a close runner-up.
    I’m sick to death of Google.

  • Paul Sylvester @paulstechtalk

    I’m undecided if I will remove my Google account but I am sure worried about the implications of the new privacy policy. I’m tempted to have all my email just forwarded to a personal email account so I don’t have to worry about them anymore!

  • Robert Easterling

    Google has lost their way entirely! This is just another step they are taking in crushing peoples right to PRIVACY! What comes next? They start selling everyone’s information they have collected to government agencies?! They need to BACK OFF and actually BE an UNBIASED search engine! Right now they are playing favorites based on those who are using their +1 which is complete hypocrisy to what a search engine is defined as being!

  • Absolute Webworks

    I can’t hate Google for not ranking our websites favorable. That is what competition is all about. The one with the deepest pockets will win over time when it comes to search.

  • SEO Bedford

    For me there is too much noise over this new privacy policy from Google. For me what Google is trying to do is to increase the numbers of G+ users by integrating all services, as said in this article if you create a Gmail account you automatically on G+ and same goes to all Google services. By doing this everyone that has a Gmail or Youtube account is now on G+ reason why it is growing so rapidly. The question is how many of those users are actually active?

    • Pete

      Many people said they were going from Facebook to Google+ because of Facebook’s disregard for privacy and very unclear messages about what they do with your info. Sadly these people have jumped from the frying pan into the fire!

  • Absolute Webworks

    Everyone wants Google to rank their websites favorable. Everyone wants to win. That is what competition is all about. The one with the deepest pockets will win over time when it comes to search.

  • Joe

    Facebook better get into search quick or they’ll be made another Myspace. Google + I was sure would never take off but they went the illegal route (advertising it on abusing their power). When news anchors start advertising a site, that site becomes successful. Facebook has been procrastinating for years. The need to also complaint to the government to break up Google.

  • Kevin

    Well, Google is in fact a business. They are setting up to profit in an increasingly more competitive landscape, with Facebook, Siri, and mobile apps now doing more of the searching. I personally don’t want to see stuff I’ve posted in a search query, so SPYW isn’t very attractive. If they were selling it, I wouldn’t buy it, but since it’s free, I’ll use it.
    and the fact is, if you want to be found in search Google search results, you be best to read from their rule book. I don’t see a big problem with accessing my user info if it helps me find what I’m looking for, but if I start getting crap in my SERP then I’ll search on Yahoo or Bing. That’s just the way it works.


    Google needs to be stopped completely. Antitrust authorities should be on them NOW!

  • Pete

    I’ve never used my Gmail account because of the policies on that, it is easy(ish) not to use the search engine as there are others out there, my problem is my Android phone, how can I opt out of using google on that?? I bet they can get far more info on me form that than using Google services on my PC where I don’t need to be logged in. On the phone you are surely logged in all the time.

  • TMoore

    Google (and Facebook) has no right to use my private information for its own ends. It functions well as a search engine and a mailbox, but that’s about it. I can use Bing instead. I can host my own videos on my site, and I don’t want Google to tell me how to live my life 24/7. If Google injects any more of its “services” onto me, I’ll just start a new mailbox somewhere else and close the gmail boxes I’ve got, tell everyone else where I have gone and why. Now that I have about six mailboxes I need to pare down, and maybe I’ll start with gmail. I don’t have to be there, and Google can’t make me stay. My analytics show that people don’t crawl my site because of all the Google sites which take precedence. I am held hostage by Google’s frequent algorithm changes. Do you think I need Google? No.

  • TMoore

    “Google CEO Larry Page has basically told those employees who have a problem with it to get out and not let the door hit them on the ass.”

    Maybe Larry Page should get out and not let the door hit him on the ass. He is doing all the wrong things and getting paid for it. Google’s shareholders shoud fire him.

  • M. Golder

    Google jumped the shark. They went too far this time. We’re done for good.

    We are closing all of our google accounts because of this.

    It will be done by this afternoon.

    The whole family will now use DuckDuckGo-Browser because they do not track personal use.

    DuckDuckGo is the default browser for the Linux-Mint desktop environment. We like it so far.

  • Paul Barthol

    I use gmail; picassa3; calendar, and doc’s. What’s the best way to opt out? Go to Hotwire, Mozilla? I don’t like this and would appreciate an article giving instructions as to how to disengage.

  • David Christmass

    Rock on Google is the best: this new policy thing is a real christ m arse day for crooks.

    People have been spiffing off the inconsistencies of the service for far too long, how much mail we get sent that get obstructed, upline or fished off before we read it, rewritten, and despatched as a no can do, this is a real positive move.

    People got to learn computers ain’t a game, there ain’t no avatars, its not unreal.

    Business depends on Google the world depends on search engines finding resources, service companies, information, and as they say, you put shit in, you get shit out.

    This consolidation of information is gonna reveal those of us who have not been as honest to others, as they should be, lets get real here, you go in a shop to buy a product, you do business, and that business is assigned to the common place respect, you get a problem the vendor will be there to sort it, not half way down the road, with nick it flog it and leg it Limited liability company, just here for christmas, and come january no where to be seen.

    People have to learn the web is a reflection of the world morality status, I ain’t no Mary Whitehouse, I ain’t no do good vicar, I ain’t a saint, or martyr in support of some crazed obsession with a nobodaddy, I am a human being, with an id, and try to honour others, with the same kind of respectful infomation and behaviour, that in the reverse place, I might wish to receive myself.

    That is what this policy change is gonna mean to me! I signed up with Google from MS hotmail, and did so because of muppets spiffing my id, with Google they can’t do that, soon as I walk out the front door of my home, receive a parcel, what ever, there is one big eye in the sky that knows sure, that guys got his goods alright! I thank heavens for Google, every single day of my life, every time a part shows up, I order from the States or from overseas, because locally, in Europe, they can’t get things together with mass production.

  • Kim Maidment

    I already have my Google search history turned off and I don’t use GMail. I only use Google Webmaster stuff because I have to. Google is far to free and easy with our information it is getting as bad as Facebook. The old mantra of ‘if your not doing anything wrong you have nothing to fear’ is a cop out. I don’t want all of my information to be avaible to security agencies whenever they want it. I want Privacy full and total. Surely it is my human right to privacy. using my web browsing habits and e-mail information is not on and should be outlawed. I have switched to Ixquick for browsing and HMA for my internet use not because I am doing anything wrong but because I want privacy. The more Google interfere with our privacy the more people will move away from them and invent alternative means. Big Brother is invading our lives….all of us even the executives of Google. It is time it stopped.

  • Doyal Hunter

    Instead of do you want this service it is you WILL take this service. With the way the US and other governments are heading we will not have any privacy. I know there isn’t any now but the illusion is still there.

  • Mike

    they are doing this to make Google+ compete or surpass Facebook, literally.

    They use facebook as an example but the thing is, facebook is not a search engine, yes it bombards people with ads and fake crap but they don’t do it based on your searches.

    People are not really pissed that it’ll record data, if it was just another social media like FB or Myspace then that would be fine, they record data as well, the problem is that its a search engine that you would use for everything, and if you think about it there are alot of things you search for either because your bored, curious or doing something you should not be doing, THAT information would be recorded, and thats the information that nobody wants recorded.

    Even if you can log out and that’ll keep you anonymous it doesn’t, even then whats the point of going through all that trouble of logging out then back in over and over?!

    In my opinion, Google has gotten too big, they were great when they were the underdogs and i personally loved them, i used chrome/gmail/google maps/android and loved it but now they have become more of a business hardened company than a friendly “non-profit organization” type company.

    Its a shame really, i’ll miss that experience, but gotta move on.

  • aasaanway

    I think this whole thing is about to make google+ more popular and to beat facebook. Google know if world uses its mail,doc,search & other things then why is facebook on top in social networking.

  • SEO Global Solutions

    I only used gmail for email purposes only. I think whether we like or not. We don’t really have the control over what big G would do, simple because we are just a MERE users.

  • Video Chat

    It seems didn’t change anything for my daily use….

  • roman

    Hello Google-Big Brother,
    It is so good that I’m not going to use your services any more

  • parsigate

    Google is no longer a search engine, Panda and all updates only make more money for Google.

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