Thursday, January 26, 2012

Unusually fussy media on Google’s updates in Privacy Policy and Terms of Use

Yet another preemptive hullabaloo has arisen in the media about some changes in Google’s Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. Some early birds on this report like Cecilia Kang (Washington Post) and others are being unusually fussy about these fairly standard procedures. It makes sense to have one privacy policy rather than 70 different policies while maintaining the existing principles of privacy. It is easier for the users to understand and convenient for the company to maintain one standard Privacy Policy document. Nothing to cry foul about.

Some complain that they can’t opt out:

Opt out of agreement? Yes, you can opt out by declining the terms of use and refusing to use Google's services. Or, some people expect Google to prepare Terms of Use tailored according to the whims of every individual user? That is a ridiculous expectation and can only be proposed by nitpickers or mercenaries hired to attack Google. It is a common practice to update terms of use with impending changes in business/service conditions. Nothing unusual here.

Some have also very stupidly claimed that Google will increase its tracking:

Google (its algorithms) would not know anymore than what it already knows, or what users already provide them with (just like any other web based service provider). With the updated terms It is only attempting to improve the user experience across all Google products by treating you as a single user as explained on Google's Official blog post .  Besides, algorithmic usage tracking is the industry standard. Nearly every internet based firm/website uses tracking software. By the way, on the internet, every click gets registered on multiple servers and is likely being used by the respective service providers. Google is only being transparent about its changes in terms of service. It still has the best policy & terms of agreement compared to the likes of Facebook and Twitter who sell users data to Microsoft via their exclusive agreement for the Bing search engine.

1 comment:


I feel sorry for Google especially because most of the media is singularly calling out Google given the fact that most of the stuff that they do are standard practices among major internet based firms. It would be great if somebody did a comparative study of the Privacy policies, Terms of Use and the actual practices of major internet based firms (in terms of the usage tracking techniques used, how data is stored/shared, how much control users of respective services have over their data and tracking, etc.)

With regard to the 'opt out' issue: It is a common industry practice to update 'Terms of Use' with impending changes in business/service conditions. 'Notice of Change' is good enough and people who do not like the new 'terms of use' can quit. 'Terms of Use' aren't product features that one can opt out of. (That kind of service specific 'opt in', 'opt out' feature is already available for various Google products). Terms of Use are tied to the accounts of the account holder. It's a contract to which the account holder is legally agreeing and by its very nature it's 'opt in' (which the user implicitly agrees to if he/she continues to use the account after having been reasonably notified about the change). Obviously, Google (or any firm) cannot be expected to prepare Terms of Use tailored according to the whims of every individual user? Serving a Notice of Change about the updated 'Terms of Use' is the only reasonable way how contracts can be updated by internet based firms serving millions of customers.